Court Holds Government Not Required To Reimburse Penalties Collected Under BC’s Unlawful Impaired Driving Scheme

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether the monetary penalties paid via BC’s Charter violating impaired driving scheme need to be repaid.

Last year Mr. Justice Sigurdson struck down BC’s aggressive drunk driving law finding BC’s ARP scheme unjustifiably violated individuals section 8 Charter rights.  In today’s judgement (Sivia v. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) the Petitioners asked the Court to reimburse “all penalties and other related costs such as the payment in connection with the remedial program, the payment in connection with the impoundment of the motor vehicle, the payment of a hearing fee, and the driver’s licence reinstatement fee.

Mr. Justice Sigurdson refused to grant this remedy holding as follows:

[114] I have found that the petitioner’s argument that the declaration of invalidity under s. 52 should have retroactive effect, must fail.  The decision in Sivia #1 that parts of the ARP regime violated s. 8 of the Charter and were, therefore, unconstitutional, represented a substantial change in the law as described in Hislop.  Further, the additional Hislop factors, on balance, weigh in favour of a prospective only application of the declaration.

[115] Although the prospective declaration of invalidity answers the majority of the petitioner’s additional or alternative claims, I have further found that even when assessed independently, the petitioner’s additional or alternative claims must also fail.

[116] With respect to the petitioners’ contention that they are entitled to Charter damages under s. 24(1), I have found that it would not be “appropriate and just” to order such damages as the government, in adopting the ARP regime and applying it to the petitioners and collecting monies from them, did not engage in any misconduct or bad faith actions.

[117] With respect to the arguments that the monies were collected under an invalid law enacted in bad faith, and with respect to the claim for restitution of the monies collected on the basis of the principle of unjust enrichment, I have found that the doctrine of qualified immunity provides a complete defence to both of these claims.

[118] With respect to the argument that certain of the monies collected represent taxes which were unlawfully collected, I have found that those monies are regulatory charges, not taxes, and are not recoverable under theKingstreet decision.

[119] Finally, I have found that as a result of the prospective only application of the declaration of invalidity, any petitioner with any outstanding fees, penalties or suspensions is still subject to paying/serving such fees, penalties, and/or suspensions.

[120] For these reasons, I have concluded that the petitioners are not entitled to the personal and monetary remedies that they seek.  The parties may arrange to appear before me to discuss the issue of costs, or if they agree, they may file written submissions on that issue.

Damages for Charter Breach, Mr. Justice Sigurdson, Section 24 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 8 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Sivia v. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

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Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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