Changes are coming to drunk driving laws in Alberta. The new law, set to take effect in July, would largely decriminalize drunk driving for first-time offenders in Alberta.
The changes are the result of a May 2017 decision by the that found that Alberta’s drunk driving laws, linking suspension of driving privileges to the outcome of the criminal court case, were unconstitutional.
Bill 29, the new legislation, would make it much less likely that first-time offenders would face criminal charges. Passed in November 2017, the new legislation has not yet gone into effect. Therefore, it’s most likely that individuals charged with the various offences of drunken driving still will face criminal penalties under existing law until at least July 2018. Because the Court of Appeal of Alberta declared the existing law unconstitutional, however, it is not clear whether that will hold true for cases pending when the new law takes effect.
How Will DUI Law Change?
Bill 29 will give wide latitude to the officer making a stop for suspicion of impaired driving regarding how to handle the case. The officer will have considerable discretion in deciding whether to criminally charge drivers whose Breathalyzer tests show that they have consumed more than the legal limit for blood-alcohol content. The legislation also applies to driving under the influence of cannabis.
First-time offenders will likely receive roadside administrative sanctions and will not face criminal charges. These sanctions could include fines, roadside towing, and licence suspensions issued by police on the scene.
Bill 29 provides for a three-month licence suspension for drivers who test at more than the legal limit. Drivers who agree to join the ignition interlock program for a year can get their licences back. Otherwise, their licences are suspended for another year.
DUI prosecutions consume about 40 percent of the time spent on trials in provincial courts. Thus, some critics have argued that the legislation is primarily financially motivated, because it is likely to result in increased revenue from fines coupled with reduced court costs for the province. Other critics have complained that giving such broad discretion to the stopping officer does away with the presumption of innocence.
For drivers charged with DUI, however—at least after the legislation takes effect in July—the legislation seems to provide an avenue to avoid criminal charges under certain circumstances. While the law still imposes legal consequences, it provides an avenue—apparently a very broad avenue, at that—for the stopping officer to deal with the situation using administrative penalties rather than criminal charges.
Since the legislation has not yet gone into effect, it is not clear how it will influence legal proceedings for DUI charges. Whether the officer’s roadside decisions on how to handle the case are subject to legal challenge, for instance, is not yet clear.
With Changes Coming in Alberta DUI Laws, if You Are Facing DUI Charges, Contact the Lawyers of Bourdon Defence
The DUI laws are changing in Alberta. If you are facing DUI charges, consult a lawyer to determine if the impending changes might affect your case. Even if they do not, you will need a lawyer to defend you against these charges—and the lawyers of Bourdon Defence assist people like you every day. Reach us at (403) 474-4143 or through our website to discuss your case.