My son was stopped by the Port Moody, BC police driving home at approx 4:30 this morning. He told us he hadn't drank in over 5 hrs., wasn't weaving in & out of traffic; wasn't asleep at the wheel; wasn't on his phone - in other words doing absolutely nothing that would make someone think some criminal activity was happening, but for some random reason a police officer decided to run the plates of the car he was driving (mine - 1996 Toyota Camry - he is principal driver). When she stopped him, she didn't say anything at all about drinking & driving. All she said was that he didn't look like a 50 year old woman. At that time, she smelled alcohol on his breath and he had to take a breathalyzer test, which he failed. It didn't give him an actual number, just that he failed the test. My question is, did she have the right to run the plate for no reason and stop him because he didn't look like a 50 year old woman. There was nothing on the plate that said the car was stolen and so many people drive other people's vehicles. I'm upset because my car has been impounded for 30 days and he has lost his driver's licence for 3 months, a car he needs for his job. He is a very responsible person, never drinks & drives and I need some advice about how to proceed. Please help!!Thank you very much.Donna Tung
XXXXXPort Moody, BC XXX-XXX-XXXX
Province/Territory relating to question: British Columbia
I phoned the Port Moody City Police detachment and spoke with the Watch Commander. He listened but couldn't speak about why the officer did what she did but that he would have her call me on July 1. My son is appealing on Tuesday, June 26.
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Hello:Has your son been charged with a criminal offence under section 254 of the Criminal Code? Or was he just given the roadside suspension?
Hello I had a chance to speak with my son and he said he was given a "Notice of Driving Prohibition" for 90 days and a "Notice of Impoundment" for 30 days for my car. The officer never mentioned anything about him being charged under section 254 of the Criminal Code. He told me he and his friend were stopped at a red light down the hill from our home. When he proceeded through the green light the officer stopped him and the only thing she mentioned was that he didn't look like a 50 year old woman. It sounds very odd to me. He wasn't breaking any laws, so I don't know if my son has any options. As mentioned previously, he is going to appeal. Thank you so much for your time.Donna Tung ,
Thank you for the additional information. It sounds as though had just the roadside suspension, as he must have failed the roadside test and there was insufficient evidence to try to charge him criminally.The police are entitled to pull over any vehicle in order to check registration, look for signs of Impairment, or check the mechanical fitness of the vehicle. As long as this is their purpose in pulling over a vehicle, they do not need to have any actual suspicion or other grounds to stop a vehicle and can do so at random. So it sounds here that they wanted to check registration. So I cannot offer him much hope unfortunately that he will succeed on appeal on the basis they had no legal right to pull him over.They would have a legal right to request him to take the roadside great test if they had some reasonable suspicion that he had any alcohol in his body. A smell of alcohol on his breath would be sufficient usually to give that suspicion and authority to demand the breath test.
That sort of sounds like an abuse of power. It doesn't seem to be a valid reason to just pick someone at random and run their plates on the off-chance the car may be stolen, or for any other reason. I don't even drink but I'd be a little perturbed if someone randomly pulled me over for whatever reason, other than maybe one of my lights don't work. I do understand that speeders & people who are obviously displaying signs of being "drunk" or having done drugs and are a danger to themselves or others shouldn't be on the road but if someone isn't displaying that type of behaviour, I have to conclude that the officer was bored or it was because of the time my son was driving home - approx 4:30 a.m. I do have another quick question. Does my son have any right to know exactly what the reading what on the breathalyzer test? I know .08 is the legal limit but roadside suspensions are being given out for limits between .05-.08.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Even though you have advised that my son doesn't have much of a chance on appeal, he is still going to try.
This is an issue that has been addressed by the Supreme Court of Canada. They have acknowledged that this type of arbitrary stop is an infringement on personal rights, but have said that it is justifiable in our society given the need to police the roads and ensure safety for all the public, and so the minor infringement is outweighed by the public interest overall. So an officer can pull over any motorist as they see fit, at any time, if they are validly checking one of the three items of impairment, registration, mechanical fitness. You are correct that sometimes officers late at night on a slow shift will just randomly put in licence plates that they encounter or pull over vehicles.
It can be an abuse of power if an officer pulls over a vehicle with no cause or suspicion to do so, and indicates that it was not for one of these three grounds. Usually officers will just robotically say that this is the reason they pulled over a vehicle, one of the three grounds. Or they had some reasonable suspicion of an offence or actually saw an offence, such as running a red light or erratic driving. But if their evidence was that they pulled over a vehicle as they had some concern that is not connected to the three grounds, and then that concern is found to be without foundation by a court, then the traffic stop is illegal, and possibly any evidence gained through that stop can be excluded.
So if an officer were to stop a car because the driver was black, for example, saying he thought it odd that a young black man was driving an expensive car, then this has nothing to do with the three grounds, and there is no cause to think any offence has been committed and none was observed. A person's race does not give any legal grounds for suspicion of an offence that would justify pulling over a vehicle. So if an officer had been honest in their notes or testimony in such a situation as to why they stopped the vehicle, likely an impaired driving charge in such a situation would be dismissed because the stop was illegal.
The roadside devices do not indicate an exact breath reading, just a pass or fail indication. That is why drivers are taken to a police detachment for a different breath test that can result in a criminal charge for exceeding .08. The roadside devices are not accepted under the criminal code as having the accuracy to give an exact number. But they are accepted for the type of roadside test and suspension at issue with your son.
He has every legal right to fight this matter. His choosing to do so cannot increase the penalty, so in that way he has nothing to lose.
I don't call this a minor infringement. My car has been impounded for 30 days and I don't know how much that will cost. My son has lost his licence that he needs for work for 90 days. My son didn't look impaired, wasn't calling attention to himself by the way he was driving, and was driving an older vehicle in perfect working order and in a perfectly legal way. The officer wasn't even concerned for an instant about his driving. He would have been safely home within five minutes. What possible justification can there be for her to even think it might be a stolen vehicle. I'm truly stumped on this one.
What is viewed as minor by the Supreme Court is the detention of a person for a few minutes while the vehicle is stopped by police so that they can make the checks that are allowed by law. That is seen as a minor price to pay to try to keep roads safe. The court (and I) did not mean that the results of that detention are minor. Those results could range from being very minimal such as the driver being told to proceed on their way, to being very serious, as routine traffic stops can result in a person spending years in jail, such as where drugs or weapons are found in a vehicle. But the legal test to pull a vehicle over is the same, no matter what consequences might come to an accused person as a result of that happening. I did not mean to minimize what has happened to you and your son. The results here are more serious than a mere speeding ticket or so on, but that does not change the law regarding whether police had the right to pull him over or not.
The officer does not need to prove that he had suspicion that the vehicle was stolen, or that he thought the person was driving erratically, or so on. It is enough if the officer testifies that he pulled the vehicle over to check registration. Here that is what I would expect the officer would say, as he was curious that the driver did not appear to match the age/gender of the registered owner. That would not be enough to give anyone a reasonable suspicion that the car is stolen, but no such suspicion is required in order to legally pull over the vehicle.
I didn't mean to take my frustration out on you. You have been very expeditious and forthright in answering my questions and I really do appreciate the time you've taken to check the law on this matter. My son now has to bear the responsibility of being caught while "impaired", according to the law. He's still filing an appeal.
You are welcome. I understand the frustration. Good luck to your son with his appeal.
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