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The Globe and Mail

Review of B.C.’s drunk-driving law delayed

Consultant Nizar Shajani demonstrates the device B.C. police use to determine a driver’s blood-alcohol content.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Court of Appeal has put off a review of a provincial law that imposed stiff penalties, including immediate roadside suspensions, on drivers suspected of being impaired.

The case was expected to be heard this week, but the three-judge appeal panel complained of procedural errors as they adjourned the hearing.

Several plaintiffs challenged the province's impaired driving legislation, which was overhauled in September of 2010 to impose new penalties on drivers with blood-alcohol levels of higher than .05 per cent – below the Criminal Code threshold of .08.

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A B.C. Supreme Court judge later concluded the law violated the Charter because it didn't provide a way for people to challenge the result of a roadside breath test, prompting the provincial government to bring back a revised version last year.

A three-day hearing was set to begin in the B.C. Court of Appeal this week, but the judges say the case couldn't proceed because there were still aspects of the previous case that had yet to be dealt with.

Madam Justice Catherine Ryan was clearly frustrated as she adjourned the hearing and scheduled a case management conference to sort out the procedural problems.

Lawyer Howard Mickelson, representing the drivers who challenged the law, says the adjournment could delay the appeal by several months.

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