In 2010, the province introduced new, tougher laws around drinking and driving. The Immediate Roadside Prohibition program gives police the ability to issue fines and driving prohibitions to drivers who blow a “warn” or “fail” in a roadside breath test, or who refuse to give a breath sample.
For Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee, the problem comes with the appeal process. Drivers have just seven days to request a review of the prohibition from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. A stipulation, she says, that is not obvious.
“We get a lot of calls from people who missed the seven-day time period because it’s not clearly articulated anywhere,” she said. “It’s in very, very tiny print on the face of the notice of driving prohibition so a lot of people don’t realize [it’s there].”
Lee said another concern is that under the current system adjudicators are not giving reasons for decisions.
In the case of an appeal, adjudicators are required to make a decision within 21 days. That deadline can be extended but only in certain circumstances and under the current legislation adjudicators don’t explain why they are, or aren’t, granting an extension.
“[Mike Farnworth] was very critical of the lack of transparency in the decision making process [when his government was in opposition],” Lee said. “Since he’s been in charge of Road Safety BC, since he’s been the Minister of Public Safety, he hasn’t given any direction to provide reasons. So people are in the dark and I get all these clients who are told ‘We can’t render your decision in time’ and they’re like ‘What’s happening?’ and I can’t give them an answer.”
She said that when the court denied her client’s appeal in 2015 the judge said it was a problem that would have to be fixed in the legislature.
“Which precipitated Mr. Farnworth’s comments when he was in opposition and it’s never been changed,” Lee said. “Not by the last government, not by this government.”
The Courier requested an interview with Farnworth and was told he was not available and the ministry would not be commenting on the issue.