Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Alberta justice: guilty until proven innocent

Some statistics have been released on Alberta's new "tough" drunk driving laws and the province says they're "promising".

Firstly, this is not enough of a proper data set to make a statement like that.

Secondly, there were 770 three-day vehicle seizures for people blowing between .05 and .08.  Remember, these people have not committed a crime as they did not blow over .08 as per the Canada Criminal Code, but the Alberta government has assumed they have the right to seize your property.  The interesting thing is, with the new law, whether you blow between .05 or .08 or if you blow over .08, your vehicle is seized for three days regardless.  So doesn't that imply a similar offence?  Before, if you blew over .08 you received an automatic 24-hour suspension but your vehicle was not seized.  Now it's three days for over .05.

Thirdly, what the province hasn't addressed is the real problem--repeat offenders.  You've heard the stories of drunk drivers being convicted multiple times only to be allowed back on the road multiple times.

Also, there is not enough conclusive evidence to show that drivers causing death or accidents had a BAC between .05 and .08.  So why .05?  Why not .04?  Who determined that .05 is the standard or did the Alberta PC gov't just copy what BC was doing?

Thankfully, the law is being challenged in court as to its violation of the fundamentals of our justice system--that is, you're being presumed guilty until proven innocent.

"Lawyer Fred Kozak is involved in a constitutional challenge of that aspect of the new law in Court of Queen's Bench this December. The challenge claims automatic licence suspensions are unconstitutional because they violate the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. "Is it fair to punish people prior to their trial?"
What the new law appears to be admitting is that the province has not put their foot down with those who blow over .08 and especially the repeat offenders to send that message to drivers who get behind the wheel after a bunch of drinks.

Let's admit what it is, it's a smoke screen law, supposedly to be a preventative measure, and it allows police to be judge and executioner on the spot without due process, and now the government is releasing selected statistics to show that they're doing something to curb drinking and driving without addressing the real issues.

To me, what would be a fairer, more applicable compromise law is if someone blows .05-.08 using the roadside Breathalyzer, that they receive a 24-hour license suspension, get around 8 demerits like a normal traffic violation, and a $500 fine, you know, like speeders or bad drivers.  If it happens again within a period, then your license is suspended for a year, and you then need to take a driving class and get a road test again.
What are your thoughts?


Chris D said...

Personally, and as an Albertan, I think that if you blow between .05 and .08, you still have not broken the law according to our current justice system. If they want to change the DUI laws to .05, go ahead and do that, but this "kinda" DUI they have right now is an overreach by the police and government.

Your compromise law doesn't hist your point that there is not conclusive evidence to show that a BAC of .05-.08 is causing a disproportionate number of accidents. If there was, then the law would be moved to .05 directly, as a safety matter, which would be the right thing to do.

My guess is, and bear in mind that this is only a guess, is that this evidence doesn't exist, so the government would have difficulty moving it from a safety perspective.

gerry said...

Look if you do not wish to have your car impounded and pay a fine, then if you drive do not drink. Why do people who drink believe that it is their right to down a few beers then get in their cars and drive down a road. Most countries have adopted the .00 rule and hopefully we will get to it as soon as possible. Again if you want to drink have someone drive you but for people who oppose this law, that would be an inconvenience.

Anonymous said...

I will say I have no sympathy with drunk drivers.
If you are over .08 you are busted.
Let me relate an experience with Constable Cranky.
A roadblock, I pull up wind down the window, from there it goes sideways.
CC "How MUCH have you had to drink?
Me That sounds more like an accusation than a question.
He was not thrilled with my response, to put it mildly.
Me 0 Nada.
He sticks his big fat head right in my truck.
CC any open containers of alchol?
Me I have already answered that question but no, not one.
CC any alchol in the truck?
Me If there is it is not your concern.
CC I am going to look "Stop RIGHT THERE"
I was driving a Nissan Pathfinder with smoked back windows I locked the doors rather than meekly submit to a search.
He made greasy faceprints all over my back windows trying to see in.
This was at high noon on a sunday, I was as I always am sober when driving.
He came back to my drivers window and ordered me to leave.
This is what you will get by giving a jerk with a gun and a badge a law that is very badly thought out.
I had a one on one with my MP over this and how far it went I don't know.
I was completly unimpressed.
I am a 64 year old with no record and a clean licence.
Bubba Brown

Pissedoff said...

I assume Gerry you have the same feelings about Trudeau's legalising pot. I know from experience what one drag can do and yet I could have driven my car legally.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess this is the place to voice how the laws really work.

My husband was recently a victim of these new laws. On Nov 30/2013 he was out with some friends and had too much to drink. So he had a cab called which by the way never showed up, even after waiting almost two hrs. So he called me to come pick him up. While waiting for me he waited in his truck with the heater on high to keep warm being it was -15 not including wind chill.

Although he had no intention of driving and wasn't- in fact had fallen asleep when the police came by had him charged without even doing a test, seized his truck for three days and suspended his drivers licence until it is resolved in court.

My husband is a truck driver and now has lost his job. In order for us to get a lawyer we had to use our Dec rent money plus other money earmarked for bills etc. So now we have received an eviction notice. We are about to end up homeless and will have to give up our beloved dogs. And our daughter can no longer play hockey because we have no way to get to her games etc.

Which being she is the only goalie they have, the entire team has had to forfeit all and any games until and if they can find another goalie.

And if that wasn't bad enough when they towed my husband's truck they did severe damage to the front end suspension - which we cannot afford to fix.

Was he charged with impaired driving - NO !!! because he was not driving but instead was charged with impaired care and control.

After all this to be honest I now feel that you are guilty until proven innocent even when you do not drink and drive. Oh I should mention that the police did this at 4:40 am. Well after the pub had closed and there was no-where for anyone let alone my husband to go indoors to stay warm. And for the record my husband and I are the designated drivers for all our friends and family.

So it doesn't matter if you drive or not you are convicted before you even have your day in court.

All of this has happened to us because we believe you should not drink and drive. But even in upholding our belief in this we still have been treated as though he did.
I hope the police officers have a merry xmas!! At least someone will be......

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