Drunk driving law upheld after charter challenge fails

An Alberta judge rejected a constitutional challenge of Alberta's impaired driving law that suspends the licences of those charged until trial.

Alberta judge rejects returning licences to accused drivers awaiting trial

Since Alberta's impaired driving law came into effect in 2012, drivers charged with drunk driving lose their licences until their cases are resolved in court.

An Alberta judge has rejected a constitutional challenge of the province's impaired driving law that suspends the licences of people facing charges until they go to trial. .

In a lengthy decision, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Thomas Wakeling ruled having an operator’s licence is not a right protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

"No one can reasonably deny that the ability to drive a motor vehicle is an important component of life in a modern community," he wrote. "However, one can function without being able to operate a motor vehicle.

"Driving a motor vehicle or having an operator’s licence is not a constitutional right."

Since law came into effect in June 2012, drivers whose blood-alcohol content exceeds the legal limit have their vehicles impounded for three days and lose their licences until their cases are resolved in court.

In a lawsuit filed in early 2013, a group of motorists facing impaired driving charges argued the legislation presumes guilt and violates people's rights by suspending their licences indefinitely.

As cases may take as long as 18 months to resolve, lawyers suggested drivers plead guilty just to get their license back sooner.

Lawyers also argued other provinces have passed similar laws but they all specify a fixed period of time for licence suspensions.

But Wakeling praised the law writing, "It is a highway traffic safety law which likely has already and will in the future save the lives of Albertans."


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