QUEBEC — Following in the footsteps of the B.C. government, Quebec wants to crack down on repeat drunk-driving offenders and is hoping Ottawa will amend the Criminal Code to make its task easier.
“We must use all the means at our disposal,” Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud told a news conference Wednesday.
St-Arnaud said the vehicles of offenders will be seized after each infraction and confiscated for good upon a third offence. The latter measure can already be applied but is not done so often enough for St-Arnaud.
He called drunk driving a social scourge that the Quebec government is determined to attack on various fronts.
That will include a clear directive to Crown prosecutors to be tougher at every step in legal proceedings involving drivers who have consumed alcohol or drugs.
Quebec also wants repeat offenders to be tagged as “dangerous offenders.” St-Arnaud is asking Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code along those lines.
The province also wants Ottawa to consider toughening prison sentences for repeat offenders.
Wednesday’s announcement came just a few days after two fatal hit-and-run deaths in Quebec that allegedly involved impaired driving.
St-Arnaud said young Quebecers are the worst culprits when it comes to impaired driving in the province.
“The people from 16 to 25 years old, they are 13 per cent of the population but they are involved in 33 per cent of the impaired-driving cases involving death,” he said.
In B.C., strong legal challenges from motorists forced to pay thousands of dollars in costs as part of the government’s get-tough impaired driving laws have prompted a review that could put the brakes on penalties worth more than $2,600 for some drivers, said B.C.’s deputy superintendent of motor vehicles.
Stephanie Melvin said the government is reviewing penalties for 1,200 motorists who were handed immediate roadside prohibitions during a three-week period in November 2011, just before the B.C. Supreme Court struck down part of the impaired driving law.
Melvin said the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles is examining the five-year driving records of each of the 1,200 motorists to determine if their driver education penalties should be waived.
The review is expected to be completed in six to eight weeks and drivers who escape the penalties could save more than $2,600, said Melvin.
She said the review will determine whether those motorists will still have to take the responsible driver program — at a cost of $880, plus tax — and install the ignition interlock system, which disables a vehicle if alcohol is detected and costs about $1,700 annually.
Melvin said the review of the 1,200 people is a small number when contrasted with the 35,000 people who have been referred to the education and interlock programs since the impaired laws were introduced in September 2010.
Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko, whose practice specializes in impaired driving cases, said about a half dozen of the 17 motorists who sparked the government review are his clients.
He said the current law leaves no room for discretion and forces every driver into the education and interlock programs without review of their individual driving records or hearings on their behalf.
Last May, the government amended the impaired driving law to strengthen the rights of accused impaired drivers to challenge roadside screening tests and appeal immediate roadside prohibitions.
The amended law was in response to the November 2011 B.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down portions of the impaired driving law as unconstitutional.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond issued a statement Monday that said the government is refining its drunk-driving laws amid court challenges from 17 motorists.
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