Kyla Lee, a B.C. attorney specializing in challenging DUI cases, says the new impaired laws are unconstitutional and have created different classes of offenders. (KylaLee.ca)

Kyla Lee, a B.C. attorney specializing in challenging DUI cases, says the new impaired laws are unconstitutional and have created different classes of offenders. (KylaLee.ca)

Impaired driving laws creates different classes of offenders, says B.C. lawyer

Kyla Lee says new impaired laws are unconstitutional and unfair

When Canada’s new impaired driving laws came into effect at the end of last year, they created three separate classes of people, says Kyla Lee, an attorney in the Lower Mainland who specializes in litigating charges of driving under the influence of a substance.

“I like the way there’s the intersection of law and science,” explained Lee, who’s argued impaired driving cases in courts across the Greater Vancouver area and into the Fraser Valley. “Impaired driving (charges) allow me to litigate the Charter, which is very technical and complex, (and) really advocate constitutional (and) scientific issues. It’s such an interesting field.”

But now that the laws around impairment have changed, Lee says many of her clients’ cases have been left “up in the air” because Parliament included very little information in the law for what they intended to imply respectively and prospectively to the three classes of impaired drivers created by the laws.

READ MORE: Early data suggests no spike in pot-impaired driving after legalization: police

If a person was charged on or after Dec. 18, it’s the new laws that govern their case, explains Lee. But for those charged before Dec. 18, or who were in the middle of their trials when the laws changed, there are no rules for how to apply the laws respectively (for past charges) or prospectively (going forward).

“This creates three classes of people (because we don’t know yet how) the law applies to the (latter) two categories, and it’s causing a lot of problems,” said Lee.

“The way the law is currently written, as a number of defense counsel has pointed out, (it also has the) potential to convict somebody who didn’t actually drink and drive, which would be a terrible miscarriage of justice,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BC Civil Liberties Association.

“This entire (new) section of the Criminal Code has set it up so if you’re charged with an impaired driving offense (you’re treated) guilty until you prove yourself innocent …and the deck is completely set up against you,” said Lee.

And “the interesting thing about (all of this), it was the same language that was used in 2008 as putting too much of a burden on a person in a criminal court (because it) violated the presumption of innocence.

“So to call this a huge mess is putting it lightly,” Lee added. And “we can’t really do anything (to change it). We have to wait for somebody to be charged in (an) innocent set of circumstances and have that person challenge the law.”

“In the end, it all comes down to evidence,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail. “Road safety is very, very important and it’s obviously one of our focuses … but there are no cookie-cutter cases. We follow our police instinct … and where the evidence takes us, which is quite often to the facts.

“Then we forward a fulsome report to Crown,” who will then disprove or approve charges and conduct any criminal prosecutions.

READ MORE: Canada’s revamped impaired driving law brews ‘potential for injustice’

But because the law was “passed at the eleventh hour … (under) the pressure of (cannabis) legalization, (Parliament) was forced to agree with this unconstitutional law” that has no uniformity across the Canadian legal system.

The day after the laws changed, Lee says she sent out letters on behalf of her DUI clients to try and figure out how their cases would be handled going forward.

“I got different answers from different prosecutors in different courthouses (across the Lower Mainland). There’s not even consensus amongst B.C. Crown Services (on how to handle these cases) … which seems ridiculous, but that’s what Parliament has left us,” said Lee.

When trying to determine a law’s constitutionality, a government must be able to justify any violation of its citizens’ rights, explained Vonn.

“Evidence is key: there must be evidence to support the proposition that the violation of people’s rights will produce the safety outcome (expected).

“This law … does not meet the test that it will meet the evidence (or) that it will save lives,” continued BCCLA’s policy director.

“But (I’m) very confident that (this law will) get shaped through the court system: nobody doubts that many lawsuits and constitutional challenges will be brought (it) … but that’s the shaping (a law like this) will inevitably go through.”


 

@SarahGawdin on Twitter
SarahGawdin on Instagram
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Beban Park social centre in Nanaimo will serve as a mass community clinic for immunizations. (News Bulletin photo)
Editorial: Every vaccine dose helps the cause for all of us

Enthusiasm indicates a lot of people want to be immunized, a lot of people will get immunized

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

News Bulletin file photo
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bike lanes inexpensive compared with roads

It is a myth that car drivers are subsidizing cyclists or pedestrians, says letter writer

March 8 is International Women’s Day. (Stock photo)
Editorial: International Women’s Day can inspire us to recommit to equality

Let’s call out sexism, amplify feminism and keep working toward equality

Police in Nanaimo are turning to the public for help identifying two men suspected of a break-and-enter attempt at a Nicol Street apartment building. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP looking for two men suspected of a break-and-enter attempt

Security camera snapped images in Nicol Street apartment building parking lot

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Island Health opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

A sports car crashed into a lamp standard and rolled down the hill behind Country Club Centre mall on Sunday night. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Sports car crashes into lamp post, rolls down hill behind Nanaimo mall

Driver uninjured in incident Sunday night on Norwell Drive

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Most Read