We understand your frustration and your desire to know the most recent information about the highly disputed Bill 26 the Redford Conservative government forced on Albertans last July 1st. It appears it will be a couple of weeks before Judge Wittmann makes his decision on the three trials that were heard on January 29, 2013 in Edmonton. We are in hopes that their suspensions will be stayed until their trial is held or the constitution challenge has been heard which ever comes first. Aspects of the legislation that were copied from BC’s suspension legislation have been overturned in B.C. and gives us hope that the same will be upheld here in Alberta.
People have a right to a fair trial before being found guilty and punished. Redford’s government is not upholding this right in their attempt to be seen as taking drunk drivers off the road. These people have not been proven to be guilty of anything and they have in many cases lost their jobs, their homes, and sometimes their families as a result of this legislation. Keep in mind the families of the people who have been charged and the suffering they must go through, kids that not only had a slim Christmas, did not get the snow boots they needed for winter and often were forced to live off the good will of others to have food in their stomachs if a parent lost their ability to work and support their family. What does the Redford government tell these children if at the time of trial their family member is found innocent, we are sorry for the inconvenience?
Often people wrongly assume that just because someone has been charged that they are guilty. It is not until they face a charge themselves or someone they know has that they begin to understand how the law works and that it is easy to be wrongfully charged. In the situation of impaired driving we agree that we need to protect our streets and the safety of everyone on them but we see the many cases where the individual was not guilty and have to fight to prove their innocence. All you have to do for instance is have a complete stranger call in your license and indicate they believe you are impaired as you swerved. You may have dodged a pot hole but to the caller, the good citizen who thinks they are doing their duty to call you into the police ‘you are drunk’. The police will respond and stop you and you may tell them that you had nothing to drink but you might be asked for a road side breath sample. “Not a problem officer”, you comply and try to provide a breath sample and for physical reasons such as asthma you may not be able to give an acceptable sample and you will be charged with a refusal. Or you might be upset that the police have pulled you over for what you believe is no good reason. You may argue that why should you cooperate and that you want to speak to a lawyer before you provide a sample. Then you find out that you are not given the right to legal counsel at this time and are charged for refusing to give a sample when all you wanted was a clarification of your rights. The list of possible ways to be innocent and wrongly accused of being impaired is a long one.
If you are waiting to hear the outcome of the court decision we will assure you that we will have the news updated on our website as soon as it can be uploaded. We will detail what you will need to do in order to get your license back if the court rules against the present Alberta impaired legislation. We understand how hard it is to wait and be patient and we are as anxious for news as you. Some of you may be wondering if you should make an appeal to the Driver’s Control Board and that is an option if it is done within thirty days of your arrest, however the Driver’s Control Board does not make a decision based on hardship, and few appeals are successful. The other problem that you might face if you appeal directly to the Board and lose is that you could also lose your ability to have your license reinstated if the ruling from the court turns down the legislation and you have been considered as having made an appeal and lost already.
Check back here for any updates.
— Cheryl C. Helynck
The following is quoted from the Edmonton Sun January 31, 2013
Cover. Edmonton Sun 31 Jan. 2013
Alberta’s Drinking and Driving Law Worse than Feared
When the province’s Draconian new drinking-and-driving law went into effect last year, many predicted its .05 blood alcohol limit would mean many Albertans would be unable to drive home legally after having a single glass of wine with a restaurant meal.
Turns out the truth is even worse.
Last July, after drinking, Tyanna Jackson fell asleep in her car in the parking lot of a friend’s apartment. Police discovered her there, administered a breath test and found Jackson had a blood-alcohol level over .05 but under .08, which is the criminal standard.
The new law, which was a pet project of Premier Alison Redford, mandates an immediate three-day impoundment of an offender’s vehicle and three-day suspension of his or her licence on first offense. No trial, no appeal, not even a chance to call your lawyer. Police get to play Judge Dredd right there at the roadside.
But it gets worse. If you try to plead not guilty, your licence remains suspended until your case can be heard by a judge, which with the backlog in our courts usually takes a year, or as long as two years in rural areas.
That means to protest your innocence, you have to risk being unable to drive your kids to school, commute to work or go to get groceries (except on the bus) for 12 to 24 months. That is the same period your licence is likely to be suspended on first offense if you are convicted of criminal drunk driving.
Jackson could not get her day in court until this coming July. That means she could be without her licence for a full year for falling asleep in her car. (Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to sleep it off rather than drive home?)
Similarly, Darren Davidson had his licence suspended after police found him in his car in the parking lot of a southside LRT Station. Davidson claims he was merely looking for his cellphone so he could call someone to come give him a ride home after attending a rock concert at Rexall Place. But because he was behind the wheel of his parked car and because Premier Nanny’s law is very strict, police charged him, too.
Matthew Woodley, the Edmonton lawyer who is arguing to have Jackson’s and Davidson’s suspensions overturned in court, says that because the law’s sanctions are similar to those for criminal drunk driving the law attempts to mimic the Criminal Code – a federal matter – and is therefore beyond the province’s jurisdiction.
A good example of just how extreme our Nanny-in-Chief’s law is can be seen in the case of Monty Robinson, the B.C. Mountie who was in charge of the four-man squad who tasered Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International in October 2007, leading to the Polish immigrant’s death.
A little more than a year later, Robinson, while presumably intoxicated, was driving his kids home from a Halloween party in Delta, B.C. when he struck motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson. Leaving Hutchinson to die in the street, Robinson identified himself to witness (so he could not be charged with hit-and-run), then went home and downed two vodkas before returning to the scene (so it could not be proven the alcohol in his system was there from before the accident).
For this, the only punishment Robinson received was one year probation.
On Tuesday in an Edmonton courtroom, provincial lawyers argued Redford’s law is about making our streets safer. But the punishment for anyone wanting to challenge the law (and the wisdom of Premier Nanny) is out of all proportion to the tiny risk .05 drivers pose.
Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Neil Wittman could rule within two weeks.
— Article by Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Sun