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Victoria police applaud drunk-driving court decision

The Victoria Police Department is encouraged to see a constitutional challenge of the province's harsh roadside prohibitions for alcohol-impaired drivers won't be heard by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

“VicPD is encouraged by the latest decision that upholds the tough drunk driving laws in B.C. that have been proven to save lives," said VicPD Const. Mike Russell.

The law, which took effect in 2010, was challenged by six drivers who had either blown a "fail" reading on a roadside blood alcohol screening device, or refused to blow.

The court found the roadside suspensions don't supplant the Criminal Code, because police still have the option of laying impaired driving charges when they deem it appropriate. Three appeal court justices upheld that decision Monday.

The "immediate roadside prohibition" program includes a three-day driving ban and a $200 administrative fee for those who register between 0.05 and 0.08, if the police officer has reason to believe the driver is impaired.

For those who blow in the "impaired" range of 0.08 or higher, police have the option of imposing a 90-day driving ban, a $500 penalty and impounding the vehicle for 30 days instead of laying a charge.

After an initial court challenge, the law was amended to require police to offer a second roadside test to anyone who fails, and to advise drivers they can appeal their suspension to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.

Russell said the reality of drunk driving collisions is still seen too often in Victoria, but stricter roadside penalties have worked in reducing drunk driving deaths.

"VicPD will continue to use this legislation to try to ensure safety on our roads," Russell said. "We can’t do it alone, and call on all members of our communities to report drunk drivers to us by calling 911."

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