The lawyer challenging Alberta’s drunk driving penalties hopes his legal fight will lead to changes.
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 tells Global News 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 per cent,” Whitling said Thursday.
“This legislation encourages even those people, even the 20 per cent, 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.
“This particular aspect of the law though, isn’t actually aimed at impaired driving,” said Whitling. “It’s aimed at simplifying prosecutions for impaired driving, and saving the province money as a result. 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 suppose to be doing.”
Part of the problem according to Whitling, is that around 1 in 5 people accused of impaired driving aren’t found guilty.
“There’s a very high number of people who are charged with impaired driving and are acquitted or otherwise not found guilty,” said Whitling. “It’s as many as 20 percent. Twenty could be higher in some instances of people who are charged and people who are actually found guilty. This legislation encourages even those people to plead guilty to the charges. And that’s why we have concerns under the Charter of Right and Freedoms.”
Last year, an Alberta judge sided with the province, saying driving is not a constitutionally-protected right. (bd/km) (With files from Global News)