Where has the last year gone? We are already approaching one year since the legislation on Immediate Roadside Sanctions came into effect in Alberta on December 1, 2020.
In our firm’s long history of defending clients against driving-related offences, we got really good at taking impaired driving charges to court. However, fighting an Immediate Roadside Sanction is different. We are highlighting here the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to appeals of the Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) appeals, also known as Notice of Administrative Penalty.
So, is there anything good? Well, it is quick. The entire process is wrapped up within only 30 days of a client being pulled over. Once someone receives a Notice of Administrative Penalty, they have only seven days to file an appeal. The review must then be scheduled within 21 days of the date on the Notice, and a decision must be rendered by the adjudicators within 30 days of the date on the Notice. This is an incredibly fast process considering criminal impaired driving charges would sometimes take six months to even get into court. British Columbia adopted a similar system to Alberta’s new Immediate Roadside Sanction. A review of the caselaw suggests that it takes quite a bit longer to obtain a decision.
Another positive for our clients is that with this system, those who receive a NAP/IRS usually do not face a criminal record. The threat of criminal charges has serious consequences including restricting a person’s future job and travel opportunities. In the case of a second offence, clients would even face time in custody. The new system relieves that type of pressure from those who have been pulled over.
Finally, costs are also significantly cut down to retain a lawyer on an Immediate Roadside Sanction. In most cases, because of the speedy turnaround, it would cost only a third of what it used to cost to take a lawyer to trial for impaired driving charges.
That is all we can think of that is good about this system. As for the bad and the ugly…
As our lawyers now have almost an entire year of experience appearing on these types of files, we can also say there are some difficulties we are faced with that have changed the way we approach the Immediate Roadside Sanction. Many of our established trial arguments that we have experience presenting do not always work on these files.
Additionally, at the beginning of the new regime, we were able to obtain extensions for the time to apply for a review fairly easily (after the seven-day window). Those appear to be more difficult to get lately. This puts extra onus on our clients to contact us immediately upon receiving a Notice of Administrative Penalty, because we might not be able to do anything to help after seven days.
Hearings are only 30 minutes long. This does not give a lot of time for lawyers to delve into lengthy dialogues. We must be super-efficient in getting our point across and present a strong but succinct argument. This is particularly important to note when we have a client facing a lifetime driving suspension. Our lawyers are given one shot to make the best argument possible, and only a short time to do it.
So, what does all of this mean as we move into 2022? Over the past year we have developed a good sense of which arguments work and carry the most weight with the adjudicators. This means the advice we can give our clients is only getting better. We have gained a very solid understanding of all of the enabling legislation. There are four principal bodies of legislation, and we know them very well.
Up until now, there also have not been any substantive Judicial Review decisions coming down from the Court of Queen’s Bench. Once the first decisions, expected in January of 2022, come out, they will have the ability to change a lot. Right now, this system is new to everyone, including the adjudicators we appear in front of to make our arguments. There have been some cases we lost in the past year simply because the adjudicators themselves do not have a good grasp of what they are doing. This has been immensely frustrating for lawyers. Once some Queen’s Bench decisions start to come out, the adjudicators will also get a better understanding of how they should be interpreting the laws and rendering their decisions. This provides a lot of hope for us as we move into another year with this administrative regime.
As clients, lawyers, and adjudicators alike all adjust to this new legislation, our handling of the Notice of Administrative Penalties gets better. Contact us today to see how we can help you.