May 23, 2017 - ALBERTA COURT RULES SUSPENSIONS UNCONSTITUTIONAL


An Alberta appeal court ruling is a great victory for people’s rights, says a local defence lawyer.

On May 18 the Alberta appeal court released a ruling stating the province’s law making licence suspensions automatic upon a person’s arrest for impaired driving is unconstitutional.

The ruling states the law violates a person’s right to liberty that cannot be removed except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice along with a person’s right to be presumed innocent.

The court gave the province a year to change the law.

“It’s a great victory for Charter Rights,” said defence lawyer Nick Cake.

Cake expects to be raising the Alberta decision in local courtrooms as the Alberta law is similar to 90-day licence suspension given to people charged for impaired driving in Ontario. The charge is just an allegation but the law takes away a person’s licence, said Cake.

A spokesperson for Ontario’s transport ministry said today the government is reviewing the Alberta decision to what impact it may have on Ontario’s drinking-and-driving programs and legislation.

The Ontario law pre-supposes guilt but the Charter of Rights states a person is presumed to be innocent, said defence lawyer James Guggisberg.

Cake and Guggisberg said the automatic suspensions impact a person’s employment and family responsibilities.

Guggisberg said the Ontario law should allow judges to consider the 90-day suspension as a credit towards the one-year automatic suspension if the person is found guilty.

In reaching the decision the Alberta court cited a 2011 Alberta government document. The document was obtained by the four people who challenged the law.

In Alberta the suspensions are in place until the person’s case is resolved.

The Alberta document stated the high-risk drivers charged with impaired driving will continue to drive free of any supervision.

The Alberta court stated traffic safety was the reason behind the law. But another goal of Alberta’s law was to reduce the amount of court time spent on impaired-driving cases which the appeal judges stated implies inducing earlier guilty pleas and discouraging drivers from exercising their constitutional right to a trial.

In Ontario some people plead guilty to get their licence back as soon as possible rather than due to their consideration of the circumstances surrounding the charge, said Cake.

People are forced to plead guilty because of their need to drive for work or family responsibilities, said Cake.

The Alberta ruling was not unanimous Justice Marina Paperny maintained there were no charter violations.

Paperny stated the withdrawal of a driving privilege may have a punitive effort but that does not elevate the privilege to a charter-protected right.

In regards to the right to the presumption of innocence Paperny states the Alberta laws does not create an offence as defined by the charter. Licence suspensions do not require the person to be arrested or appear in court.

Cake expects to see the Alberta ruling go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Source: The Observer


 

Last updated on: 2017-06-17 | Link to this post