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In this handy guide, a leading Calgary DUI defence lawyer recaps her advice on the laws, penalties, and defence tactics everyone should know.
The holiday season and all year 'round, a knowledgeable Calgary defence lawyer is always the right choice when you've been charged with a crime.
Facing a drug-related charge in Calgary? Learn how a defence lawyer can help you put your case behind you and get on with your life.
Sexual assault is a serious crime—and a serious accusation. A Calgary defence lawyer reminds you: you have rights when you're accused!
In this third installment of a Calgary DUI defence lawyer's top advice, learn how to best defend yourself against impaired driving charges in Calgary.
The second half of top tips to those charged with assault, from an experienced Calgary defence lawyer.
Continuing advice on your rights when charged with a drug-related offence in Calgary, straight from a criminal defence lawyer to you.
Want to know more about Rowbotham Applications and your defence? Here's info straight from a Calgary defence lawyer.
A Calgary defence lawyer continues to explain the differences between Legal Aid Alberta and Rowbotham Applications in Calgary criminal cases.
A dedicated Calgary defence lawyer gives her five top pieces of advice to those charged with assault.
The Calgary DUI defence lawyer's advice continues, moving on from Calgary's impaired driving laws to discuss the potential penalties.
Part 2 of a Calgary defence lawyer's advice concerning your rights and how to protect them when you've been charged with a drug-related crime.
Just because you were denied Legal Aid doesn't mean you can't get the experienced Calgary defence lawyer you're entitled to.
Confused about options for your defence? A Calgary defence lawyer explains the difference between Legal Aid and Rowbotham Applications.
A dedicated Calgary defence lawyer reminds you: you still have rights when you've been charged with a drug-related crime!
The best info on Calgary DUIs from the most reliable source: a DUI defence lawyer with YOUR interests in mind.
Think an assault charge in Calgary is no big deal? A defence lawyer explains why you should think again.
The second half of a Calgary defence lawyer's words of wisdom concerning Calgary's drug laws and the legal environment.
Making sense of drug laws and law enforcement in Calgary can be hard today. A Calgary defence lawyer sets things straight.
Charged with assault in Calgary? A dedicated defence lawyer gives a few words of caution.
Unsure about Legal Aid in Calgary? An experienced defence lawyer gives you four easy steps to qualifying and obtaining the legal help you need.
A compassionate Calgary defence lawyer continues her description of Calgary's Legal Aid services and how you can obtain the defence lawyer you deserve.
Cost doesn't have to be a barrier to the Calgary defence lawyer you deserve. Learn more about Calgary Legal Aid.
Continuing a previous article, a Calgary DUI defence lawyer speaks out about the several DUI law pitfalls Calgary drivers may fall into.
In Part 1 of this article I provided a few words of warning regarding Calgary DUI laws. Specifically, we discussed the broad powers that the Calgary Police and other law enforcement officers have when it comes to investigating suspected or potential DUIs. Though many of these enhanced powers are legally and ethically controversial, they remain the law of the land in Calgary and throughout Alberta, and everyone in Calgary should be aware of them.
Do you know how easy it is to be charged with a DUI in Calgary? One DUI defence lawyer is speaking out, and her warning is something you need to hear!
Assault is a far more serious crime than many in Calgary realize. An experienced Calgary defence lawyer lays out the facts you need to know.
Drug legality in Calgary can be confusing. A dedicated defence lawyer puts the record straight.
We know that times are tough, economically speaking, for many families and individuals in Calgary. Unemployment is higher in Calgary than in any other Canadian city, and finances are tight in many households. With many struggling to meet their day-to-day expenses, sudden additional expenses can come as a crushing blow, and many will sacrifice other areas of their lives to avoid additional financial strain.
In Part 1 of this article, you read about the apparent Charter violations in Alberta's strict impaired driving or "DUI" laws. Despite a significant decline in DUI rates before the law went into effect (with no evidence that the law did anything to contribute to a further decline), a new law was put in place that not only created a criminal charge for some DUIs, but that led to what many consider violations of privacy and of rights to remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to be presumed innocent, and the right to consult with a lawyer when arrested and/or charged with a crime.
If you've read this blog at all, you know I'm no fan of the new impaired driving or "DUI" (driving under the influence) laws Alberta enacted back in 2012. While I appreciate the stated intention of keeping us safe—and while I encourage everyone to stay off the roads if they've had anything to drink or taken any other mind-altering substance—this law went too far, and for too little effect.
Many people in Calgary are unaware of the broad nature of Calgary's assault laws and the resulting ease with which people can find themselves charged with a serious criminal offence. According to Canada's Criminal Code, assault includes such acts as blocking someone's way, making a verbal threat of violence, and brandishing a weapon. No actual physical contact has to take place for an assault to have occurred, according to the legal definition, which means many arguments that get a little out of hand can end up with assault charges being filed.
Legal Aid is a service that provides legal advice and legal representation to Calgary citizens who are unable to afford a lawyer's services on their own. It's your Charter right to be represented by a lawyer any time you face a criminal charge, and Legal Aid helps to make that more affordable for those in Calgary who may be struggling financially.
As a dedicated Calgary defence lawyer, one of the most common charges I encounter is assault. Many of my clients come to me shocked that they have even been charged with a criminal offence, let alone something as serious as assault; often these charges arise from a simple misunderstanding that may have gotten a little out of hand. Yet when an assault charge has been laid against you in the Calgary courts, there is nothing simple or little about your case.
In Part 1 of this article, you read that your best defence against an impaired driving or "DUI" charge in Calgary is to avoid getting one in the first place. It might seem like unimpressive advice, but it's the most important thing for everyone to keep in mind, for both their legal and their personal safety. Not only is it dangerous to drive while you're intoxicated, but you're at serious legal risk—and facing serious consequences—if you drive when you even might be intoxicated or have intoxicants in your system.
Though rates have been dropping, and despite the fact that Calgary compares favorably to many cities of its size, impaired driving or "DUI" charges still remain one of the most common criminal charges brought before the Calgary courts and laid against Calgary citizens. These charges can have serious consequences if they lead to a conviction, and in most cases will disrupt your life from the moment you are arrested and/or have charges laid against you.
As you read in Part 1 of this article, DUI charges are among the most common criminal charges brought against Calgary citizens and filed with the Calgary courts. You also learned that the new DUI laws in Calgary not only establish criminal charges for DUIs involving a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 or higher, but that they also establish much harsher penalties for DUIs than previously existed and, most importantly, grant broad powers to the Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies when it comes to invading your privacy—and arguably even your rights—in their investigation of DUIs.
In Part 1 of this article, you learned that not only is everyone accused of a crime in Calgary—and indeed, throughout Canada—entitled to consult with an experienced defence lawyer as part of their charter rights, but that organizations and services like Alberta Legal Aid can help you pay for your defence lawyer. There are financial and other eligibility requirements to qualify for Legal Aid; those who qualify can have the legal fees associated with their defence paid in full or in part by the Legal Aid office.
With marijuana legalization in process and a shifting public and government perspective on recreational drug use, many Calgary citizens might be under the impression that drug offences are no longer a big deal. Drug possession is a crime many commit during their college years and even later in life, and we know that upstanding and productive members of our community may use illegal drugs in a wholly responsible manner. This leads to the impression that the Calgary Police and our local Crown prosecutors don't really care much about drug offences, and that drug charges aren't something you need to worry about.
In Part 1 of this article, you learned a fact that might have come as a bit of a shock: of all the crimes defined by Calgary law, more people each year are charged with assault than any other crime. Only traffic violations and some minor "disturbance" crimes are seen more frequently in the Calgary courts than charges for assault.
As a defence lawyer here in Calgary, I've helped more than a few clients facing impaired driving or "DUI" charges in the area. Such charges remain one of the most common criminal charges brought against Calgary citizens and filed in the Calgary courts—and yes, DUI charges can be criminal, not just administrative offences like other traffic violations and many other minor crimes. This is just one aspect of the new DUI laws at work in Calgary that many have challenged as unfair and violations of citizens' rights, but as of now these laws have been upheld and remain on the books.
Every year in Calgary, thousands of ordinary citizens who somehow find themselves charged with a criminal offence make a fateful and almost universally negative decision. Instead of finding a defence lawyer they like and trust to work with them on their case, they choose to represent themselves. This almost never works out to their benefit, and decisions like these are responsible for thousands (if not millions) of dollars in added penalties and years of life spent in jail.
Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have had a hard time of things in Calgary, with the city initially barring such services due to concerns that drivers did not possess adequate insurance to cover themselves and their passengers when they were driving as part of their profession/employment rather than operating vehicles as private citizens.
The right to consult with a criminal defence lawyer is one of the pillars of Calgary's criminal justice system and the system throughout Canada. It is so vital to the workings of our democracy that your right to a lawyer is even enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But though everyone in Calgary has the right to a defence lawyer, not everyone is aware of the resources available to them in securing the services of a trusted legal professional.
Most people in Calgary, including those who find themselves charged with a criminal offence, consider themselves productive and law-abiding members of our society. Indeed, most people in Calgary—including those charged with a criminal offence—ARE productive and generally productive and law-abiding members of society. We live in one of the safest and lowest-crime cities in the world, let alone Canada. Yet the Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies manage to find plenty to keep themselves busy, and that can spell trouble for an unaware Calgary citizen.
