Impaired Driving? But I’m Innocent

Posted on March 23rd, 2011 by Centennial Law in Impaired Driving

As most of us know by now, the provincial government recently passed laws intended to remove impaired drivers from our roads.  Undoubtedly, removing impaired drivers from our roads benefits all of us.  Nonetheless, the new system is flawed.


Ironically, one of the potential flaws with the new system is that it may actually reduce the number of Criminal Code convictions for driving under the influence.  While penalties under the new system cause significant inconvenience and expense, they do not leave the impaired driver with a criminal record.  Given how hard it can be to obtain a criminal conviction, however, we can expect fewer Criminal Code charges under the new system.


Another potential flaw in the new system is that the "accused" has little opportunity to prove their innocence.  There is a review process and if one consults the website of the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, one learns that prior to the review "you will receive a copy of police information that the adjudicator will consider … [and] … be given an opportunity to present further information ….  On the other hand, a certain Ryan J.L. Sparks (Sparks v. British Columbia [2009 BCCA 374]) would question the accuracy of these assurances – in light of an adjudicator’s decision confirming cancellation of the Class 4 driver’s licence which permitted him to drive professionally.


In the Sparks case, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles cancelled Mr. Sparks’ drivers licence because Mr. Spark’s psychiatrist advised that Mr. Spark’s had bipolar disorder and was non-compliant with medication.  Mr. Sparks applied for an adjudicator’s review.  Contrary to the website assurances, Mr. Sparks was not asked to provide evidence of his own and was not advised of the date of the adjudicator’s review.  Nonetheless, Mr. Sparks sought access to information and records used by the Superintendent in cancelling the licence and it was delivered to him - after the adjudicator had already reached a decision.  One of the things noted in the information eventually forwarded to Mr. Sparks was that a 1996 medical opinion was "missing" from the Superintendent’s file.  That 1996 medical opinion indicated that Mr. Sparks "was not in need of psychiatric medication” and indicated that Mr. Sparks did not present a safety concern.


Mistakes will occur in any regulatory system.  Innocents will be wrongfully convicted.  Our system must include a meaningful right of appeal to overturn wrongful convictions.



Article provided by Centennial Law Corp.

The specific facts of any real life situation can have many unforeseen legal implications. As a result, please note that the general information found in the above article should not be treated as legal advice.