Understanding Calgary DUIs from the Law Enforcement Perspective

While impaired driving or DUI charges might not seem to be especially important in terms of the larger workings of the Calgary criminal justice system, Alberta's impaired driving laws have actually made them a matter of hot debate.

These laws, enacted in 2012, provided mandated harsher penalties for DUI infractions and in fact criminalized DUIs with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over .08. They also created an allowance for enhanced investigative techniques such as "DUI Checkstops" where all drivers passing through a certain point are subjected to a stop by law enforcement and potentially required to perform a roadside sobriety test and/or a breath assessment of their current BAC.

Drivers who fail to comply with a request to perform a roadside sobriety test/breath analysis can be charged with a separate crime in addition to a DUI/impaired driving charge. Drivers in Calgary may also face automatic penalties including license suspensions and vehicle seizures immediately upon being arrested for a suspected DUI, without the benefit of a trial.

All of these things may seem unjust, and indeed I have reservations as a Calgary citizen and as a Calgary defence lawyer. But while working to make the law better is important, it doesn't address the immediate needs of those who have been charged with a DUI in Calgary—when you've been charged with a crime, you're confronted with what the law is, even if the law may be unjust.

And right now, law enforcement and legislators believe that tough DUI laws are warranted because drunk driving is truly dangerous.

This isn't a matter of debate; study after study and year after year of statistics have proven that the more intoxicated drivers we have on the roads the more accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities we'll have as well. Impaired driving is a serious public safety concern, and Alberta's tough DUI laws are meant to address it. The ends justify the means, in the eyes of Calgary Police, Alberta's legislators, and the courts.

Broad investigative powers make it more possible, in theory, for Calgary Police to detect drunk drivers and get them off the road before they cause harm. Harsh penalties, in theory, persuade drivers not to get behind the wheel when they're intoxicated. The fact that the new powers and new punishments created by Alberta's DUI laws encroach on civil liberties and create other problems is ignored by those who feel that stopping DUIs is worth practically any cost.

We can—and I do—disagree with many elements of Alberta's impaired driving laws. We should fight to make the laws more fair, to return the presumption of innocence, and to remove automatic penalties and warrantless searches by law enforcement. We also need to work with the system we have today, even as we work toward building something better for the future.

Contact a Dedicated Calgary DUI Defence Lawyer

Understanding the reasoning behind the laws that lead to so many Calgary DUIs is helpful; partnering with a dedicated DUI defence lawyer is essential. For a free initial consultation with an experienced and passionate Calgary criminal defence lawyer, please contact Susan Karpa today.

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