Appeal launched over Alberta's impaired driving law

An Edmonton lawyer thinks the constitutional challenge of Alberta's impaired driving legislation could eventually end up in the Supreme Court.

Nate Whitling has filed a notice to appeal a judge's decision last month. The judge ruled in favour of Alberta's law, which allows the province to take away your licence until your drunk driving case is resolved in court. Whitling believes the law encourages some drivers to plead guilty - even if they're not - just to get their lives and their licences back.

"It's one of those things that's very difficult to prove, by way of evidence," says Whitling. "If someone pleads guilty, it's kind of difficult to go back later and say well, it wasn't really guilty, and it doesn't tend to appear in the statistics that get produced by the government. People who plead guilty generally just want to get the case over with and get on with their life."

"Some people may plead guilty in order to get their driver's licence sooner. Others, as a result of invoking their right to raise full answer and defence, will have a substantially longer suspension, even if they're found innocent at the end of the day."

Whitling thinks this could could eventually end up before the Supreme Court.

"I wouldn't be surprised, given that it does involve the constitutionality of legislation that is the type of case that the Supreme Court of Canada will often hear," says Whitling. "But they're just about to hear a very similar decision out of British Columbia, and if the Supreme Court thinks that it's substantially the same issue, then they may not wish to hear it on that ground."

Don't expect this case to move quickly. In a similar case, B.C.'s impaired driving legislation is being challenged, and that case is expected to be heard in May, and then it could take months before the court issues its reasons.

"The end is not immediately in sight," says Whitling. "This could take some time."