A few years ago it was British Columbia heading to the Supreme Court for their new and controversial drunk driving laws, and now it’s the Alberta impaired driving laws that are under scrutiny. Although British Columbia won their challenge and fought successfully for the right to utilize Mandatory Roadside Suspensions, this time Alberta anti-drunk driving advocates haven’t been as fortunate.
The Alberta Court of Appeal has struck down a section of Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act that deals specifically with immediate and mandatory suspensions for anyone who is charged with Alberta impaired driving. It was a split decision, and they decided that the current law would violate an offender’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms because, one: a person is innocent until they receive a fair trial, and two, that person can’t be punished until they receive that trial.
Although they have struck it down, they aren’t denying that it works. The ruling detailed how the law was effective and that over eighty percent of drunk driving offenders are convicted so the suspensions may be valid, but that the law was written without any thought for the Constitution of Canada.
There might still be a light at the end of the tunnel for Alberta impaired driving law. The law will remain valid for one year to give the province enough time to take the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. If it heads that way, the Supreme Court may also look at the ruling in British Columbia and how well immediate and mandatory suspensions are working there.
It’s hard to find the right method for pulling drunk drivers off the roads, and the reason why immediate roadside suspensions work is because they are a swift and immediate punishment for drunk driving. By requiring that offender to give up their license right then and there, police are able to send a strong message. If that person is able to wait for a trial? He or she may drink and drive again, and it’s not hard to picture what can happen if they do.
Let’s hope this is another drunk driving fight that heads straight to the Supreme Court of Canada, and that there’s a different verdict for Alberta in the future.