Alleged drunk drivers shouldn't have licences seized immediately: Alberta court challenge

by Brenton Driedger 630 CHED

Alberta's Court of Appeal is expected to come back with a decision in a few months after hearing arguments Thursday about the province's impaired driving legislation.

Lawyer Nathan Whitling is heading up a constitutional challenge to changes made more than four years ago. They allow police to immediately seize the licences of accused drunk drivers, and hold those licences until the charge is resolved.

Whitling argues the law encourages drivers to plead guilty, even if they're not, just to get their lives and their licences back.

"There's a very high number of people who are charged with impaired driving and who are acquitted, or otherwise not found guilty. It's as many as 20 percent," Whitling said Thursday.

"This legislation encourages even those people, even the 20 percent, to plead guilty to the charges and that is why we have concerns under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Whitling said there's no doubt impaired driving is a "major problem," but added this particular part of the law isn't aimed at impaired driving.

"It's aimed at simplifying prosecutions for impaired driving and saving the province money as a result," he said. "So it really doesn't fight impaired driving as such, it fights the costs of impaired driving prosecutions and that's not something the province is supposed to be doing."

Last year, an Alberta judge sided with the province, saying driving is not a constitutionally protected right.

© 2016 Corus Entertainment Inc.