For decades, drugs in Calgary were dealt with purely as a criminal justice issues. Drugs are against the law, therefore anyone using them is a criminal, plain and simple. That's how the Calgary Police, the Crown prosecutors, and society at large saw things.
Most people charged with a crime in Calgary are facing one of the most stressful events in their lives. The possibility of imprisonment and time away from your family, from your career, and from your community is enough to make anyone lose sleep, even in the best of circumstances. For those who are also struggling financially, the cost of mounting an effective defence can add an additional burden that may make the ordeal seem insurmountable.
When you've been charged with a serious crime in Calgary, your defence is serious business. You'll be dealing with the Calgary Police or other law enforcement officers, Crown prosecutors, the rules for criminal defence cases in the Calgary courts, and judges. You're facing a complex and often unforgiving system that you've probably never faced before and probably never will again, but everyone else—everyone on the other side—works in that system every day.
Everyone knows that driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is dangerous. Impaired judgement, reduced control over your body, and slowed reaction times can all spell disaster for you, your passengers, and others on the road. And yet every day in Calgary, people still get behind the wheel when they've had one drink too many, and they think they can use various "tricks" to avoid a DUI or impaired driving charge.
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the assault laws in place in Canada's criminal code and how they might apply to domestic abuse cases in Calgary. You learned that you can be charged with assault if there is any unwanted physical contact between you and your partner, and even if there is a verbal threat of violence or a physical gesture of intimidation. In cases of alleged domestic abuse involving physical violence, assault charges are among the most common laid against Calgary citizens.
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at some of the ways you can find yourself facing a criminal charge due to an alleged incident of domestic violence. Specifically, we looked at Calgary's assault laws and the fact that any unwanted physical contact—and even verbal threats of violence or physical intimidation—can lead to an assault charge. False allegations of abuse may also lead to an arrest by the Calgary Police and the laying of assault charges by a Crown prosecutor.
No one in Calgary wants to be in an abusive relationship. No one wants to find themselves facing criminal charges over a domestic dispute, either, yet the Calgary courts deal with assault charges and other offences arising from alleged domestic abuse cases every day. It's all too possible to find yourself charged with a crime due to a domestic dispute even if no violence occurred, and in some cases even if you are the victim of abuse yourself.
It's a new year, and hopefully everyone reading this rang it in with a fun celebration and safety on the roads—meaning without any impaired driving or "DUI" (driving under the influence). You almost certainly know that getting behind the wheel when you're under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is unsafe, and you probably know that it's against the law, too. Because the winter holiday season is also a high season for DUIs in Calgary, though, this DUI defence lawyer thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone just how tough Calgary's DUI laws are.
It's true that winter brings some additional obstacles and a few annoyances to Calgary every year, but it also brings a lot of beauty to our bustling city. Everything slows down a bit—they have to, thanks to the weather—and we get a chance to breathe in the fresh, cold air and enjoy the break before the busy spring returns (our long winters make us all the more appreciative of our springs and summers, too, so this colder season is a boon to Calgary in many ways).
In Part 1 of this article, you learned that everyone in Calgary and throughout Canada has the right to remain silent whenever they're arrested and/or accused of a crime. Even if you haven't been charged with or accused of a crime, you cannot be compelled to make a statement to Calgary Police or other law enforcement officials that could result in your being charged with a crime. This is due in large part to Section 11(c) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads:
The right to remain silent is a staple of American crime dramas. A suspect is arrested, and as they're being handcuffed and shoved into a car they're reminded that "anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law." Anyone who watches British crime dramas might be familiar with a very different statement on a suspect's right to remain silent:
Imagine this scenario (or maybe you don't need to imagine it):
In Part 1 of this article, we took a look at the advantages you gain by hiring an experienced Calgary defence lawyer when you've been charged with a crime. Partnering with a defence lawyer means you get years of legal education, training, and experience, and of course all of the additional knowledge and insights that this experience provides. When you choose to represent yourself, you're putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage within the complex and unfamiliar criminal justice system, and you're going up against Crown prosecutors who have years of experience themselves.
There's an old saying in the legal profession: A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. What it means, of course, is that even the best lawyer isn't in a position to be their own best advocate. There are too many complications and entanglements to make self-representation a good idea in virtually any case, and a good lawyer knows that being able to keep the roles of client and lawyer separate tends to be the best way forward.
Getting charged with a crime in Calgary is serious business. The consequences of a conviction can be extremely disruptive, costing thousands of dollars in fines and possibly years of your life in prison, away from your community, your family, and your career. Even when you know you haven't committed any crime, if the Calgary Police and Crown prosecutors decide to proceed with charges against you, you're facing a high-stakes legal battle.
No matter how careful, conscientious, and law-abiding you are, it is possible for anyone in Calgary to find themselves charged with a crime. Many charges are quite serious, too, threatening to take years of your life away and potentially ending your career if you are convicted. Raising an effective defence is your best chance at leaving your charges behind you as quickly and completely as possible, and in virtually all cases that means partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable Calgary defence lawyer.
In Part 1 of this article, I pointed out how Calgary's drug laws are failing our community. Far from limiting violence and drug use and making our city safer, the criminalization of drugs actually creates numerous public safety problems for Calgary. Not only do laws prohibiting the use of recreational drugs create a serious question about our civil liberties, but making the trade of drugs illegal encourages other illegal acts to be committed while the trade continues.
Drug-related crimes make up a significant portion of arrests made by the Calgary Police Service and other law enforcement agencies in the Greater Calgary Area. Investigations and "sting" operations conducted by the police have led to the arrest of many Calgary citizens accused of nothing more than the possession of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and other substances.
If you or a close family member has suddenly been charged with a DUI—impaired driving or "driving under the influence"—your mind might be reeling. Intimidating statements by the Calgary Police, official notice of charges that could have you facing steep fines and even jail time, and the disruption to your life that this incident can bring are enough to make anyone panic.
As mentioned before on this blog, the assault laws in effect in Calgary cover a very broad range of behaviors. Any unwanted physical contact could be deemed a crime according to the legal definition of assault, and even threatening or intimidating someone with verbal or physical gestures—without any contact being made—can also rise to the level of criminal assault. It is important to remember that these laws apply to everyone, at all times.
In Part 1 of this article, you learned that despite the stigma created by the Calgary media and some members of the Calgary Police when it comes to drugs and drug use, everyone accused of a drug-related crime in Calgary has certain rights. Many of these rights, such as the right to be presumed innocent unless and until you are proven guilty in a Calgary court, are explicitly established by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If you believe what you see in the Calgary media—and what you hear from the Calgary Police—drug-related offences are the cause of much of Calgary's crime. Not only that, but a rather sketchy connection has been drawn by these sources between drug-related offences and violent crimes in Calgary, including shootings and other gun crimes.
In Part 1 of this article, you learned that a Calgary DUI defence lawyer can be helpful in defending you against impaired driving charges in numerous ways. For one, a lawyer will be able to take over the paperwork and other day to day elements of your defence, handling the Calgary courts so you don't have to. With greater knowledge of the criminal justice system and prior experience handling DUI defences, the right lawyer can help your case progress more quickly and effectively while taking the stress of managing your case off your shoulders.
Calgary's DUI laws make it all too easy for anyone to find themselves facing an impaired driving charge. It has even been argued that the DUI laws enacted throughout Alberta several years ago violated certain key provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with automatic penalties and broad investigative powers for the Calgary Police and other law enforcement officers that could be deemed excessively intrusive. Yet, so far, these DUI laws have been upheld, and these are the DUI laws you and everyone in Calgary has to contend with.
There's no such thing as a "minor" DUI or impaired driving charge—not when you're the one facing the charges and the potential punishments. Even an administrative penalty can be a major disruption to your life and your livelihood, and can cost you a significant amount financially and in terms of the stigma it carries.
Most people in Calgary think of a DUI charge—"driving under the influence," officially called an impaired driving charge under Alberta law— as involving drinking and driving. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle and have a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the threshold limit(s), you can find yourself facing a DUI.
There is no question that impaired driving—commonly known in Calgary as "DUI" or driving under the influence—presents a health and safety concern. Driving while intoxicated, by alcohol or any other substance, greatly increases your risk of having an accident and causing serious injury to yourself and/or others, not to mention potential damage to property (including your own vehicle). These concerns provide the most important reason not to drink and drive, or to ingest any other intoxicating substance before getting behind the wheel.
In Part 1 of this article, I described the very real problem facing those accused of gang-related crimes here in Calgary. The laws in Calgary defining gangs and "criminal organizations" cast a very wide net, causing many people to be charged with additional crimes and sentenced to harsher punishments for no other reason than supposed gang-affiliation during the commission of an alleged crime.
The news about Calgary's "gangs" seems never-ending. Every week sees more headlines about the violence gangs are visiting upon our city, the danger that gangs present to normal Calgary citizens, and all manner of other reasons we should be scared of these "different" and "outside" forces that have somehow infiltrated Calgary society.
