Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (I.R.P.s)
While drivers in British Columbia do continue to be investigated and prosecuted for impaired driving or “driving over .08” under the Criminal Code, these days the majority of BC drivers are processed under the Immediate Roadside Prohibition (I.R.P.) provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. In most cases, absent aggravating factors such as an accident, the presence of a child in the vehicle, symptoms of extreme intoxication or the allegation of other criminal acts, rather than proceeding with criminal charges, police will issue an immediate roadside driving prohibition for 90 days to those drivers who fail or refuse a roadside breathalyzer test.
While not a “criminal charge,” the effects of a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition can be devastating. Not being able to drive for 3 months can cause serious problems, especially for those who rely on their vehicle for employment. In addition to the driving prohibition, police will impound the vehicle for 30 days. The prohibited driver must pay a $500 fine plus the towing and 30-day storage costs. Once the 90-day prohibition is up, the driver must enroll in the Responsible Drivers Program (at a cost of approximately $1,000) and pay a $250 licence re-instatement fee. Many drivers, upon assessment, must pay for an install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle at a cost of approximately $1,500 per year. Additionally, ICBC will assess the Driver Risk Premium of at least $370 per year for at least 3 years.
The threshold for a police officer to demand a roadside breath sample is very low. The officer need not develop grounds to believe a driver is intoxicated; all the officer must do is suspect that the driver has some alcohol in their body. This suspicion can arise from as little as an admission of recent drinking, the observation of alcoholic beverage containers in the vehicle, or the smell of alcohol coming from the driver. The Motor Vehicle Act sets out that a driver must comply with a “lawful” breath demand, as set out by s. 254 of the Criminal Code. Where police obtain a “fail” result, they must inform the driver of their right to take a second test, using a second roadside breath testing device. The driver is entitled to the benefit of the lowest reading of the two tests. In the event that a driver refuses or fails a roadside screening test, police will tow the driver’s vehicle forthwith and will serve the driver with Notice of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition.