Drunk Driving, Tweets, and Calgary's Christmas Checkstops: Part 1

Every holiday sees a spike in impaired driving or DUI incidents in the Calgary area, and the Christmas season is no exception. Every year, dozens of happy Christmas celebrants decide to get behind the wheel despite having had a touch too much Christmas cheer, and find themselves welcoming Santa in a cell rather than at home with their families.

It's a fate that is simple enough to avoid: when you've had a drink, don't drive. Yet despite how simple that maxim is, and despite the substantial increase in public and personal safety it leads to, the same thing happens every year, and this year was no different. The Calgary Police were out in force, and they rounded up plenty of allegedly impaired drivers.

Some things do change, though, though whether or not it's for the better is often in the eye of the beholder (or visible only in hindsight). This includes changes in the ways law enforcement has pursued impaired drivers and in the way people have responded.

The Controversy of Calgary's DUI Checkstops

Alberta enacted new tougher DUI laws several years ago, and not everyone agrees that it was a wise decision. Though DUIs are down since the law was enacted and punishments were put in place, it is not clear that the law itself is responsible for this drop. Furthermore, some have argued that the laws are too strict—you can now face a lasting criminal charge and jail time for a DUI involving a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater, and some have gone as far as saying that automatic penalties such as license suspensions and vehicle seizures before a trial has taken place are unconstitutional.

The Calgary Police's use of DUI checkstops has also been questioned, as it amounts to a type of search and a definite impediment to travel without any suspicion of a crime having been committed. Though challenges to these various practices have been unsuccessful in the courts, many maintain that they are unjust or even unnecessary, and a few have taken action to help themselves and others skirt the law and avoid detection.

That's where Twitter comes in, with its ease of messaging dozens, hundreds, or even millions of people at once from the portability of a smartphone. As a means of rebellion against the Calgary Police and what they view as the unfair practice of DUI checkstops, some Calgary drivers turn to social media in an attempt to turn the tables on law enforcement. Whether it cured an injustice or created greater danger is a matter of debate, and the Calgary Police still made plenty of DUI arrests regardless, but the issue raised interesting questions that all Calgary drivers should consider.

I'll do exactly that in Part 2 of this article.

Legal Help for Your Calgary DUI

If you or a family member has been charged with a DUI or impaired driving in the Greater Calgary Area, please contact my office today for a free initial consultation. We can work together to get you the help you need!