In Part 1 of this article, we examined two incidents involving the Calgary Police in which video shot by witnesses has led to accusations of police brutality/abuse of power and even calls for criminal assault charges against the officers involved. The police have made an initial assertion in both instances that the use of force was justified, though both incidents are being investigated to determine if the actions taken by the Calgary Police officers were indeed warranted.
Two recent incidents involving the Calgary Police have been causing controversy and concern amongst Calgary's citizens. While it would not be prudent for any legal professional in Calgary—a Crown prosecutor, a judge, or a criminal defence lawyer such as myself—to comment on the legal particulars of the two specific incidents themselves, they do raise issues of general concern to Calgary's society at large and its law enforcement and criminal justice system specifically.
No criminal defence case is simple. Though the law often seems straightforward from the outside looking in, any criminal defence lawyer in Calgary can tell you that this is far from the case. The unique circumstances surrounding every criminal charge demands each case and every single person accused of a crime deserves independent attention and analysis, and a defence strategy designed specifically to suit their best interests.
There have been several news stories of late regarding BAC measuring devices known as breathalyzers, including a prominent story that concerned some overturned impaired driving convictions or dismissed DUI cases as a result of improper maintenance records. Because these stories have caused something of a stir here in Calgary, this defence lawyer thought she'd speak up with some quick facts.
The Calgary press, and to a large degree the Calgary Police, seem obsessed with the concept of "gangs." There's no doubt that Calgary suffered from a gang problem in the past, and no question that Calgary is better off since the gang violence of the early 2000s has past. But Calgary does not currently suffer a true gang problem, no matter what the police and press say.
Recently, there have been cases in Alberta where those charged with drunk driving have seen their cases dismissed or charges lessened. This unusual circumstance has arisen because the companies responsible for maintenance on breath alcohol analysis machines or "breathalyzers" have failed to turn over the maintenance records for those machines.
There are several factors that may result in a higher risk of gang activity among youths. In some communities, gangs may seem like the answer to a lot of problems, especially for kids who may not think they have many other choices available to them. However, gangs are not just a problem in urban areas. In Calgary, gangs often spring up in the unlikeliest of places, snaring unwary kids and blindsiding parents with a host of new worries and possible criminal charges.
Calgary’s impaired driving laws carry some stiff penalties for those found driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance. However, Calgary drivers can take effective steps to avoid incurring DUI charges in the first place. While Alberta's new impaired driving laws make it possible to face criminal charges and automatic penalties even if you aren't actually intoxicated,the information in this article will help keep you and those around you safer, while also giving you the best chance at avoiding an impaired driving charge.
Even as our society, our government, and our medical community work towards a more liberal view of recreational drugs and a better understanding of addiction as a health problem, Calgary continues to see a large number of arrests and charges every year for drug-related crimes, including simple drug possession. Many of those arrested may suffer from drug dependency issues, and both they and their community would be far better served by medical and social support than by jail time.
W-18 and 3-MF are two of the drugs that resulted in the March overdose of a 35-year-old man from Calgary. These drugs are dangerous on their own, and when used in combination with heroin, as they were in this case, create a potent mixture that can result in serious health problems, addiction, and even death after just a single dose.
Beginning in 2012, many changes were made to the impaired driving laws in Alberta. These changes can affect every Calgary driver, regardless of whether or not they’re intoxicated. Some of these penalties take effect immediately upon an arrest or charge for DUI, possibly leaving drivers without their vehicles and driving privileges before they’ve even had a chance to defend themselves against the charges.
Calgary’s DUI laws carry a variety of penalties, one of which is the suspension of your driver’s license. An immediate roadside license suspension may be imposed following a breath alcohol analysis test. It’s important to note that just because an immediate suspension has occurred, or you’re facing other administrative penalties or impaired driving charges, doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily committed a crime--breathalyzers can malfunction, and law enforcement errors can also lead to automatic penalties for you.
Many assault cases in Calgary involve criminal charges, and can result in a lasting criminal record if you’re convicted. Criminal assault charges can be extremely damaging both to your reputation and your livelihood. Even if you haven’t laid a hand on anyone, criminal assault charges may still be laid against you.
When most people think about "assault," they think about an act of physical violence. They think assault charges can only be laid when there has been an actual physical interaction, whether it’s domestic altercation, a sexual advance, or simply an argument that got out of hand. While these are certainly situations in which charges could be filed, they by no means encompass the entirety of what is considered assault in Calgary.
If you've been reading this blog at all, or if you have another source for all the DUI news in Calgary, you know by now that Alberta established new limits and new penalties for impaired driving back in 2012. You know that driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 or greater can result in an administrative charge, and that driving with a BAC of .08 or greater can result in a criminal charge, with automatic penalties that begin the moment of your arrest and can continue until your case is resolved in the Calgary courts.
While it's best not to get behind the wheel in Calgary if you've had any alcohol to drink whatsoever, the law does define specific thresholds based on BAC or blood alcohol content that are used in many DUI cases to establish whether an administrative charge or criminal charge is warranted. Remember, though: your body is unique, and while you can estimate your BAC based on the number of drinks you've had in a given timeframe this is far from an exact measure.
Simple or common assault is a frequently-laid charge in the Greater Calgary Area, but that doesn't mean it isn't a serious legal charge with serious potential consequences. Make no mistake: if you find yourself charged with simple assault, you could be facing significant fines, probation, and even jail time. For assault charges that are tried as indictable offences, you could even find yourself in jail for years!
In Part 1 of this article, you learned about the issue of first and primary importance when it comes to your Calgary DUI: Alberta's impaired driving laws. They define the administrative and criminal charges for DUIs as well as the penalties that go with them, some of which—like vehicle seizures and driver's license suspensions—can occur automatically, before you've truly had a chance to mount a defence.
OK, drinking before you drive anywhere is never a good idea. The Calgary Police are particularly zealous about tracking down and arresting people for DUI, but the legal trouble you could get in shouldn't be your only—or even your primary—reason for staying out of the driver's seat after you've had a drink. Your safety and the safety of those around you should be what matters most.
In the first part of this article, you learned about the issue of utmost important in your initial DUI defence: Alberta's impaired driving laws themselves. These are the laws that define the administrative and criminal penalties for impaired driving here in Calgary, and that define the penalties you could face if you are convicted of impaired driving at either level.
Most adult Calgarians will remember a time about a decade ago when Calgary was gripped by fear. Two rival gangs had emerged, and their turf wars had increased the level of gun violence in our city several times over. Then, a combination of law enforcement action and substantially increased social outreach meant to rehabilitate gang members and prevent at-risk youths from joining gangs seemed to be taking hold. The violence diminished, and the gangs eventually disappeared.
Though the number of impaired driving or "DUI" charges in Calgary has been declining for years, our city still sees more than a thousand DUI arrests every year. That is just within the City of Calgary itself, to say nothing of the Greater Calgary Area and the rest of Alberta. That means there's a lot of people in Calgary and throughout the province who need to mount an effective DUI defence.
The Calgary Motorcycle Awareness Ride has always had more than one purpose. It's main goal, as the name suggests, is to raise awareness of motorcycles on the road and promote greater safety and friendliness between vehicles of all types on Calgary's roads and Alberta's highways. The event is also used to raise funds for local charities, establishing stronger bonds between the motorcycle community and the Calgary community at large.
A lot can happen if you're arrested for a DUI in Calgary, and it can happen quickly. Immediate and automatic license suspensions, administrative penalties and criminal charges, vehicle seizures and required attendance at safe driving courses—and those are just the legal ramifications spelled out in Alberta's impaired driving laws.
There's also the stress that facing these charges can cause for you and your family, the practical transportation difficulties of losing your license and/or your vehicle, even in the short term, and the onus of having a DUI charge following you for the rest of your life.
Charges for simple assault are all too easy to come by here in Calgary. Simply making an intimidating gesture or verbal threat of violence that you might reasonably carry out could be grounds for a criminal charge, as can having any sort of visible weapon and impeding someone's progress.
As you may know, I've written plenty about the tough impaired driving laws that went into effect in Alberta in 2012. These laws not only impose harsher punishments for impaired driving—commonly known as "DUI" or driving under the influence—here in Calgary and throughout Alberta, but they also define a criminal threshold for drunk driving where only administrative charges existed before.
Prime Minister Trudeau's announcement that he will see the recreational use of marijuana throughout Canada as early as 2017 was met with a great deal of of uproar by proponents and opponents alike.
The first step in an effective defence is understanding the legal situation you find yourself in when you're charged with a crime.
The drug laws throughout Canada and in Calgary specifically are in the process of changing, though not fast as enough according to some—the medical community and much of the legal community (including more than a few Calgary defence lawyers) have been trying for decades to get the government to start addressing drug use as a public health issues rather than a criminal justice issue.
Alberta's—and Calgary's—current DUI laws have been on the books for close to four years now, but many people still aren't aware of exactly what they mean or when they might be at risk for a DUI charge (frankly, you're always at some risk of being charged with a DUI if you're driving a car on Calgary's roads, even if you aren't intoxicated, but we'll talk about law enforcement errors in other post…).
The word "gang" inspires fear for many in Calgary, but none know just how damaging the idea of gangs can be more than the family and friends of alleged gang members. When you see a family member—a son or daughter, brother or sister, nephew or niece—being accused of gang-related behavior or affiliation with a gang, you have every cause to worry.
