Calgary's DUI Laws: The Purpose, the Problems, and Your Potential Defence: Part 3

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This is Part 3 of a four-part article series. Please click here for Part 1 or Part 2.

In the last two installments of this article series, I introduced some of the confusion and conflict that the impaired driving or DUI laws in effect Calgary and throughout Alberta have caused since they were enacted in 2012. With automatic penalties, lifelong criminal records, warrantless stops, and other controversial practices, these laws have been challenged by many people for many different reasons.

At the same time, as we saw in last week's article, the laws were enacted for a good reason: to reduce the number of people in the province—and in Calgary—who make the choice to get behind the wheels of their vehicles while intoxicated. The evidence is clear that reducing the number of drunk drivers in Calgary would help reduce the number of serious car accidents that occur in our city, and would also reduce the number of traffic fatalities here in Calgary and throughout Alberta. Harsher punishments, according to some, help reduce the number of drunk drivers, and that is used to justify these laws even if they do seem to bend other rules at work in the criminal justice system.
Whether or not you feel the ends justify the means, here are some of the problems that have been pointed out with Calgary's drunk driving laws.

How Calgary's DUI Offences Could be Seriously Flawed from a Rights Perspective

One of the major challenges to Calgary's DUI laws has come in response to the automatic penalties they impose on those who are simply arrested for impaired driving, before they've even faced trial. License suspensions and vehicle seizures can occur based on a single law enforcement officer's word, without any chance for a defence.

Similarly, law enforcement agencies like the Calgary Police are now allowed to set up DUI checkstops—points along main roads and highways where all drivers are required to stop and submit to roadside sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests for BAC (blood alcohol content) without any probable cause. These two issues seem to flaunt the Charter's protection of the presumption of innocence.

The argument has also been raised that harsh punishments don't actually dissuade crime. In fact, there's some evidence that suggests societies with harsher and more frequent criminal penalties have bigger problems with crime. Though Calgary and Alberta have seen reductions in the number of DUI offences since the new laws went into effect, there have also been increased public awareness campaigns over the same period, and many say that better outreach—not harsher laws—is the best way to prevent more DUIs.

These are the primary problems that have been raised with Calgary's DUI laws, and they remain controversial. As debate on these issues and the laws themselves continue, we may yet see changes to impaired driving offences and the way they are charged, investigated, and prosecuted.

Call Now for Help with Your Calgary DUI Defence

If you've been charged with a DUI or impaired driving offence in or around the Greater Calgary Area, you're entitled to legal assistance. Contact Susan Karpa today for a free initial consultation.

This is Part 3 of a four-part article series.  

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