“Who made them judge, jury and executioner,” said disgruntled citizen Wes Arnold after being given a ‘Notice of 24 hour Prohibition and Report to ICBC’ on Monday evening by a Keremeos RCMP officer. Arnold was driving in to town at just after 9 p.m. on February 7 when an RCMP officer walked out into the middle of the road near the Brown Bridge and waved for Arnold to pull over. “I pulled over and rolled down my window,” Arnold recounted, “and that is where things got ugly.”
“I smell marijuana,” Arnold said the officer stated. “In fact, I smell green marijuana. I am going to put you under arrest for possession of marijuana.” Arnold said the officer had neither seen nor found any before making this alarming statement, but he was asked to exit his vehicle and get into the back of the RCMP cruiser anyway. “I did,” he said, “and then I sat in there and waited while he searched my vehicle.” After minutes had gone by, Arnold said the peace officer returned to the cruiser empty handed and demanded that Arnold tell him where his stash was. “I didn’t have one, so I couldn’t tell him that,” Arnold continued.
The officer then, went back to my car and searched some more. “When he came back to the cruiser,” Arnold said, “the cop started filling out this fine and then let me out of the car and handed it to me. Apparently, I was no longer under arrest, but was being given this 24 hour prohibition.”
Arnold said he was completely honest with the officer who pulled him over admitting that on occasion he did smoke marijuana to help combat pain from a long term disability. “I have paralysis in my left leg from a spinal injury,” he stated. “I have a prescription for Demerol, but I don’t like taking it. It makes me blotto, so instead I take the odd hit off of a joint to help me when my pain is peaking at it seems to help.”
On top of that, Arnold said he further admitted that he had stopped in at a friend’s place before driving to town and had “a couple of hits off of a joint.” Arnold said “I wasn’t trying to hide anything. The RCMP always say they just want people to be honest, so that’s what I was and it totally backfired.” The officer took Arnold driver’s licence and said, “sign this” and handed him the fine. He said to me, “I am taking your licence. You can get it back after 24 hours.”
Arnold said the whole situation has turned out to be completely disconcerting. “I was asked to empty my pockets. I was put into the back of the police car and told I was under arrest. At no time was I ever given a sobriety test. Then, after the cop didn’t find anything, he gave me a 24 hour instead without ever even doing any test of any sort to see if I was safe to be behind the wheel of a vehicle or not.”
This is not the end of the story for Arnold. On Tuesday, he picked up his driver’s licence from the RCMP station and headed to the government services office to dispute the prohibition. “I was told to go to ICBC to dispute it and that it had nothing to do with them,” Arnold said. “I was shocked. Are the RCMP working for ICBC now or the province? I was mad.”
Arnold headed to one of the local insurance offices and received more bad news. “After I was given a copy of the dispute application, I realized that I couldn’t dispute the prohibition because my reason did not fall into one of the two categories the form stipulated and also, that this prohibition would be put onto my driving record for the next five years. I had no recourse. I couldn’t believe it. The fee for disputing the prohibition is $100 and the prohibition will stay on the driver’s record and may be considered by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicle in a review of a driving record. A driving record review may result in additional sanctions such as driving prohibitions under the Driver Improvement Program.
The application for review that Arnold was given by the insurance office stated two reasons for review: “the officer failed to administer a test of my blood alcohol level when I requested it; I was not the driver or did not have care or control of the motor vehicle.” “I am not trying to absolve myself here,” said Arnold,”but I would not have told that officer anything looking back nor would I have signed the prohibition slip had I known the repercussions. I want people to know that this prohibition goes onto their driving record for five years and that any peace officer in B.C. can be judge, jury and executioner based on their opinion. I could have had my car towed too, but the officer did let me phone a friend to come get it. The whole thing is really crazy. This is Canada, not Russia. These same officers who might kick you in the head when you are down on the ground and obeying orders and who taser people to try and gain information while you are handcuffed in the back of a police car have been given more power. It is a scary thing and one you apparently can’t do anything about. What happened to our rights?”