In Part 1 of this article, you learned about simple or common assault—one of the leading causes for arrests by the Calgary Police and charges brought before the Calgary courts. As you saw in the law itself and a brief analysis, simple assault charges can arise out of any intentional force against another person without their consent, or by making any threats or gestures of violence that look like that they might actually be carried out. Even impeding someone while wearing or carrying a weapon can qualify as simple assault!
As you read in Part 1 of this article, the number of drunk drivers in Calgary appears to be trending downward—a trend that started taking place after new impaired driving legislation was enacted throughout Alberta in 2012. The rest of Alberta hasn't seen a similar trend, making it fairly clear that the law isn't the real reason for the drop in Calgary DUIs, but what is behind this trend remains a mystery.
If you've been paying attention, you know that it's illegal to drive on Calgary's roads—or on any public road in Alberta—with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 or greater, and that a BAC of .08 or greater can see you facing a criminal charge for impaired driving or "DUI" (driving under the influence).
Assault is one of the most common charges dealt with by the Calgary Police, and assault charges are one of the most common causes for cases before the Calgary courts. This is due in large part to the broad manner in which the crime of assault is defined—common or simple assault can apply to a situation where someone was simply physically intimidated or threatened via word or gesture without ever being physically touched.
In Part 1 of this article, you read about the reason Alberta changed its approach to impaired driving (also commonly called "drunk driving" or "DUI") with harsh new legislation that includes a criminal charge and automatic penalties for both administrative and criminal charges—penalties that can occur before you even have a chance to mount a DUI defence. The idea behind the laws was to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road; looking at the province as a whole, the laws don't seem to have had much if any impact in that regard.
Despite many headlines and an ever growing problem—according to some—of opiate and opioid addiction, you may not be aware that Calgary is suffering from a health problem that unfortunately (and unnecessarily) overlaps with a law enforcement issue.
If you read a newspaper—or, more likely, spot the headlines online—or pay any attention to the Calgary news whatsoever, you've probably seen a lot of stories in the past few months about an increase in "gang" activity. For many Calgary citizens who remember the gang violence we witnessed a little less than a decade ago, these stories understandably inspire a lot of concern, and even some fear.
As you've heard me mention a few times on this blog Alberta changed its impaired driving or DUI laws back in 2012, establishing a criminal charge for certain drunk driving offences and instituting a range of new penalties to go with them. The reasoning behind the legislation, according to some, is that the harsher penalties would cause more drivers in the Calgary area and throughout Alberta to think twice before getting behind the wheel while drunk or otherwise intoxicated.
A recent headline proclaimed a big step forward in the Calgary Police's battle against recreational fentanyl in the Greater Calgary Area. According to CTV News, police have identified a "drug ring" in Calgary that received illegally manufactured fentanyl from a producer in British Columbia, and they expect this to help them reduce the amount of fentanyl available in our city.
The very word "gang" calls to mind a group of violent thugs looking to create conflict with the rest of their community. There is a sense of otherness, separation, and isolation and if we're honest an idea of "evilness": gangs are full of "bad guys" who oppose everything Calgary stands for, or so the thinking goes.
In Part 1 of this article, you read about the shifting impaired driving laws in Alberta that created a criminal DUI charge that isn't based on any other traffic infraction, reckless driving, or other behavior while behind the wheel. Instead, DUI charges in the Greater Calgary Area throughout the province are now defined through chemistry, creating a clear metric for laying an impaired driving charge.
The law defining simple assault in Calgary—and throughout Canada—includes making verbal threats of violence or physical gestures meant to intimidate through the suggestion of violence as actions that can warrant a criminal charge. In other words, you can be charged with assault without actually making physical contact with someone.
Arrests and charges for simple drugs possession continue to keep law enforcement and courts busy throughout Canada, including in the Greater Calgary Area. Calgary Police make many arrests for drug-related charges, and hardly a week goes by without a news item relating to a drug bust or other law enforcement activity aimed at getting drugs off Calgary's streets.
The law is often full of gray areas, despite being written in black and white. If complex situations were governed by certain and indisputable laws, there would be little room for justice—or mercy, for that matter. If that weren't the case—if everything were cut and dry all the time, in every circumstance—there wouldn't be much room in the legal system for justice (or for mercy, for that matter).
If you've been charged with impaired driving—commonly referred to as a DUI ("driving under the influence" charge)—you know how disruptive, debilitating, and downright scary this charge can be. It's all too easy for a simple error in judgement or a mistake made by law enforcement to result in an impaired driving charge, and that can lead to temporarily losing your vehicle, losing your driver's license for an indefinite period of time, and pending administrative or even criminal charges that can seriously impact your life.
Charges of/suspicion for assault remain one of the most common reasons of arrest by the Calgary Police, and common assault cases can be heard nearly every day in the Calgary courts. It's not that Calgary is an especially violent city—in fact, compared to the rest of the world and even the rest of Canada, Calgary is very safe—but rather that the charge of "common assault" encompasses a great deal of behavior we might not typically consider violent or think of as an assault.
The belief that everyone accused of a crime in Calgary is entitled to a knowledgeable and vigorous defence is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is central to my practice as a defence lawyer here in Calgary. No matter what someone is accused of, they deserve to be treated fairly and given a true chance to defend themselves, and my role as a lawyer is to make sure the criminal justice system affords my clients these rights.
Drug offences are unfortunately common in Calgary; though the scientific and medical communities are leaning more and more towards treating drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, law enforcement—and the laws they enforce—have been slow to catch up. That's why we still see arrests and prosecutions for simple drug possession every day in Calgary.
Anyone who drives a vehicle on Calgary's roads is potentially at risk for receiving an impaired driving charge—what is commonly known as a DUI (driving under the influence). Due to Alberta's tough impaired driving laws, the Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies have broad powers to detect and investigate suspected or potential DUIs, and through errors in police procedure, improperly calibrated equipment, and other issues, it is entirely possible for a perfectly innocent Calgary citizen to be caught up in the wide-flung DUI net.
Whatever the circumstances of your DUI charge, Alberta's laws also carry tough and sometimes automatic penalties; you can have your vehicle seized and even face an immediate license suspension from the moment you are arrested and/or charged with a DUI in Calgary, before you've even had a chance to provide a defence or tell your side of the story.
Though drug abuse is becoming increasingly seen as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, drug offences remain among the most common type of criminal charge laid against Calgary citizens and tried in the Calgary courts. From marijuana charges to the recent spate of fentanyl arrests to charges related to the possession and/or trafficking of cocaine, methamphetamines, and more drugs are still a big part of the Calgary criminal justice system.
Calgary has seen its fair share of gang-related violence—more than its fair share, according to some, though historically Calgary was and is one of the safest and least violent cities in the world. Since the end of the FOB and FK gang wars, which came to a close with the dismantling of both gangs in 2009, many thought Calgary's days of gang violence were over.
This is Part 2 of a three-part article series. To start with Part 1, please click here.
Coming right on the tail of last year's rising problem with fentanyl, Calgary is facing a new drug that police say is even more dangerous, and is just as illegal to possess.
As you know quite well if you've read my previous articles on the subject, the tough new impaired driving or "DUI" laws Alberta put into effect back in 2012 have been challenged by many, here in Calgary and throughout the province.
In case you haven't heard, drones—remote-controlled (and sometimes self-controlled) flying robots—are the next big thing. Officially called Unmanned Air vehicles or UAVs, drones are already used in many military applications and are now finding their way into other industries and into the hands of consumers.
It's all too easy to find yourself facing a common assault charge in Calgary. As you might know if you've read any of my other blog posts on the topic, you can be charged with assault for purposefully touching anybody in an unwanted way, whether or not it causes injury, and even for simply threatening violence with words or gestures.
Impaired driving or DUI (Driving Under the Influence—also sometimes called DWI or Driving While Intoxicated) remains an all too common offence here in the Greater Calgary Area and throughout Alberta, accounting for more than 2,000 arrests and charges in the City of Calgary alone during 2015. Everyone knows that driving after having too much to drink is both dangerous and illegal, yet many in Calgary do so anyway, and they face serious legal consequences as a result.
Whether it's romantic love, parental love, the love shared between two friends, or even the love of the city we all share, the love we celebrate on Valentine's Day is a great reminder of what family and community can mean.
Canada has been seen as a nation providing a chance for a better life to people from all over the world for most of its history, and Calgary has embodied that spirit of diversity, intrepid adventure, and opportunity as successfully as any Canadian city—arguably better than some. That doesn't mean we've been without our share of problems, and Calgary's gang wars from the first decade of this century remain a sharp reminder of this fact.
Two people accused of spray painting allegedly racist messages in a Calgary LRT station are now facing hate crime charges in addition to the original charges of mischief to property.
While impaired driving or DUI charges might not seem to be especially important in terms of the larger workings of the Calgary criminal justice system, Alberta's impaired driving laws have actually made them a matter of hot debate.
Alleged drug offences remain among the most common reasons for criminal charges brought before the Calgary courts, even while attitudes towards drug use (especially marijuana) are undergoing a major shift. Around half of the drug-related charges laid against Calgary citizens every year are for simple possession, and impaired driving charges also make up a sizable proportion of alleged drug-related offences.
