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Civil Forfeiture Office criticized for "zealous" vehicle confiscation

Clifford Robinson and Roberta Allwright.
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November 13, 2014 - 10:34 AM

KELOWNA – A Kelowna woman with no criminal record who had her vehicle taken by the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office will get her property back thanks to a Supreme Court judge who called the seizure "zealous."

The case dates back to July 1, 2014 when Kelowna RCMP received an anonymous tip that an impaired man was using a pickup truck to pull a boat from Okanagan Lake.

According to a decision released Nov. 5, an RCMP constable spotted the truck being driven by a man on Gordon Drive and pulled him over. A second constable testified he saw the man switch seats with a female passenger who turned out to be Roberta Allwright, the registered owner of the vehicle.

The man, who did not have a valid drivers licence, was identified as Clifford Robinson of Kelowna.

"Mr. Robinson appeared to be intoxicated,” Const. Dewolf said, according to the judgment. “He had red glassy eyes, a flushed face and had the odour of alcohol on his breath."

Although Allwright passed a roadside sobriety test, Robinson did not and the vehicle was impounded. On July 30 an order of possession was granted based on Robinson’s nine drinking and driving convictions since 1993 and the fact that the two lived in the same house.

Justice Douglas Thompson says the seizure cannot be upheld since no evidence was found to indicate harm would have been caused.

“Driving while impaired certainly can be said to elevate the risk of causing serious bodily harm, but the fact is that the vast majority of individuals who operate a vehicle while impaired do not in fact cause serious bodily harm to other people on any one particular trip,” writes Thompson. “Thus, it is not possible on the evidence led in this case to conclude that Mr. Robinson used Ms. Allwright's pickup truck in an activity that caused or was likely to cause serious bodily harm.

“This appears to be a case where the office of the Director of Civil Forfeiture has taken zealous measures outside the proper bounds of its home statute with the unfortunate effect of depriving a citizen of lawful possession and use of her property, and putting that citizen to what I suspect is considerable expense and inconvenience to retrieve her property.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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