The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned a Quebec lower court ruling and allowed the Crown to seize a vehicle belonging to a repeat drunk driver.
In a 7-0 decision today, the justices ruled that the judge in the Quebec case was wrong to deny the forfeiture order.
The case involved Alphide Manning, who was arrested near Baie-Comeau in April 2010. He subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of impaired driving and was sentenced to 12 months on one charge and five months on the other.
The Crown also moved to seize the truck Manning was driving when he was arrested.
Manning argued that the loss of the $1,000 vehicle, his sole asset, would be overly harsh.
The trial judge denied the seizure motion, saying it would be a disproportionate penalty.
The Quebec Court of Appeal denied a Crown appeal of the decision.
The Supreme Court, however, said the trial judge was wrong.
"We are not satisfied that the impact of the order of forfeiture sought by the Crown was disproportionate," the decision said.
The justices said Manning's record had to be considered.
"The trial judge erroneously emphasized Mr. Manning's personal circumstances and failed to give appropriate weight ... to Mr. Manning's criminal record, including five convictions on alcohol-related driving offences and three for breaches of probation orders or undertakings."
The ruling comes as the Quebec government is looking to crack down on drunk driving by making vehicle seizures routine.
Quebec Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud said Wednesday that he wants to see offenders' vehicles seized after each infraction and confiscated for good upon a third offence.
The latter measure can already be applied but is not done often enough for St-Arnaud.