The latest word—but not the last word—on the Alberta Constitutional Challenge…
Although the ruling went against the three individuals that challenged the new legislation this does not mean that the fight is over the legislation as it stands right now is still in debate and will be continued to be challenged in the Supreme Court of Alberta. Unfortunately the recent decision prolongs the suspensions of individuals charged with impaired driving since July 1, 2012. We must wait to hear the outcome from the Supreme Court and hope that the rights of individuals will be upheld.
From The Canadian Press February 20, 2013
Those challenging impaired driving charges still can’t drive.
An Alberta judge has ruled three people who lost their driver’s licenses under a new impaired-driving law will not get them back pending the outcome of their constitutional challenge.
Chief Justice Neil Wittman of Court of Queen’s Bench, ruled that returning their licenses would mean many more people would likely apply to get their licenses back.
“The balance of convenience does not favor the granting of a stay,” Wittman wrote in his decision. “To grant a stay at this point would effectively determine the issue, finally, for the applicant and potentially for a great many other Albertans whose driver’s licenses are currently suspended.”
Lawyers for three people charged under the law filed a constitutional challenge in November, arguing that legislation presumes guilt and violates people’s rights.
The following is quoted from the Edmonton Sun February 20, 2013
— Article by Matt Dykstra of the Edmonton Sun
The following is quoted from the Edmonton Journal February 19, 2013
A group of Albertans building a constitutional challenge to provincial impaired driving laws will remain suspended from driving during the court battle, a judge has decided.
In a decision released Tuesday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Neil Whittman declined to stay the licence suspensions of three Albertans who have argued that automatic suspensions after impaired-driving charges are unconstitutional, because they violate the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Whittman would not grant the stays because the precedent might result in so many suspensions being revoked that it could potentially put unsafe drivers on the road.
A stay “would set a precedent that would encourage a great many more stay applications that could amount, in effect, to a suspension of the entire alcohol-related administrative licence suspension regime, and because such a suspension could pose a danger to the public, the balance of convenience weighs against granting such a stay,” Whittman wrote.
On behalf of his clients, lawyer Matt Woodley had argued that staying the suspensions would not lead to similar appeals bogging down the court system, but would provide guidance to the Alberta Transportation Safety Board, which also has the power to issue stays of the suspensions.
Since July 1, 2012, the Traffic Safety Amendments Act has dictated that Albertans charged with impaired driving are suspended from driving until the case is resolved in court.
Before July 1, 2012, a driver charged could receive a 24-hour suspension, followed by a three-week grace period before their licence was suspended for a further 90 days. That grace period no longer exists and there is no longer a 90-day limit.
In his decision, Whittman said the constitutional challenge to come raises questions that “are neither frivolous nor vexatious.”
Whitman added that the plight of the applicants was “arguably aggravated and frustrating.”
Two of the applicants involved in the challenge were arrested for being intoxicated inside their vehicles, though both insist they weren’t driving at the time.
Tyanna Jackson, 25, was charged in July 2012 after police woke her as she slept in her Pontiac Sunfire in the parking lot of her friend’s apartment building. The youth care worker had been drinking and decided to sleep in her car rather than drive, according to her affidavit filed with the court.
“I co-operated with the police to the best of my ability,” Jackson’s affidavit states.
Jackson’s licence is now suspended until July, a year after her charge, which would be the earliest time she could get a court date to plead not guilty.
The suspension derailed Jackson’s plans to finish the last year of her degree at the University of Alberta and she has difficulty commuting to her workplace, 40 minutes by car from her current home in Goodfish Lake.
Darren Davidson was arrested last August after police found him intoxicated in his car in the parking lot of the Century Park LRT Station. He had taken the train from a Metallica concert at Rexall Place. According to his affidavit, he needed to retrieve his cellphone from his car to call for a ride.
The Transportation Safety Board denied his appeal to get his licence back and, like Jackson, Davidson must wait until at least July to enter a not guilty plea. He currently has to rely on his mother to drive him to work, though sometimes resorts to hitchhiking, his affidavit states.
In some areas of the province, court dates for a trial and the opportunity to plead not guilty are not available until 2014.
The constitutional challenge is expected to return to the courts later this year, but no date has been set.
— Article by Ryan Cormier of the Edmonton Journal