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the fall in DUI rates in the City of Calgary that occurred in 2015. According to the Calgary Police, there were 2,080 impaired driving or DUI charges laid against Calgary drivers in the past year, down from more than 2,500 in the previous year. Though impaired driving rates in Calgary and throughout Alberta have been declining steadily for years, this drop of nearly 18% is the most significant drop the province and the city have been witness to.
Pharmaceutical drugs are one of the most important innovations of modern mankind, having saved countless lives and improved the quality of life for many more.
Criminal defence law in Calgary and throughout the world uses many terms that might be confusing or misleading to the average individual. From Latin phrases that many don't understand at all to common terms that have special meanings in legal settings, the language of a defence case might leave you in the dark or cause you to assume things that aren't actually true.
Charges for impaired driving—more commonly known as "driving under the influence" of DUI—remain among the most common charges brought against individuals in the Greater Calgary Area, and a common cause for arrest and detention by the Calgary Police.
The best legal advice you'll ever get concerning a DUI in Calgary is this: don't drive when you're impaired.
Drug use has long been a complex legal, social, medical/public health problem, not just in Calgary but throughout the world. Every culture has dealt with intoxicating substances, including alcohol and other primarily plant-based psychoactives, in one way or another; some consider certain intoxicants holy and revered them for their potent perspective-changing abilities, while other shunned any mind-altering as a deviation from the natural laws that govern humanity.
Drug offences remain some of the most common in the City of Calgary and throughout the Greater Calgary Area. Though these criminal drug charges include more serious offences such as drug manufacturing and drug trafficking, the majority of drug charges brought before the Calgary courts are for drug possession. People who use drugs recreationally or due to a chemical dependency/substance addiction are putting themselves at risk of a legal entanglement and a potential criminal record.
Laws banning or controlling access to certain substances have always been controversial.
At one extreme are those who believe that personal liberty should be inviolate—that we should have complete freedom to do what we want with our own bodies, including the ingestion of drugs.
We're just a few weeks into the new year, but the Calgary Police aren't wasting any time making arrests for DUIs or impaired driving. These arrests can come with serious repercussions even before a trial let alone a conviction—license suspensions and vehicle seizures are automatic penalties for many Calgary DUI arrests, and law enforcement throughout Alberta is becoming more aggressive in their detections and pursuit of impaired drivers.
No matter what specific circumstances lead to your being charged with a sexual assault in Calgary, the experience of defending yourself against the charge will likely be one of the most difficult things you will endure in your lifetime. The stigma associated with a sexual assault can be severe, and often comes into play from the moment an accusation is made—before you've any chance to tell your side of the story, let alone had the trial you're entitled to.
In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the reasons why Calgary area drivers might be opposed to Alberta's new impaired driving laws and the ways that the Calgary Police Service is working to enforce them. Some in Calgary believe that checkstops are unfair or even unconstitutional and are doing their best to sabotage Calgary Police's efforts to keep impaired drivers off the road.
Every holiday sees a spike in impaired driving or DUI incidents in the Calgary area, and the Christmas season is no exception. Every year, dozens of happy Christmas celebrants decide to get behind the wheel despite having had a touch too much Christmas cheer, and find themselves welcoming Santa in a cell rather than at home with their families.
Calgary is still one the safest cities in Canada, however the recent spate of what Calgary Police have dubbed "gang-related" shootings has caused some to question this fact.
A lot has happened in Calgary and throughout Canada this year, and many of the issues we've been facing and stories we've been paying attention to will continue to play a big part in our lives in the coming year. From the recent national elections to Alberta's economic difficulties to various global crises that are making international headlines, there are a lot of big stories that can have both direct and indirect impacts on our lives here in Calgary.
Beginning in January 2016, a new "demerits" system will be put in place for Calgary drivers. Under this system, minor driving infractions will result in earning a certain number of demerits—negative points—that build up against your driver's license. Earn too many demerits (fifteen in a span of two years, for most drivers with a Class 5 license), and your license will be suspended.
The YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre, if you ask this criminal defence lawyer, is one of the most effective programs in our city's law enforcement office. By providing at-risk youth (and all of Calgary's youth) with not only an alternative to poor choices like drug use and gang affiliation, but with a real education in the reasons these choices are damaging and the tactics they can use to resist peer pressure, YouthLink helps to reduce crime before it even happens.
In Part 1 of this article, you read that some people have raised legal objections to Alberta's impaired driving or "DUI" law, suggesting that the law—and specifically the automatic penalties it puts in place for people who have been arrested and/or charged with a DUI but who haven't yet had a trial—infringes on civil liberties such as the presumption of innocence. Public safety should not come at the expense of Charter-protected rights, the argument goes; it is an extension of the age-old conflict between a government that tries to keep everyone safe and a society that tries to keep everyone free.
Impaired driving is a dangerous thing, for your safety and the safety of everyone else on Calgary's roads and sidewalks. Being intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs has neurological effects that dull your senses and slow your reaction times, making you less aware of potential hazards and dangers on the road and less likely to respond in time appropriately—delays in response and over-corrections can lead to collisions resulting in significant property damage, serious injuries, and even fatalities.
Assault is a common charge in the Calgary courts, and a frequent cause for arrests made by the Calgary Police Service. This is due in part to the broad range of acts that fall under the legal definition of "assault" including verbal threats and gestures of intimidation that do not result in actual physical violence.
You don't need an experienced Calgary DUI defence lawyer to tell you that driving while drunk or otherwise intoxicated is a bad idea—at least, you shouldn't. The evidence that driving while intoxicated is more dangerous for you and for everyone else on the road is overwhelming and unambiguous, and you've heard about it from a number of government officials and public health advocacy groups for years.
Being charged with a DUI or impaired driving offence, much like being charged with any crime in Calgary, can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. There are immediate consequences you might have to contend with, such as the temporary suspension of your driver's license while your case is pending and the seizure of your vehicle for a week or more, in addition to the threat of fines and even jail time for some DUI charges.
DUIs—officially called impaired driving offences—are no laughing matter. Although there are over a thousand DUI convictions in Calgary every year, their commonality does not mean drunk driving cases are treated lightly by the Calgary Police Service or by the Crown prosecutors and judges in the Calgary courts. If you are charged with impaired driving/DUI, make no mistake: you're facing a potentially life-changing legal battle.
For most people in Calgary, being charged with a crime is one of the most frightening and stressful experiences they will ever face. This is true regardless of the circumstances surrounding the charges laid against you, and whether or not you were arrested before being officially charged. The prospect of months or even years spent in jail, away from your family, your life, and your career, in addition to the stigma that a criminal conviction can carry, is enough to make anyone more than a little anxious.
More and more, drug addiction and drug use in Calgary and elsewhere in the world is being dealt with as a public health issue rather than a criminal problem. Yet the possession of many intoxicating substances can still result in criminal charges.
The new app Peeple, which was founded and is still based right here in Calgary, is a social media endeavor designed to rate or rank other people across a range of criteria.
Canada's new federal regulations involving medical marijuana have gone into effect, and Calgary was among the first Canadian cities to start putting these new regulations into action. It is now possible to obtain a medical authorization for the possession and use of marijuana, and also to become an approved and licenced producer of marijuana for medical use. For those suffering from chronic illnesses that marijuana has proven to be effective in helping to treat, this is a major step forward in gaining easy access to important medication.
A recent survey conducted by the Calgary Police Service confirms what most in Calgary were already thinking: our city is a safe place to live, free from most threats of crime and home to a population that is pretty happy with the way things are going.
Recently, Canada's Supreme Court upheld a BC law allowing police and other law enforcement officers to immediately suspend a driver's license if the driver was suspected of drunk driving and recorded a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 or greater on a mobile breathalyzer.
When most people in Calgary think of "drugs," they think of substances that are flat-out illegal to use and possess, the the possible exemption of certain researchers and research facilities. Cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin and other opiates, and of course marijuana—now approved for medical use with questionable legality, and causing controversy right here in Calgary—these are the drugs people think of in regard to the criminal justice system.
Sexual assault charges are taken quite seriously by the Calgary Police, Crown prosecutors, and the Calgary courts. The law is very clear on what constitutes sexual assault, and the punishments imposed are significant and potentially life-altering for anyone convicted of this crime. It is in every Calgary citizens best interests to know and understand these laws in order to effectively exercise their rights and to protect themselves against potential legal problems arising from their actions.
Ontario has experienced an increasing number of reports of police officers being suspected and/or charged with DUIs, officially known as impaired driving. If these allegations are true and drunk driving is on the rise in some of our nation's police departments, it could be the sign of a serious problem.
A sexual assault charge can be a life changing event, no matter what the circumstances of the case or the outcome of any trial or other proceeding in the Calgary courts. Simply being accused of sexual assault can cause deep rifts to form in interpersonal relationships, and can be emotionally, psychologically, and socially devastating.
It has been nearly a decade since the Calgary streets have been gripped by the so-called "gang wars" of the late 1990s and the first decade of the current century. Since then, Calgary Police have been focusing on long-term investigations that have put many of the top members of these gangs behind bars.
