This time last year we were trying to anticipate what the new Criminal Code amendments to the laws on impaired driving would mean for our clients. Our lawyers have been kept very busy since the new laws took effect on December 18, 2018. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the amendments, Gunn Law Group is taking this time to look back at how the amendments have played out and what we may expect in the future.
The introduction of mandatory alcohol screening (referred to as the MAS demand) was the change that attracted the most media attention at the time. If you were stopped in the past twelve months for speeding, failing to stop or just by an officer who decided to pull you over for “sobriety or document check”, you probably were shocked to have a screening device put in your face. Welcome to the MAS!
Another change which attracted relatively little attention last year, but which we knew (and correctly so) would result in more people being charged, was the lowering of the legal limit. Did you miss that? Yes, the legal limit was changed to “at or over” 80 mg% from “over” 80. In 2018, people were not charged unless they blew at least 90. In 2019, we have been helping a number of clients charged at 80.
This time last year, we were also really curious about how the provincial Alberta Administrative License Suspension (AALS) would interact with the new federal changes. It has not been pretty! People who were driving for months with Ignition Interlock while waiting to get to trial found that, if they lost the trial, even though the judge said they could access Ignition Interlock immediately, the province forced them to take it out of their vehicles, then reapply and reinstall it. This usually resulted in increased (and arguably unnecessary) costs as well as a period of about one month when the person could not drive. What a mess!
Finally, our lawyers have pursued multiple constitutional challenges to the new legislation in order to protect our clients’ rights which are guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution. None of these are concluded yet. However, given the issues above, one can see why it is vitally important that we press on with our challenges.