Money is always an issue.
If you are issued an IRP, you need to sit down and do some calculations right away to figure out what it’s going to cost you. 90 days without your driver’s license might cost you your job. If it won’t, you still need to calculate what it will cost to get around for that period. Of course there are the fines, fees, towing, storage etc. Everyone is sent to take the Responsible Drivers Program, although you may be exempted on reconsideration. If you end up with both the RDP and Interlock, you’re now approaching $5000 without including the loss from not being able to drive. Add to that the ongoing cost of the IRP on your driving record, Driver Risk Premium and insurance costs. Increased life insurance premiums are another often unanticipated expense. And then there is the loss of future job opportunities because of the DUI recorded on your driving abstract. These are probably the main financial considerations when you get a 90-day IRP.
Inept BC Government financial planning
Interestingly, when the IRP law was introduced the BC Government wanted to emphasize the significant cost for anyone who got an IRP. This was part of their propaganda campaign when the scheme was introduced. In some respects this backfired badly for them. You see, they thought if they made IRPs impossible to defend, limited the appeal period to 7 days and upheld the IRPs on appeal, people would not dispute their IRPs. The Government created videos to make it look like an IRP review hearing was some sort of exercise in hand holding that you could do on your own. They tried to push lawyers out of the process.
Things didn’t play out the way they anticipated. Because the punishment is so harsh, people hired lawyers like us to dispute their IRP. In some of the Government’s internal documents we’ve seen that they lament the fact that we’ve made so many complex legal arguments that had never even crossed their minds. As a consequence, they’ve had to hire more government lawyers over there in Victoria. The litigation has been a drain on court services. All of that costs money.
In addition, we win more cases than we lose. Factor the cost of that in for the government bearing in mind that the IRP legal scheme was designed so nobody would win their IRP review hearing. The taxpayers of BC are on the hook, so to speak, for the towing and storage of every vehicle for every person who succeeds at the IRP review hearing or later on if the IRP is overturned following a judicial review to BC Supreme Court. These are all significant financial considerations that the government botched with the IRP scheme.
BC Government Plan B
Plan A was to sell the IRP scheme as the toughest drunk driving law in the country. That was obviously a mistake. It also backfired in court because the law was struck down in Sivia 1 and part of the consideration was the severity of the consequences. Plan A didn’t work, so the Government developed Plan B. That was the second version of the IRP law. In their second attempt they presented IRPs as something you could now dispute. The hope may have been that litigation costs would be reduced. The plan was to proceeds as before – the changes to the law were mostly window dressing in any event. The Government figured that, when drafting and implementing the new law, they could make it even worse than the first version by designing new forms to correct for all of the mistakes in that police regularly make. So Plan B was to make no substantive changes but to attempt to stave off some of the costs of litigation.
Plan B failed too. The main reason was that the court expected RoadSafetyBC to actually apply the changes to the law. If you take a moment to read the Murray decision, you’ll see that the Government made a change to the IRP law which they never intended to abide by. In fact, they wrote the law with an escape clause allowing the RoadSafetyBC tribunal to ignore the law. This was creepy, and it provides real insight into the way they operate over there. When the law came into effect, they simply relied on the little escape clause they wrote in there for themselves. They had no intention of making the law more fair.
When it got to court, however, it all became pretty clear. Our courts rejected the Government’s reliance on the escape clause and forced the Government to actually apply the law. Plan B was now looking like a failure.
Aside from the Murray issue, because of other court decisions the revocation rate on IRP appeals was starting to increase markedly. People were fighting their IRPs. Having been told about how harsh the consequences were, many more people hired lawyers to fight the prohibition. Moreover the Government faced a massive increase in people appealing the RoadSafetyBC tribunal decision and the public mood started to shift against the Government.
One response, Plan C perhaps, was to downplay the consequences of an IRP. You’ll note in much of material on RoadSafetyBC’s website, they now omit the cost of the Responsible Driving Program and Interlock (Remedial Programs) from the calculation in the cost of an IRP. A referral to the Remedial Programs is still inevitable — everyone is referred and only if you’re later exempted can you avoid it, but despite this being an inevitable consequence, it’s now downplayed by the Government. Why is that?
Again, harsh consequences mean people fight back. The Government tries to obfuscate and mislead people as to the consequences of an IRP because they hope fewer people will appeal the prohibition. But many people aren’t fooled.
The cost of success:
Succeeding in your IRP appeal is like winning the lottery because you get your car back, they pay for the towing and storage and you don’t pay any of the fines, etc. On top of that you get your license back and they clear it from your driving record.
We win in most IRP appeal hearings. Overall, however, particularly when it comes to people who try to conduct their own IRP hearings, most people lose.
When you succeed and the prohibition is revoked, the money that is refunded comes right out of Government coffers, i.e. tax money. The cost of success is that the Government pays. It’s money that produces no value for the society. It is intended to rectify the wrong, i.e the wrongfully issued IRP. What it comes down to is that the Government is using your tax money for a restorative purpose rather than for something productive.
The money they pay back for wrongfully issued IRPs could be used to buy shoes for poor children, or to fund a program providing breakfasts in schools like they do in the U.S. Of course there are no large well-funded lobby groups out there advocating for the protection of children. Government financial considerations concerning the IRP scheme seem to be largely guided by MADD, which has no interest in the Government making good financial decisions.
Sad financial considerations
It’s unfortunate that a large rich lobby group can create a moral panic such as this which then causes the Government to spend vast amounts of money in such an unproductive way. But I guess few of us expect the Government’s financial considerations to be sensible.