Every criminal case that comes across my desk as a Calgary criminal defence lawyer—and indeed, every criminal case brought forth in Canada's courts—has certain complexities and considerations that make it unique. Listening to the full facts of every case and investigating every relevant nook and cranny of the law is often what makes the difference between and effective defence that helps those accused of crimes move past their charges quickly, and a lack-luster defence that leave clients languishing with unfair sentences.
This is Part 2 of a four-part article series. For Part 1, please click here.
Uber, the driving app that's been taking the world by storm one shared ride at a time, has made it to Calgary. Many drivers in Calgary, especially younger and tech-forward drivers, are excited by the money-making potential the app gives them, but things might not be as simple—or as lucrative—as they seem.
The Edmonton Police Service has noted an increase in drug-related crimes as the price of oil has been dropping. This is a complex issue that affects not only our neighbours to the north in Edmonton, but those of us here in the Greater Calgary Area as well.
Over 60,000 new residents migrated to the Edmonton area in the past two years of the oil boom. According to an EPS report, this led to an increased demand for drugs in the area, and higher rates of drug crimes were witnessed.
I've written a great deal on this blog about the impaired driving laws that went into effect in Calgary and throughout Alberta back in 2012. These new DUI laws are far tougher than the laws previously targeting drunk driving or driving while intoxicated here in the province, both in how they define driving under the influence and in the punishments that can be imposed upon those found guilty of impaired driving.
This is Part 2 of a three-part article series. For Part 1, please click here.
As we began to see in Part 1 of this article series, the crimes of common assault and sexual assault in Calgary arise in part from the same section of the criminal code, and there are certain similarities in how these crimes are defined, prosecuted, and defended. Any touching of a sexual nature that takes place without appropriate consent from the parties involved is potentially grounds for a sexual assault charge, and gestures or vocalizations implying or threatening sexual assault can also lead to criminal charges.
The Calgary Police Service has a new Chief!
Roger Chaffin, a thirty year veteran of the CPS, has taken a vow (along with the rest of the Calgary Police) to make the city safer, and to continue an effort to focus on crime prevention and not focus solely on enforcement.
I've written extensively on this blog about common assault charges in Calgary, sometimes also called "simple assault," and how easily one can find themselves accused of this potentially serious charge. Because it includes gestures of intimidation and even spoken threats of violence in some circumstances, criminal charges of assault are some of the most common charges laid against Calgary citizens every year.
During the same press conference in which five Calgarians were given official placement on Team Alberta for the upcoming 2015 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, a new initiative was announced to prevent drug offences and other problems young hockey players face.
Just a few years after Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies successfully ended the gang violence between Calgary's two largest and most active gangs—the F.O.B. or "Fresh Off the Boat" gang and their rival, the F.K. or "Fresh Off the Boat Killers" gang—the Calgary Police Service is now saying that though gang violence and other gang related crimes are occurring less frequently, they are becoming harder to detect, investigate, and prosecute.
I've written plenty on this blog about the tough impaired driving or "DUI" laws in Calgary. Adopted by Alberta's legislature and going into effect in 2012, anyone driving in the province is now subject to harsher penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, including several automatic penalties that can be imposed as soon as an arrest is made or charges are laid.
A toy or two at the holidays might seem a small thing, but for some of Calgary's smallest citizens it means a whole lot.
Each year, the Calgary Police Service holds its Share a Bear toy drive, collecting new and "gently used" teddy bears and other stuffed toys to distribute to underprivileged children who have been victimized by crime. The intentions and the outcome of this program are such that few could find any reason not to support it, which is something to be said in our current politically-charged era.
"I'm so mad, I could just kill him."
"I feel like I could kick his butt for what he did."
"Somebody ought to take them outside and teach them a lesson."
Most drivers in the Greater Calgary Area know that driving while intoxicated—often known as impaired driving, driving under the influence, or simply "DUI"—presents serious safety risks to themselves, to their passengers, and anyone else on the Calgary roads. Most also know that it is a criminal offence to operate a vehicle anywhere in Alberta while intoxicated by alcohol (defined as having a blood alcohol content or BAC above .08, although administrative penalties come into play with a BAC over .05) or by any other controlled substance, e.g. marijuana, cocaine, and prescription opiates/opioids such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, and so on.
Following an investigation by the Calgary Police Service Guns and Gangs Unit and the Gang Enforcement and Gang Suppression teams, three young Calgary residents have been charged with a series of drug and weapons offences.
Two of the three young men accused of these gang-related crimes are 19 years old, and the third was only twenty.
Charges for the simple possession of controlled substances—drugs—remain among some of the most common criminal charges brought against Calgary citizens. The possession of marijuana, cocaine, pharmaceuticals without a proper prescription, and other substances on the various schedules of controlled substances can lead to both summary conviction offences and indictable offences, depending on the amounts involved and other circumstances, and both types of offences can mean a major disruption to your life.
This is the second installment of a two-part article on what to do when you've been charged with an assault in Calgary. You can read Part 1 here.
Being charged with a criminal assault in Calgary is all too easy. Knowing what to do when you've been charged is harder. In the first part of this article, I gave you three important pieces of advice if and when you find yourself facing an assault charge:
A recent editorial in the Calgary Sun blames the lack of a permanent police chief for the Calgary Police Service for the increase in gang activity and violence the city has witnessed recently.
Rick Hanson, who held the position as the person in charge of the Calgary Police Service until he left six months ago, has helped to fuel this sentiment with certain statements made to the press.
Whether it's in your house, in your pocket, or even in a friend's backpack that was left in your car, if there are drugs or other controlled substances in what the Calgary Police consider your possession, you can be charged with a criminal drug offence. Drug charges remain among the most common criminal offences brought before the Calgary courts, and are an even more common cause for arrests by the Calgary Police.
I've posted several articles on this site detailing just how broad the assault law in force in Calgary is, and just how easy it is to find yourself caught up in a criminal assault case without even knowing you were breaking the law. Any force applied to a person or physical contact with a person that occurs without their consent can lead to an assault charge; even a simple gesture or statement that is interpreted as a credible threat of violence equals the same criminal charge.
Calgary's most recent shooting, which left a female victim dead and a male victim missing and presumed in hiding, does not appear to be gang related according to Calgary Police.
The shooting was not random, however, and one or both of the victims appears to have been the specific target of this violence. As the investigation—including the search for the male victim—is still ongoing, Calgary Police have not issued any further details regarding the potential motive for the shooting.
I've written before about the broad license Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies have when it comes to detecting and investigating cases of impaired driving. From setting up DUI checkpoints—stations along Calgary's streets where they stop all drivers, without any probable cause, and administer sobriety tests—to being legally entitled to ask drivers stopped for other alleged infractions to perform roadside sobriety tests and/or submit to breathalyzer analysis, the ability for law enforcement to investigate a potential DUI is more extensive than their ability to investigate many other crimes.
Speeding, jaywalking, even littering (my least favorite)—there are plenty of examples of "breaking the law" that even the most law-abiding Calgary citizen has been guilty of at one time or another.
When Calgary Police witness or receive reports of these infractions, people don't end up charged with criminal offences. There may be administrative penalties such as fines or a ticket that requires an appearance in a Calgary court, though many times people are let off with a simple warning and a reminder that the rules are in place to keep our city a safe, secure, and sparkling-clean place for everyone in it. These minor transgressions, which often don't "feel" like they're against the law, aren't seen as a cause for serious concern in most cases, by law enforcement or by criminal justice officials.
In what appears to be a direct carryover of the gang violence Calgary was witness to in the previous decade, a man with long-suspected ties to several criminal organizations was shot in front of his Arbour Lake home in Calgary on Thursday, August 27.
Alberta's impaired driving or "DUI" laws are tough, as you know if you've read any of the previous information I've shared on the subject. Drivers in the Greater Calgary Area and throughout the province face administrative penalties for driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) over .05, and can face criminal DUI charges for getting behind the wheel with a BAC over .08.
A criminal assault charge can arise in Calgary from a variety of circumstances. Domestic conflicts, sports debates that get a little more heated than you intended, even a gesture of intimidation that you didn't intend—the way the law is written, it is easy to stumble into an assault charge practically anywhere. You can even find yourself facing criminal charges simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as when a fight breaks out at a nearby table in a Calgary bar, or when another's violence requires you to defend yourself.
Assault is a broadly defined crime in Calgary and throughout Canada, encompassing all unwanted touching and even including threats of violence, physical intimidation without physical contact, and in some scenarios simply carrying a weapon in a manner that could be perceived as a threat. There are certain circumstances, however, that can result in more specific assault charges, often leading to harsher penalties and a substantially increased risk of serious interruption to your life if you are convicted.
News outlets have been stirring up fears in relation to the spike in gun violence Calgary has been experiencing recently, but in fact this violence has had no real impact for the vast majority of Calgarians.
Shootings in Calgary, both recently and historically, have been largely limited to inter-gang violence, where gangs specifically target rival gang members, frequently in "turf wars" surrounding the illegal drug trade.
Driving while impaired by alcohol and drugs is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the extreme risk it creates for you, your passengers, and anyone else on Calgary roads. Though many feel they are capable of driving while intoxicated, this feeling is itself a symptom of intoxication: overestimating one's capabilities and underestimating risks are hallmarks of being drunk or being intoxicated by a number of other substances.
