Answers to questions about impaired driving charges

What is the first step in defending myself once I have been charged with a Criminal Code offence

The first step is to open a file. Once a file is opened in our office, we answer any questions you may have, we order disclosure, once it is in we review disclosure with you, and we appear in court for all of your court appearances so that you do not have to go. Please call our office for more details on how to open a file.

What happens if I am convicted at trial or plead guilty to impaired driving, over .08?

If it is your first offence the minimum penalty is a $1000.00 fine and a one year driving prohibition. On top of the fine, you will also normally have to pay the victim surcharge which is 30% of the fine. If you have one or more prior convictions, it will depend on a number of factors – speak to your lawyer. Your lawyer will also give you information on access to the ignition interlock program.

How long will it take to go to trial?

From the time you put in a plea it will probably take, at the very minimum, two and a half months before the matter will come up again for trial. Normally, though, it will take longer. Generally, you can expect that it will take between four and seven months to get the matter to trial. It may take longer depending on a number of factors.

What is disclosure?

Disclosure includes just about anything the Crown prosecutor will be relying on at trial. It usually includes the police officer’s handwritten notes and reports, any witness statements, any collision reports, the Intoxilyzer printout etc. Disclosure also sometimes includes videotapes, audiotapes and photos.

How long does it take to get disclosure?

It often depends on where the disclosure package is coming from. Usually disclosure takes between two and four weeks to arrive.

How do I get disclosure?

You can order it yourself. Call the Crown Prosecutor’s office ahead of time to find out what documents you might need to bring with you. You can ask our firm to order it for you. We will request the documents we know you will need and once the package is received we will review it to ensure it is complete.

Do I have to be present at every court appearance?

If you are a youth you must appear at all court appearances unless you have filed a designation of counsel. Even then, you should know that some courts will insist on you being personally present for the first court appearance. It will not be enough to send someone else, a non-lawyer, in your place. If you are an adult and you know that the Crown is proceeding by summary conviction, as opposed to by indictment, you may be able to send someone in your place, depending on the kind of court appearance it is. Check with a lawyer before assuming that you do or do not have to be personally present. If the Crown is proceeding by indictment, you may file a designation of counsel which will allow a lawyer to be present on your behalf for most preliminary court appearances. (See question about summary versus indictable offences).

What if I can’t make it to court?

Call your lawyer immediately. If you don’t have a lawyer, call the court house and the Crown Prosecutor’s office. Be aware that, depending on the nature of the court appearance, the matter may still go ahead if there is a suggestion that your reason is not valid.

Do I have to appear for fingerprinting?

Yes. It is an offence not to go for fingerprinting.

Does the time I have spent without a license due to the immediate license suspension count towards the ultimate suspension I will get if I plead guilty or am found guilty of one of the impaired, over .08 or refusal charges?

When you were charged you probably were given an immediate license suspension which stays in place until your charges are resolved. This suspension is part of the province of Alberta’s Administrative Licence Suspension Program. The time you spend without a license waiting for your charges to be resolved does not count towards any suspension you might get as a result of a conviction or a guilty plea. This is one of the reasons why it is important to get disclosure quickly so that you can get advice from your lawyer as to whether or not you have defences to the charges.

Is there any way of getting around the indefinite license suspension?

There is an appeal process that you can use to try to overturn the license suspension. You should talk to your lawyer about how that process works as well as other possible alternatives.

If charged after February 1, 2018, how do Alberta’s new laws on impaired driving affect me?

You will likely receive a 90-day suspension followed by another year suspension. During that extra year, however, you can drive if you are enrolled in the ignition interlock program. As noted above, there was an appeal process for the older suspension and that is in place for the new suspension and ignition interlock as well. You should talk to one of our lawyers about your options.

Can I get a temporary driving permit just for work purposes?

No. The Transportation Safety Board, the administrative body which oversees the licence suspensions will not consider the hardship that losing your license may cause you or your family. However, talk to your lawyer to see if there are other options open to you.

What is the difference between summary conviction and indictable?

Some criminal code offences are called “hybrid” offences. Impaired driving, over .08 and refusal are all “hybrid” offences. This means the Crown has a choice of whether to proceed by summary conviction or to proceed by indictment. If the Crown proceeds by indictment it means that the Crown views the case as more serious than the average case. The Crown will be seeking a greater penalty than it would in a “regular” case.

Can I get an ignition interlock device (sometimes referred to as a "blow box" in the vernacular) installed into my vehicle so that I can drive?

If you are convicted, you may apply to get an ignition interlock device installed into your vehicle. To operate the vehicle one must blow into the device and, if it senses any alcohol, the ignition will not start. If this was your first offence, you will need to serve a minimum of three months (and possibly more) of your one year suspension before you will be allowed to apply for acceptance into the program. If this is not your first offence you should check with your lawyer for advice on this issue. The ignition interlock is only available after a finding of guilt.

If you are charged after February 1, 2018, you may be eligible for ignition interlock pending trial. In other words, you will not need to be convicted first before being able to access the device. Please talk to one of our lawyers for more information about your options.

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