- BC Games
Impound impacts couple
A disabled man and his wife say they have been unfairly penalized by a government program designed to crack down on impaired and unsafe drivers.
Tom and Janice Granger own a Ford Explorer which they allow their grandson to drive on occasion. On the night of Oct. 11, their grandson took the vehicle to a friend’s home and, as he anticipated drinking that night, he gave the keys to a friend.
Unbeknownst to him, another person later took the keys without consent and drove the Explorer into downtown Salmon Arm. At 1 a.m, the RCMP, suspecting an impaired driver, stopped the vehicle on Hudson Ave.
“The male driver was impaired, received a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition and the vehicle was impounded (for 30 days),” said RCMP Sgt. Carlos Tettolowski.
The Vehicle Impoundment Program is a road safety initiative that requires police to immediately impound vehicles being operated by unlicensed, unsafe or impaired drivers.
“The impound is not something that police have discretion on and is a provincial policy,” says Tettolowski.
The vehicle was not reported as taken without consent, which is an offence under the Criminal Code, until the following morning. At that point the vehicle had already been towed and impounded.
The grandson, who made the report, directed police that he did not wish to pursue charges against the individual who took the car.
“In terms of the take auto without consent, it is a completely separate offence/charge and we have to prove that the driver did not have lawful possession of the vehicle,” says Tettolowski. “That means that we need the person having control of the vehicle, in this case the grandson, to stand up in court and say that he did not give the driver permission to have the vehicle.”
No criminal charges have been laid against the driver at this time.
Following this, Tom was informed that the vehicle will be held until Nov. 12 and that, in order to retrieve the vehicle, the couple would be responsible for paying the $130 towing charges plus $30 per day for the storage fees.
“I’m being treated like a criminal here. My vehicle’s been taken from me and I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” says Tom, a former peace officer who worked as a border guard at the Peace Arch and Osoyoos crossings.
The couple, who are on a fixed income, and have medical expenses related to Tom’s stroke, say the costs to retrieve the vehicle will pose a financial and personal hardship.
“I’m pretty much stuck at home without the Explorer. I can’t get to medical appointments, can’t get out at all.”
The Vehicle Impoundment Program is administered by B.C.’s Ministry of Justice. They say that the police can authorize early release of a vehicle to the registered owner, “in specific circumstances.” They also point to their appeal process or legal action against the driver.
Sam MacLeod, superintendent of motor vehicles, says the owner, “may recover from the person who was the driver or operator at the time the motor vehicle was impounded, as a debt in any court of competent jurisdiction, the fees, costs, charges, surcharges and deposit, if applicable…”
The couple attempted to appeal the decision, which required the payment of another $50 fee to initiate the process, but were told late Monday afternoon that the appeal had been denied.
The Grangers say they were not told on the phone why their appeal had been denied, but that the reasons would be explained in a letter.
“There is a real hardship involved here, and no one I’ve talked to, not the police, not the motor vehicles people, no one seems to care that I’ve done nothing wrong,” says Tom.
Tom says relying on a court ruling is unfair, especially considering the case might never make it to court or that a court process could take years to resolve.