Constitutional Challenges For Bill 26

In December 2011 the Albeta Government passed the Traffic Safety Amendment Act. This piece of legislation brings numerous changes to the provincial Traffic Safety Act, raising the penalties for drunk drivers in Alberta.

The introduction of Bill 26 is an effort to help reduce injuries and fatalities on Alberta roads resulting from impaired driving. According to Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General:

The tougher penalties are all about reducing the number of impaired drivers on Albertan highways.…however; it raises the question of whether this legislation is constitutional. There are several in the Alberta legal community that argue certain aspects of the new law may be not.

Alberta’s new impaired driving laws took hold July 1, 2012

Some of the amendments to the Traffic Safety Act did not become effective until September 1, 2012. These changes include new penalties for people caught driving with a BAC reading between .05 and .08.

Some of the changes take effect earlier. As of July 1, 2012, Alberta drivers caught driving with a blood-alcohol content reading of over .08 will face new provincial penalties, in addition to current Criminal Code charges. These additional penalties include an immediate, indefinite license suspension – which remains in effect at least until the criminal trial is complete – and prolonged license suspensions that escalate for repeat offenders. To read more about the penalties involved with license suspension, click here. Moreover, a person who is found guilty of impaired driving criminally must install a the Ignition Interlock Device in their car for monitoring their BAC, preventing the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected.

Pending constitutional challenges against Bill 26

Critics argue that the indefinite license suspension, due to long wait times for appearance in Provincial Court,  result in the cohersion of Albertans  pleading guilty in order to regain their licenses. The strong incentive to plead guilty makes the new provisions vulnerable to a constitutional challenge. In addition, it could be problematic that drivers receive an immediate license suspension before being found guilty.





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Posted on February 20th, 2013