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Fourteen drivers in Port Moody were given invalid prohibitions
Fourteen drivers who received immediate roadside prohibitions (IRP) in Port Moody in 2011 will have their prohibitions lifted and may have their penalties reimbursed.
The move by the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) comes after an investigation by an independent forensic scientist into the Port Moody Police Department's use of roadside screening devices through much of 2011. That study found that of the 174 IRP issued, 14 had resulted from invalid devices.
"A mistake was made by the Port Moody Police and we are now working to rectify the situation as quickly as possible," said Steve Martin, superintendent of Motor Vehicles, noting each file would be reviewed individually and each of the 14 affected drivers would be contacted.
"We will also be working with Port Moody Police on the issue of restitution for drivers," Martin said.
The OSMV is a division of the Ministry of Justice and is responsible for improving driving behaviour by imposing penalties and referring drivers to appropriate programs, including those for impaired driving.
"Police need to follow the standards and expectations around ASD calibration," Martin said. "The ministry’s director of police services has written to police agencies to remind them about their responsibility to ensure they adhere to protocols and standards.
"Moving forward, we can tell you that standardized forms are now in place across B.C., with ongoing police monitoring and feedback to the respective police agencies to ensure accurate, complete documentation.
"Clearly a police processing error was made. That said, we are not easing off our commitment to remove impaired drivers from our roads."
The allegations of flawed roadside screening devices were first raised in October 2011 when Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko told The Tri-City News there were issues in the way the devices had been calibrated since the beginning of the year and the results "are not reliable."
Doroshenko said the PMPD's officer in charge of calibrating the breathalyzers wasn't replacing a bottle of solution, designed to simulate the alcohol reading, often enough.
The OSMV requires the solution be replaced after 16 tests but in Port Moody, Doroshenko said, it was being used for at least 18 tests and possibly for up to 50 tests.
Under stiff drunk driving regulations introduced in 2010, drivers who blew over the .08 blood alcohol limit faced an automatic 90-day driving suspension and fines, and had to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for one year. Drivers who blew in the warn range (between .05 and .08) received suspensions of three, seven or 30 days.
The penalties for such IRP came to as much as $4,700 for some drivers.
An outside agency tasked with investigating the complaint found the ASDs had, indeed, been miscalibrated.
The PMPD Disciplinary Authority forwarded the results to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, which issued its decision on Sept. 11, 2012 stating that "the Discipline Authority's decision to substantiate the neglect of duty allegation was correct," and "the verbal reprimand was within the range of acceptable discipline."
The PMPD also examined its own policies around the roadside screening devices, removing the officer from his role in calibrating the machines and implementing new procedures to ensure no further incidents occurred.
PoMo Police further asked the forensic scientist to determine whether any of the miscalibrated screening devices could be tied to specific IRP issued from the start of 2011 up until the complaint was received in October of that year.
But Doroshenko said the results of that investigation are "complete garbage" because insufficient records were kept on the number of times each ASD was used before the solution was replaced, and in which order the ASDs were calibrated.
He also expressed frustration with the delays in resolving the issue for affected drivers.
"Lots of people never got their cars back," Doroshenko said of the drivers he's spoken to, including one of his clients, who lost her job because she couldn't drive.
"The last time I talked to her, she was on the verge of losing her home," he said.
Doroshenko plans to talk to his clients, some of whom want to sue, about the results.
In late 2011, the BC Supreme Court found parts of the new impaired driving laws were unconstitutional. Since then, the provincial government has amended the regs to give accused drunk drivers ways to appeal the roadside tests and to appeal IRP.