Calgary's DUI Laws: The Purpose, the Problems, and Your Potential Defence: Part 1

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I've written a great deal on this blog about the impaired driving laws that went into effect in Calgary and throughout Alberta back in 2012. These new DUI laws are far tougher than the laws previously targeting drunk driving or driving while intoxicated here in the province, both in how they define driving under the influence and in the punishments that can be imposed upon those found guilty of impaired driving.

These DUI laws were the first in Alberta to impose criminal penalties for drunk driving. While fines and other administrative penalties affecting your legal ability to drive existed prior to these laws, now you can actually face jail time and a life-long criminal record if you operate a car on Calgary's roads with a BAC (blood alcohol content) at or above .08. Not only that, but many of the penalties the new laws created for both administrative DUI offences (those in which the driver allegedly had a BAC between .05 and .08) and criminal offences (those in which the driver allegedly had a BAC of .08 or higher) are now automatic—they go into effect from the moment you are arrested and/or charged, before any trial or any attempt to raise a defence.

Many have pointed out that the harsh nature of these laws might not really serve Calgary or the province as a whole in the best manner, and some have even brought the government to court over the issue of automatic penalties, which seem to fly in the face of the presumption of innocence everyone accused of a crime is supposed to enjoy. There have also been serious concerns regarding the attitude of the Calgary police and other law enforcement agencies when it comes to detecting drunk drivers, including the ability to stop drivers at DUI check stops without any probable cause to believe a driver is impaired.

I've written about all of this before, but I wanted to take a step back and examine the laws in a little more detail. That's what I'll be doing over the course of the next few articles in this series: first examining Calgary's DUI/impaired driving laws from the perspective of those who put them in place and continue to support them, then taking a look at the serious legal, ethical, and moral problems some have pointed out with these laws, and finally looking at how these laws might affect your defence against DUI charges in Calgary.

This more nuanced and detailed look may shed some light on questions my defence clients and others have had regarding the current DUI laws, their scope, and their effects.

Contact a Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer for Your DUI Case

If you or a family member has been accused of a DUI or impaired driving in the Calgary area, you are entitled to speak to a defence lawyer who can assist you with your case. For a free initial consultation, please contact Susan Karpa today.

This is Part 1 of a four-part article series.

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