Assault charges are some of the most common charges brought before the Calgary courts, in large part because the law defining assault is both broad and somewhat vague, allowing a number of actions and gestures to result in assault charges—in many cases, even without any physical contact occurring at all.
Many in law enforcement and Calgary at large view gangs as simple bands of ne'er-do-wells who have selected a life of hardscrabble crime and isolation rather than joining the bigger community. Anyone who has studied the issue, including any experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer, knows that the factors affecting gangs are far more complex. Most gang members feel ostracized and isolated from society before they join gangs, and the gang itself fills the needs that would normally be filled by society, including a sense of self-worth, an occupation, and position of respect in the community.
The Chasing Summer music festival, which bills itself as the largest electronic music festival in Western Canada, is causing controversy due to the drug use that occurs there. Some city officials are questioning whether or not this festival should be allowed to return to Calgary in future years.
Vacations don't come with a safety guarantee, as four Calgary citizens were all too suddenly reminded when a semi-truck collided with their taxi in Las Vegas this past Wednesday.
Though laws concerning DUIs can vary considerably from province to province, let alone from country to country and in the many states of our southern neighbor, there is nowhere in North America where it is legal to operate a motor vehicle if your BAC (blood alcohol content) is above a defined amount indicating intoxication.
Drug offences remain a common cause for arrests in Calgary; often these arrests are for simple possession of a controlled substance such as cocaine or marijuana, however more serious charges for drug trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking are also laid against Calgary citizens all too frequently. Though drug use is increasingly seen and dealt with as a public health issue, it is still criminalized, and the sale or distribution of controlled substances is still taken very seriously by law enforcement.
Assault charges can be brought against Calgary citizens for any number of reasons, and in a wide range of scenarios. From a physical altercation at a sporting event to domestic violence to making threatening gestures in order to intimidate, the variety of incidents that can result in a charge for common assault is immense.
On August 6th at 11pm, officers with the Calgary Police Service responded to a call from the Woodbine community reporting an accidentally discharged firearm.
According to reports, a 25-year-old man accidentally fired his legally-owned handgun, while inside his own Calgary home. The bullet penetrated his outer wall, went through the wall of his neighbor's home, and struck the neighbor—an unidentified 61-year-old man—in the abdomen.
Following tips from neighbors and a two-week investigation, Calgary Police raided a home on Taralake Way in late July. Drugs, cash, and weapons were seized as a result of the raid, and charges were brought against two residents who were home at the time of the raid.
Common assault is, well...common. It's a charge that is laid by Calgary Police against people in a variety of situations multiple times every day, on average, and even the most innocuous-seeming incidents can result in an assault charge. Any intentional and unwanted physical touching is potentially grounds for an assault charge, and even purposefully intimidating body language or the threat of physical violence can, in some cases, lead to an arrest for assault.
Although Alberta's laws, lawmakers, and law enforcement agencies are beginning to treat some drug offences as public health issues rather than as criminal offences like any other, there are still many arrests made in the Calgary area each day on the basis of simple drug possession. If you have any controlled substance on your person or in your property—including your home or car—and you don't have the legal authorization to possess that substance (such as a prescription in the case of many opioids and narcotics), you are at risk of being arrested and charged with a drug offence.
A spate of recent shootings in northeast Calgary can be linked to groups involved in feuds over the drug trade, according to Calgary Police.
Gang violence had largely died down following the introduction of certain widespread social programs engaged in by the Calgary Police, which both steered at-risk youths away from gangs and helped enable investigations that led to several high-profile arrests of gang leaders.
As you may already know, it's all too easy to find yourself charged with assault in Calgary. According to the law applicable in Alberta that defines criminal assault, any purposeful unwanted physical contact—or even the threat of physical violence without any contact, in certain circumstances—is grounds for an assault charge.
One of the central tenets of the criminal justice system in Calgary is the "presumption of innocence"—the idea that anyone accused of a crime should be treated as if they are innocent until they have either admitted guilt or been found guilty in a court of law. For the most part, officers of the court—including Crown prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers like the members of the Calgary Police Service—are good at upholding that right, not imposing punishments for crimes until after those accused of the crimes have had their day in court.
Assault remains one of the most common reasons for arrest by the Calgary Police, and one of the most common charges to lead to cases in the Calgary Courts. This is in part due to the way the law regarding assault in Alberta, and Canada-wide, is written, in which any unwanted physical contact can be grounds for assault. While accidents such as bumping into someone on a crowded bus won't result in charges, any contact that appears to be purposeful or that suggests a threat of violence—even brandishing a weapon or otherwise physically trying to intimidate someone without actually making physical contact—can result in an assault charge.
If you've been accused of assault in Calgary, chances are you feel overwhelmed by the chain of events that led to where you are now, and by the uncertainty of what lies ahead. The prospect of a criminal trial, substantial fines, and even time in jail or prison can make it impossible to focus on your defence, and if you're like most people in Calgary you don't know a legal professional you can turn to for reliable, trustworthy legal advice.
Calgary may soon be taking steps to prevent in-person crimes that begin on the Internet.
Many cities in Canada and the United States have begun establishing "safe zones" in or near police station parking lots for people buying and selling things through online classified services like Craigslist and Kijiji. The question has now been raised in the Calgary Police department, and users of online classifieds might soon see some action.
Somehow a fight broke out; maybe you were involved, maybe you weren't but somehow you've found yourself in the back of a Calgary Police vehicle and heading off to be processed and charged with assault. You know you need an experienced criminal defence lawyer to help you out, and you know you need one sooner rather than later, but you don't know how to make that first call—or who exactly you should be calling.
"Assault" is a term most people in Calgary probably think they are familiar with, but if pressed to provide the legal definition they would probably be at a loss. In conversational speech, "assault" usually refers to some actual violence that took place—a physical attack, a verbal altercation that one person pushed to blows, or possibly a case of domestic abuse or even a sexual assault.
Automatic penalties that run counter the notion of "innocent until proven guilty." Restrictions that can continue indefinitely, even if you are ultimately found not guilty for your impaired driving charge. Questionable intrusions by the Calgary Police even when drivers operate their vehicles in complete accordance with the law.
The impaired driving or DUI laws at work in Calgary are more onerous than you may be aware, and they tend to favor law enforcement over the average citizen of the Calgary area. Whether or not these laws are fair, equitable, or reasonable, they are the laws that everyone must abide by. In an environment that holds Calgary drivers under such suspicions, understanding your rights—and what you can and cannot do to defend yourself against a DUI charge in Calgary—is an essential part of protecting yourself and your future.
Compared to the same point in 2014, reports of crime on Calgary Transit busses, trains, and light rail are down 32 percent. Crime rates throughout the transit system are now at their lowest point in five years.
Many people in Calgary look down on those accused of gang-related crimes, assuming they are somehow bad at heart. From the outside, it can seem like gang membership is a choice that certain people make—people who for some reason enjoy a life of violence, crime, and isolation from the rest of society. Looks can be deceiving, though, and in reality most gang members see very little choice and opportunity, and already feel like society has made them outsiders.
A report issued by the University of Calgary suggests that treating public intoxication as a health issue rather than a crime is far more effective both for the intoxicated party(ies) and for the Calgary community as a whole.
This is in keeping with other recommendations made by medical professionals, social workers, and researchers in Calgary and the world over, which suggest that drug and alcohol dependencies are not dealt with effectively by the criminal justice system. Treatment in rehabilitative programs is both more cost-effective and more conducive to positive results than arrests, fines, and jail sentences for offences related to drug and alcohol use.
Every year in Calgary, well over 1,000 people are arrested for suspicion of impaired driving or "DUI"—driving under the influence. Many of those arrested for DUIs in the Calgary area never even bother to contact a defence lawyer, instead attempting to resolve the issue on their own. Perhaps it isn't surprising, then, that the majority of people arrested for a suspected DUI also had their licenses suspended and faced other penalties.
Most people in Calgary probably think they have a pretty good idea of what the drug laws in and around the city say. Many probably think they are safe if they simply do not use "illegal drugs" like marijuana or cocaine. While it is true that avoiding the use of illicit substances will make it far less likely that you will be charged with a drug-related offence, it isn't a guarantee. In fact, it's possible for you to face a drug charge in the Calgary courts for possessing a substance you thought was legal.
Facing an assault charge can be an alarming experience. A simple disagreement, argument, or altercation resulting in you being accused of a criminal offence—many of those charged with assault offences in Calgary are so surprised by the suddenness of events and the whirlwind of the criminal justice system that they don't know what to do or where to turn for help in forming a defence against their assault charge.
Violence and gang activity go hand in hand in the minds of many Calgary citizens, who remember the spate of gang-related shootings that affected the city years ago. In more recent times, though, a variety of social programs has helped steer many Calgary youths away from gangs and the violence is all but non-existent.
Despite the changes Calgary has seen, Alberta's laws regarding gang affiliation and violence—especially assault are charges—are very broad, giving Calgary Police and other law enforcement broad licenses to arrest or detain those suspected of either crime. Being charged with a gang-related assault means facing a conviction on two separate crimes, with the penalties pertaining to both, and that's a scenario that is more than plausible given the current state of Calgary's criminal justice system.
