New Provincial Impaired Rules – Repeat Offenders

New rules for impaired driving, also known as “DUIs”, came into effect in Alberta on December 1, 2020.

There are important changes to note for those who may have a previous conviction for impaired driving, or who end up with multiple instances of impaired driving under the new provincial system.

A second time offender will face a $2000 fine and a third offence will also result in that fine plus the mandatory use of an ignition interlock, otherwise known as a “blow box”, for life. While first time drunk drivers will be able to now avoid criminal charges, repeat offenders still face the risk of also receiving criminal charges in addition to these heightened provincial administrative penalties. If there is an accident involved, someone is injured, or minors are in the vehicle, these are factors that will likely also result in criminal charges.

This new system will allow drivers to use an online system to pay their fines, make requests for time to pay, seek a review of the penalty, or even seek judicial review in court.

These changes are following and modelled after systems already in place in British Columbia and Manitoba that have received positive results.

While this new system may be perceived as a positive for first time offenders who can avoid a criminal charge, it hits hard for repeat offenders who likely still face criminal charges plus stiffer provincial administrative penalties. This is to really deter people who have already faced drunk driving penalties and sends the message to not do it again. This does, however, more harshly punish those who may have alcohol dependence or addictions issues and who may have more than one DUI. There should really be measures in place to help those individuals deal with their addictions and root causes of impaired driving, as opposed to more severely punishing them which does nothing to address the problem for the re-offending.

There is also grave concern amongst criminal lawyers that there may be a lack of justice and due process for the administrative provincial system leaving individuals guilty of drunk driving with no real recourse to have their day in court.