Alberta law allows courts to seize, auction property used in crime
Calgary police say they hope a new provincial law that allows the courts to seize and auction property connected to crime will give them more freedom to crack down on repeat impaired drivers.
Bill 50, which was amended in the Alberta legislature on Wednesday, allows courts to seize items including vehicles, weapons and homes that have been used to commit crimes.
Under the bill called the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Act, proceeds from the sale of the seized property can then be used for victim compensation or provincial crime prevention programs.
"So they'll be able to seize property that is an instrument of crime or is likely to be used as an instrument of crime," said Justice Minister Alison Redford Thursday.
Vehicles used to deliver drugs, homes used for illegal activities and money believed to have been obtained through trafficking drugs or selling stolen property are all eligible to be seized, according to the province.
While drug dealers and gang members stand to lose the most under the bill, Redford said the legislation covers all crimes.
"It is possible that they could use this with respect to people who are drunk drivers. I think it's important that we look at crime as a whole and we give the police the tools that they need to have to make our community safer," said Redford.
The Calgary police says it hopes to have officers updated on the bill in time for the holiday Checkstop season. Because impaired driving is a Criminal Code violation, a motorist could lose his or her vehicle under the act.
"It isn't just a fear factor, it is consequences and people understand consequences," said Supt. Ken Marchant.
Tests of similar legislation in other provinces have seen property sold off without a conviction, as long as the court rules that it's connected to a crime.
"If the legislation purports to seize vehicles on the basis of allegations only, I think it's problematic in my view and I think in the view of everyone," said Calgary criminal defence lawyer Greg Dunn, who deals mainly with impaired driving cases.
Redford said how the law will be tested in Alberta's courts will depend on how the police use it.
"I'm looking forward to seeing that because I think it's going to do an awful lot to empower police to intervene earlier in respect to crime," she said.
With files from Peter Akman