Understanding Potential Expansions of B.C.’s Immediate Roadside Prohibition Regime

Close-up of a men driving and smoking joint

As Canada prepares to possibly legalize marijuana next year, B.C. lawmakers are also trying to keep motorists safe by rethinking some of the existing driving laws and infractions. Specifically, there has been talk that drug-impaired driving offenses may soon be added to the existing Immediate Road Prohibition (IRP) program in an effort to reduce future case loads on the court system by shifting these offenses from a criminal to administrative matter.

The Current IRP Set-Up

Currently, the IRP program allows police officers to immediately suspend a driver’s license, penalize them, and impound their vehicle if they test over the legal BAC limit of 0.05% in a breath sample test. Depending on the number of offenses the driver has had and his or her BAC, the driving prohibition can range anywhere from three days to three months, and fines can reach $500 (not counting impoundment fees). There are no exceptions to driving prohibitions under the IRP, meaning even those who have jobs or classes to attend will not be allowed to drive during that time.

Adding Drug-Impaired Driving Offenses

It is expected that there will be a push to add drug-impaired driving offenses to the existing IRP, which would allow police officers the same power to revoke the license of a driver who is believed to be driving under the influence of drugs. It is no coincidence that these changes would be taking place around the same time that Canada is expected to legalized marijuana. The thinking is that by moving these offenses to the IRP’s jurisdiction, there will be fewer concerns about criminal courts being clogged with these kinds of cases. And as is the case with the current IRP set-up, drivers always have the right to an appeal.

Opposition to this idea argues that there is currently no reliable roadside test for drug-impairment as there is for alcohol, so implementing this change could step on the rights of licensed drivers. Others contend that officers are trained to recognize signs of drug impairment, and that should be enough when deciding whether or not to revoke a license.

The Bottom Line

The verdict is still out on whether or not drug-impaired driving offenses will actually be added to the existing IRP set-up, but time will tell. Should you ever find yourself in need of legal assistance following an auto incident, Becker, Lavin, & Wessler is here to help.

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