When they introduced the new SafeRoads Alberta system, the government put a lot of emphasis on how the new system would be so simple and easy to access:

If passed, Alberta will create a simplified, accessible and swift system for resolving matters involving most first-time impaired driving and other traffic safety offences. By removing these matters from the court system, we will save thousands of hours of police and court time per year, ensuring Alberta’s prosecutors and courts are able focus on the most serious justice matters and more police are patrolling the streets.[1]

Well, the legislation passed, and it is not that simple or accessible. It is swift, though. Ever hear the expression by Sun Tzu, “the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine”? The idea is that sometimes swiftness (like in capital punishment cases) is not always a good thing.

If you do not know how to navigate this new system properly, the swiftness will turn out to be a dagger in your back. If you follow our posts and hear our radio ads, you will know you have only 7 days to appeal the Notice of Administrative Penalty – that timeline is the same now for fighting traffic tickets too. If you miss the deadline, you can apply for an extension – but it will cost you an additional filing fee and there is no guarantee you will get it.

Section 20(1) of the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act states that you have up to a year to make an application for an extension. So, you might think, well, if you are only a day or two late, they would surely give you an extension, right? Wrong! They might, but there was a case where the filing deadline had passed one day before and the extension was not granted. We have had other cases where much more time has passed, and we have been successful in obtaining extensions. You need to talk to a lawyer about the possibility of applying late.

Logging in – what would be so hard about that? Everything! When you go to the SafeRoads Alberta portal, it prompts you for a lot of information. All of it is contained on the Notice of Administrative Penalty. The A—O number is very confusing. It looks like it inputs the A and the O for you – but it actually doesn’t. If you don’t type those in, you will not be able to access the portal.

Sometimes, you put everything in right, and you get a message saying nothing has been uploaded yet and that you should check back in 48 hours. What if your deadline is coming up right away? Talk to a lawyer!

Sometimes, you put everything in right and an error message comes up saying penalty not found. You double-check the time, your name, date of birth etc and you don’t see any errors. You try and try again with the same result. (Yes, we know that saying about the definition of insanity but it is not you who is insane – it is the system!) Chances are the officer inputted something wrong. At that point, many people, after all of that, would just give up. Then those people end up with a 15 month, 39 month or lifetime driving suspension and a hefty fine. Don’t give up!

One of our clients had his name mis-spelled. A number of our clients’ time of incident was put into the system incorrectly by the officer. If the officer inputs the wrong date, you will not be able to get in. Some officers issue more than one IRS (Immediate Roadside Sanction – also known as the Notice of Administrative Penalty – NAP – just to be super confusing) and the driver tries to appeal the wrong one. Sometimes our clients were never given a copy of the NAP – so good luck logging in then! In almost all of those cases, by the time the issue was sorted out the person was out of time – and then, guess what? Yes, you have to pay to make an application for late filing!

Finally, you make it into the portal. Now you are home-free, right? Wrong! Be careful where you click! If you think that by paying the fine you will get your vehicle out of impound faster, you are so wrong! One of our clients thought that and accidentally cancelled the hearing we had already set up for him. The error was noticed the next business day by Shannon Gunn Emery. She contacted SafeRoads to get them to fix the issue, as the client had never intended to cancel his hearing. The first response she got back was a clear “No”. After three more emails from Shannon, each more insistent and angry, they changed their mind – but only because the client’s first language was not English. But for that, it sounds like, even if it was an honest mistake, a client would completely lose their right to a hearing if they pay the fine.

So, you make it into the portal, you don’t pay the fine, you look at the disclosure and you say to yourself – I am dead in the water! There is nothing to argue here. Right? Wrong again! If one of our lawyers looked at an X-ray, the patient could be dying, and we would have no clue. It is because we do not look at an X-ray the way a doctor would. When one of our lawyers looks at the disclosure, we look at it differently than you would. We are keeping in mind the requirements of the Traffic Safety Act, the SafeRoads Alberta Regulation, the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act and the Provincial Administrative Penalties Regulation (yes, those last two are different – even though one of the SafeRoads’ own adjudicators did not know that).

Alberta has not created “a simplified, accessible” system; they have created a legal minefield that people have to try to navigate carefully. The lawyers at Gunn Law Group are creating new inroads daily that help our clients get through safely to the other side. Call us today to see how we can help you.

[1] https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=7252506C2CD29-CC99-426C-B89C3BB934D9A813

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