New Impaired Driving Laws in Alberta
On December 1, 2020 the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act took into effect, bringing in new and tougher impaired driving laws in the province.
One of the goals of the Act is to enforce immediate driving penalties to alleged impaired drivers without laying criminal charges. This means that if you were caught under the new regime with a non-criminal impaired driving matter, you will not have the benefit of a judicial determination of your guilt in Court. You may have to endure the significant penalties under the new law, unless you successfully dispute the allegations against you within a very short period of time.
If you wish to dispute the allegations and avoid the accompanying penalties, including license suspension, vehicle seizure, mandatory driver’s education/courses, a steep fine, or the requirement to have a blowbox (or so-called Ignition Interlock Device), you will only have 7 days from the time you were issued a Notice of Administrative Penalty or Seizure Notice to file an appeal or a review.
Immediate Roadside Sanctions
The new laws are enforced through the new Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS) Program, which provides a number of serious, immediate and escalating consequences for impaired drivers. Under this program, you will be issued a Notice of Administrative Penalty if there are reasonable grounds to believe that you were operating a motor vehicle while you are impaired by drugs or alcohol. The penalties vary depending on your licence.
For example, if you hold a Class 7 or a GDL license, and a peace officer forms reasonable grounds to believe that you operated a vehicle with any alcohol or drug, your license will be suspended for 30 days, your vehicle impounded for 7 days, and you will have to pay a $200 fine plus surcharge.
If you are the driver of a commercial vehicle, there is also zero tolerance on the consumption of drugs or alcohol. If police have reasonable grounds to believe that you operated a commercial vehicle with any alcohol or drug in your body, you will be subject to a 3-day license suspension and a $300 fine plus surcharge for a first offence. You face increasing periods of license suspension and fines for subsequent contraventions.
In other cases where drivers hold Class 5 (non GDL) driver licenses, if police believe on reasonable grounds that the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is 50%, the penalties include a 3-day license suspension, 3-day vehicle seizure, and $300 fine plus surcharge – for a first offence. Subsequent offences will result in higher fines, longer suspensions, vehicle seizure, and a requirement to attend a driver education course.
It is anticipated that the most common application of the IRS Program will be where drivers FAIL the roadside demand (i.e. if they blow over 80), and/or where the police form reasonable grounds to believe that a driver operated a motor vehicle while their ability to do so was impaired by drug or alcohol. If you were caught under this scenario and it is your first offence, you will immediately receive a 90-day suspension of your license, a 30-day vehicle seizure, a $1,000 fine plus surcharge and a requirement to take the “Planning Ahead” course. The immediate 90-day suspension prohibits you absolutely from driving. You will then be required to enter into the Ignition Interlock for the next 12 months if you wish to drive again. If you don’t enter into the Ignition Interlock Program, you will remain suspended from driving for those 12 months.
For a 2nd offence, you will be required to participate in the Interlock Program for 3 years and will be subject to a higher fine. If it is your 3rd and subsequent offence, you will be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock for a LIFETIME.
Appealing your license suspension or your vehicle seizure
Certainly, the new impaired driving laws have wide ranging consequences and it arguably gives police broad powers to seize your vehicle or suspend your license. If they have grounds to believe that you have a medical or physical condition, or that you consumed drugs or alcohol, so as to affect your physical or mental ability to drive, they can simply issue a Notice of Administrative Penalty to you which will suspend your license for 24 hours, and they have the option of seizing your vehicle for 24 hours as well. If you operate with a Class 7 or GDL license, or if you are driving a commercial vehicle, the penalties are much severe as explained above.
Again, it is very important to remember that you only have 7 days from the time the Notice is issued, for you to dispute the allegations and the corresponding penalties.
Since there is a very limited window for you to dispute the issuance of Notice of Administrative Penalty, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer immediately. If you wish to dispute the issuance of the Notice, you will be required to file your application for a review within the allotted 7-day period. The process was designed to deal with non-criminal matters within 30 days, at which period, an adjudicator will decide whether to confirm or cancel the Notice.
What if I don’t file my application for a review within 7 days?
There may be circumstances where a driver will be unable to dispute the Notice of Administrative Penalty within 7-days. This is a very short period of time especially for those who have limited resources. If you do not file an application for a review within 7 days, all hope may not be lost if you miss the deadline. Contact our office and we will do everything we can to get you an appeal.
Can I still be charged criminally?
To be clear, the new impaired laws in the province do not stop police from laying criminal charges for alleged impaired/drunk driving. They still have the power to charge drivers criminally in more serious cases, for example, where the driver was previously convicted of impaired driving, or if there was an accident that caused property damage or injury. If you have been charged criminally, you should exercise your right to counsel and contact a lawyer immediately for legal advice.
If you have been charged criminally with impaired driving, or issued a Notice of Administrative Penalty or Notice of Seizure for your vehicle, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer immediately to discuss your rights and your options. The consequences are significant and a lawyer will be able to provide you guidance and advice regarding the issue.
For additional information about the new impaired driving laws in the province, or if you wish to have a free consultation, give us a call at 780-784-7500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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