Change is coming to the province’s impaired driving legislation, one the government is being forced into.
Earlier this month, in a split decision, a three-judge panel at the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the present law as unconstitutional. The majority decision stated a person’s Charter rights are being infringed by the province’s practice of immediately suspending a driver’s licence and not allowing to be given back until charges of impaired driving or refusing to provide a breath sample are concluded.
The original changes to the law were made by the Conservative government in 2012. The case behind the ruling was launched in 2015 and the current NDP government will no make any further appeals — after losing at both the Queen’s Bench and Appellate court levels.
However, according to the minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley, the government is researching other avenues in order to comply with the ruling while also protecting citizens.
“The safety of Albertans in communities and on our roads is our top priority. Deaths caused by impaired driving are senseless, tragic and 100 percent preventable,” Ganley stated in a release.
“We will be looking at other legislative models across the country to see which initiatives have been most effective in saving lives. We want to ensure that our laws reduce impaired driving and are also upheld in court.”
The province is planning on holding consultations with a variety of stakeholders prior to bringing forward any new legislation.
While the ruling is a blow to proponents of a crackdown on impaired drivers, there is hope new amendments will accomplish the goals behind the spirit of the original change.
“Impaired driving is a crime that claims nearly twice as many lives each year in Canada as all forms of homicide combined. We are pleased to see the Government of Alberta moving forward to explore a more effective model to deter and reduce impaired driving in that province. We look forward to working with them to ensure this happens,” explained Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada.
Police are also supportive of the government, as stated in a statement from the Alberta Association of Cheifs of Police.
“We support the action of the government on this matter. Impaired drivers threaten the safety of every other person on the road with potential death or serious injury, and administrative licence suspensions were an immediate way to address the threat,” said association representative Chief Const. Roger Chaffin.
“We are optimistic that the government will find a legally acceptable resolution to this issue in the very near future.”
However, the ruling won’t be letting drivers off the hook, as the present legislation will stay in place until May 2018. Therefore, licences will still be suspended when a driver is charged with impaired driving.