Police and advocacy groups are hailing the dismissal of a constitutional challenge to a controversial Alberta law allowing for the roadside suspension of licences for accused drunk drivers.

Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey of the Calgary police traffic section praised the decision, saying it’s a step that keeps the teeth in the province’s impaired driving legislation.

“The Alberta government instituted the new guidelines in order to help curb impaired driving, and so far I believe it’s done just that,” he said.

“We’ve been light on impaired driving for so many years, and finally, because it hasn’t gone away, the government is starting to take it seriously.”

In a ruling released Friday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Thomas Wakeling struck down a challenge to a 2012 amendment of the province’s Traffic Safety Act that indefinitely suspends licences for drivers with blood alcohol levels over 0.08 until the matter is dealt with in court.

The four Alberta motorists who issued the challenge said the indefinite suspensions contravenes several sections of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, claiming it imposed a penalty before having a chance to make their case before a judge.

The 2012 amendment also imposes harsher penalties for those caught driving between 0.05 and 0.08, with first offenders facing a roadside three-day license suspension and vehicle impoundment.

Stacey is hopeful the possibility of losing their license will give people pause before getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks.

“The deterrence of stiffer penalties in the grey area of 0.05 is an excellent start in the right direction,” he said

“From what we’ve seen, with our Checkstops, it’s been very effective.”

The importance of deterrence is one shared by Families for Justice spokesperson Grace Pesa.

“They need to keep it the way it is, and even maybe make it higher,” she said.

“It’s the only route we have in preventing senseless deaths that are 100% preventable.”

Grace is the mother of Francis Pesa, the victim of a deadly New Year’s Day crash in 2014 caused by a drunk driver.

Becoming a crusader for stiffer impaired driving laws since her son’s death, Pesa is petitioning the federal government for mandatory minimum sentences for impaired driving convictions, as well as redefining the Criminal Code offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular manslaughter.

Posted on the Families for Justice Facebook page, the petition has so far garnered 90,000 signatures.

“The deterrent is there, the thought process is there,” she said.

“Until each and every one who drives embraces this and thinks hard about the consequences of driving drunk, it will continue.”

Source: Calgary Sun


Last updated on: 2015-03-07 | Link to this post