Law Day at the Edmonton Law Courts in Edmonton allows the public to learn about the justice system in a fun environment from judges, lawyers and members of the judicial staff.

In the court of public opinion, it is constitutional for a police officer to ask a driver to provide a breath sample despite not having grounds to believe they may be impaired, those attending Law Day at the Edmonton courthouse decided Saturday.

The mock constitutional appeal case heard arguments from defence lawyer Will Van Engen and Crown prosecutor Courtney Mah in a situation that will likely be heard as a real case in the future.

It examines a change to the Criminal Code of Canada that came into force on Dec. 18, 2018, where, among other changes, Parliament authorized police officers to make mandatory demands for breath samples during a roadside stop.

The case was put on as part of Law Day, a national event every April that recognizes the signing of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The public is able to learn about the law, the legal profession and legal institutions while taking in mock trials and presentations.

In his argument, Van Engen said the breath sample violated his client Kevin Canner’s right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this case, the unreasonable seizure was Canner’s breath sample.

He said the previous standard already had the right balance between search and seizure and ensuring public safety. 

“It did ensure that police could make demands and protect the public in a way that was constitutionally compliant,” he said. “So it did provide a means by which police could protect us while doing so only to the extent necessary.”

However, the Crown argued that if that right had been violated, it was justified because of the serious impact that drunk driving has on Canadians. Mah relied on the section of the Charter which outlines an individual’s rights may be minimally violated if the benefits of the law balance out the negative impact.

Mah argued the law is aimed at reducing impaired driving, therefore asking for a breath sample is worth it in order to save lives.

“All have the right to be safe on the roads we travel every day,” said Mah.

Diverting from the traditional way of ruling on a case, Judge Shelagh Creagh asked those attending to decide the fate of the appeal.

In a 7-6 decision, those listening in were in favour of the Crown’s arguments, although there were many who decided to remain neutral and not vote.

Source: Edmonton Journal


Last updated on: 2019-07-20 | Link to this post