A vehicle being seized for excessive speeding in BC

They can take your car

Without a warrant, without a court order and without even the sworn evidence of an informant they can take your car. You probably know this already but it deserves repeating because it’s so unbelievable. In a country with a constitution they can take your car from you, perhaps your most important personal property, purely because a police officer thinks you committed the offence of excessive speeding. And it all happens right there at the roadside without an opportunity to contest the seizure. It’s very disturbing, but they can take your car.

Does it upset you that we have such a law in BC? In common law countries we have a general principle that the judicial system will protect us from the government in that the state can’t take your stuff without due process of law. This includes that a person is entitled to have a hearing before an impartial judge applying rules of evidence governed by the duty to act fairly before the government deprives you of your personal property. But it doesn’t work that way in BC because they can take your car without any hearing at all.

It may be worse

In fact, it is worse because the law requires not simply that they can take your car, the police MUST take your car if they concluded you were excessively speeding. The applicable section of the BC Motor Vehicle Act reads:

the peace officer or another peace officer MUST
cause the motor vehicle to be taken to and impounded…

For a dishonest police officer, all they need to do is allege speeding in the excessive range. For an honest police officer who is unsure, there is no discretion.[pullquote]What this means is that in BC you can be guilty and not guilty of the same alleged wrong from the same set of facts with the same case.[/pullquote]

Allow us to explain.

Police officers are instructed to make a visual estimate of the speed of a target vehicle and then confirm the estimate with a laser or radar gun. On the basis of the visual estimate, the officer may conclude that the vehicle is traveling at 35 kph over the speed limit, which is 5 kph below the excessive range. Using a device such as a LTI Ultralyte laser speed gun, the officer may get a reading that indicates the vehicle is traveling 41 kph over the speed limit, which would make it the offence of excessive speeding.

Which speed should apply? An honest officer is likely to conclude that the laser gun reading is probably more accurate than his or her visual estimate. It’s entirely possible that the laser gun reading is wrong, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude on a 50% plus 1% standard that the laser gun is correct. There may be a 49% chance that the visual estimate is more accurate. The problem is that the Motor Vehicle Act merely demands a simple probability. And an honest police officer, knowing full well that the evidence is questionable still has no option because in such case they MUST impound the vehicle.

So it’s not even a question of whether they can take your carthey must take your car.

Don’t get mad at the cops

Every day cops deal with people who take out their anger with insults, nasty comments and discourteous gestures. It’s understandable that people are angry when they take your car, but it’s unfortunate because the cops face the brunt of a bad law.

They didn’t write the law and many cops would probably prefer to see some flexibility in the law so they would have an option not to take your car if you had a good driving record for example. Most cops aren’t happy about seizing the SUV when the family is on vacation and mom missed the sign to slow down because it was obscured by a truck. But there is no discretion. The cops must take the car.

Standard of Proof conundrum

If you hire a lawyer and go to court to challenge a Violation Ticket for excessive speeding, you may have a good chance of success because at this point in time the police still need to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, the police officer may have a doubt in their own mind that you committed the offence of excessive speeding. The problem arises because of conflicting standards of proof.

With a vehicle seizure for excessive speeding, the standard of proof is merely a balance of probabilities in the officer’s opinion.  This is a low standard that can be abused easily. For example, most people speed, and my mother is a person therefore on a balance of probabilities my mother speeds.

When a Violation Ticket goes to court in BC, the prosecution must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. So if there is a genuine doubt based on a piece of evidence, the accused driver is entitled to an acquittal.

Guilty and not guilty of the same act

What this means is that in BC you can be guilty and not guilty of the same alleged wrong from the same set of facts with the same case.

An anathema and affront to fairness

They can conclude on a balance of probabilities that you’re guilty and they must take your car. That’s without a warrant, without a court order and without even the sworn evidence of an informant. The BC government forces the police to deprive you of your property without our historic legal right in common law or even a hearing.

To us it’s very disturbing. The BC government can take your car.

A pragmatic approach to bad law

We defend excessive speeding tickets throughout BC. We have BC driving lawyers on Vancouver Island, in the Okanagan, and of course the Lower Mainland. And we go on the road to defend excessive speeding tickets wherever there is a courthouse in BC.

We have pragmatic solutions to a bad law. If you’ve been given an excessive speeding ticket, we’ll see if we can fix things up for you.

Give us a call at 604-608-1200.

 

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