I've said it before and I'll happily say it again—I love my work as a criminal defence lawyer here in Calgary.
The more cynical reader might think that Calgary's low and falling crime rate would make this a less-than-ideal time to practice criminal defence law in the city, but the simple truth is that I enjoy a safe and stable city just like anyone else.
Common assault is a charge that is all too, well, common, in the Greater Calgary Area and throughout the province. The problem isn't that violent altercations are such a commonplace occurrence in the lives of most Calgarians, but rather that the Alberta law defining common assault is so broad. This problem has been discussed in previous articles on this site, but simply put, almost any unwanted touching or even the threat of unwanted physical contact can be deemed a common assault, and can result in a criminal charge.
Credit card skimming, in which identity thieves use physical devices to read (and steal) Canadian consumer's credit card numbers, was recently on the rise in Calgary, and according to Calgary Police it could be linked to organized crime.
Two suspects have been arrested in a case in which they allegedly built credit card skimming devices, attached them to at least 38 gas station pumps throughout Calgary, and used the numbers to create fake credit cards.
Ask any member of the Calgary Police Services, any Crown prosecutor, and any Calgary-area criminal defence lawyer and they'll tell you: drug offences are still very common in and around the city, and they can cause a serious disruption to your life. This is true for all types of drug-related offences, from simple possession of a controlled substance that might result in a fine and/or a brief jail sentence, to charges of drug trafficking that can carry much longer prison sentences and other penalties upon conviction.
I've written plenty here about why I practice criminal defence law here in Calgary, and why I believe defence lawyers are an important part of the criminal justice system.
Defence lawyers help ensure that everyone accused of a crime is treated fairly, and that the rule of law is something everyone—including Calgary's law enforcement officers and court officials—respects and adheres to.
Assault comes in many forms, and alleged assaults are responsible for a significant portion of arrests made in the Calgary area every year. Whenever you are charged with an assault, no matter what the circumstances and no matter how legitimate you feel the charge is, partnering with an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer is often in your best interests, and can help your assault case proceed with as little stress and disruption to your life as possible.
You're pulled over by the Calgary Police, given a field sobriety test, and taken into custody under suspicion of impaired driving or DUI. When should you request to speak with a Calgary DUI lawyer? What can a lawyer do for you and the charges you might be facing?
The answer: ask to speak to a defence lawyer right away, because they can do a great deal for you. The earlier you contact a Calgary lawyer after being detained for an alleged or suspected DUI, the less disruptive an impaired driving charge will be for your life, for your family, for your finances, and for your career. An experienced defence lawyer will be able to start working on your behalf right away, possibly postponing or even eliminating the automatic penalties imposed by law on everyone in Calgary charged with a DUI.
The Calgary Police lay assault charges against people every day, and the Calgary courts hear defences against assault accusations almost as frequently. Because common assault is so broadly defined and so easily charged, as explained in a previous post it's little wonder that so many assault accusations result in criminal charges.
Sometimes, however, an assault accusation is completely without merit, arising from a fraudulent complaint that can nevertheless result in serious legal problems for the accused. Very little evidence is required for the Calgary Police to follow through with charges if a complaint regarding an assault is made, and though more proof is required to secure a conviction for assault before a Calgary judge, a defence lawyer is still your best bet when it comes to beating a false assault charge.
Calgary Police and Crown prosecutors might soon see a rise in drug offences involving the illegal possession or abuse of certain prescription drugs, but not because offences are necessarily occurring at a higher rate.
The regulators in control of Alberta's system for monitoring prescription drugs are expanding the province's triplicate prescription program, which is used by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to track certain prescriptions and identify instances of abuse.
During the height of gang violence in Calgary, Alberta passed new legislation making the definition of a criminal gang much broader, and making it far easier for Calgary police and other law enforcement agencies to bring a charge of gang affiliation against those who otherwise could not be accused of any crime. This makes it especially important for Calgary citizens to understand gang laws, and to understand their rights when it comes to a defence against criminal charges of gang involvement or gang affiliation.
Many of the informative articles published on this site have provided information on drug offences in Calgary—on the laws that criminalize the possession of certain substances, on the public health perspective that has led to changes in the way law enforcement and the Calgary courts pursue many charges for simple drug possession, and on the ways a criminal defence lawyer can help those in Calgary accused of even minor drug charges move on with their lives with minimal disruption and worry.
When a person in Calgary is accused of assaulting someone, there are two basic ways in which the charges can proceed in the courts and the criminal justice system at large: as an indictable offence, or as a summary conviction offence. There are some significant differences in the way these two types of cases proceed, but both can result in a conviction that carries very real criminal penalties along with it.
As I've mentioned previously in this blog, I started out as a Crown prosecutor here in Calgary before I moved to criminal defence law. There are several factors that influenced my decision, but as I look at new laws being passed and changing attitudes in Canadian society I'm reminded of one in particular.
There is an entire system supported by taxpayers that is stacked against anyone accused of a crime. This system, in Calgary and in every city throughout the nation, is staffed by people who go to work every day with the goal of pursuing alleged criminals and getting them convicted. They have abundant knowledge and experience when it comes to pursuing those they think have committed crimes—it's their job.
Assault is a relatively common charge brought before the courts in the Calgary area, and many cases are fairly minor—any unwanted touching, application of force, or threat of force can result in an assault charge, making it all too easy for a non-violent misunderstanding to end up with the Calgary Police Service involved. When an assault case is simple enough, and minor enough, Crown prosecutors can elect to proceed with the charge as "summary conviction offence," in which a trial takes place at the Provincial Court level in front of a Judge alone.
Driving on Calgary's streets while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating drugs can lead to a host of problems. The physical risks to the health and even lives of you and those around you should be your primary concern, and risks of expensive property damage should also give Calgary drivers pause. The legal entanglements of a DUI charge—and especially of a criminal conviction for impaired driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) greater than .08—are also substantial, and can potentially follow you for the rest of your life.
A recent increase in residential break-ins and petty thefts in Calgary's Inglewood neighborhood might be the work of a loosely organized group of individuals, according to the Calgary Police.
“There’s about 12 people that we’re looking at that are all closely working together and have their fingers in a lot of pies,” said Calgary Police Service District 1 Staff Sgt. Kyle Grant. "There may be some of those people who are living paycheque to paycheque and did have a job when the economy was good and didn’t have to support themselves by crime. Now that they’re out of the job and maybe having difficulty finding another job, for whatever reason, they’re turning back to that.”
Our neighbor to the south has seen many law enforcement-related stories hit the international news of late, and not for good reason.
While it would be naive—or worse, wilfully blind—to assert that Calgary has not dealt with it's own race-based issues, including some involving law enforcement, we can be thankful that we haven't had to deal with anything of the magnitude of the several recent incidents that took place in the United States.
In a previous article, you saw that a common assault charge can arise far more easily than you might think. Any unwanted or nonconsensual touching with demonstrable intent could potentially result in an assault charge—a shove meant without malice in a crowded place, grabbing someone's shoulder in a gesture of restraint, or any other non-violent but unwanted contact can meet the definition of an assault according to the letter of the law.
Five years ago, the Government of Alberta introduced the Alberta Gang Reduction Strategy, a program aimed at reducing gang membership by helping those who were at risk for gang involvement or who wished to leave gangs they were involved with and empowering both communities and law enforcement to better address gangs and gang-related crimes throughout Alberta.
At the time the program was defined, gang violence was still a significant problem in Calgary and in other parts of the province, and gang-related crimes including drug and weapons trafficking took up much of the Calgary Police Service's time. As the Gang Reduction Strategy was implemented, and as Calgary added its own programs to help prevent gang enlistment and make it easier for individuals in gangs to find a better way of life, gang presence and violence in Calgary have been dramatically increased.
One of the big problems in cases of drug-related offences is that the accused is generally misinformed about controlled substances and the laws that apply to them. Of particular concern is the legislation surrounding marijuana. Though this substance has become popular as a recreational drug and less taboo in recent years, and the laws controlling it are not as strict as those governing harder drugs, many people in Calgary are surprised to find that the possession of marijuana can still result in criminal charges.
Every year, the city of Calgary sees over five thousand cases of assault. For one of Canada’s safer cities, this may seem like a fairly high number. However, approximately four thousand of these reported cases fall under common assault. This represents the lowest level of assault charges—a type of charge that is subject to many misunderstandings and potentially mitigating circumstances.
After receiving numerous complaints from neighbours, a home in Markerville was raided by more than 100 officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, resulting in the peaceful arrest of four individuals.
Though safety concerns were cited as a justification for the large-scale endeavor, no shots were fired nor was any other violence or resistance experienced during what turned out to be a relatively low-level drug bust.
When a driver makes the mistake of driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug, his or her chances of getting into a car accident are significantly higher. In 2010, over 210,000 of the 1.6 million vehicular collisions recorded throughout Canada were linked to some form of impairment. Of the estimated 2,500 fatalities resulting from an automotive collision, over 1,000 were related to DUIs.
In total, impaired driving was estimated to have cost Canadians over $20.6 billion. With this in mind, if you are ever involved in an accident in Calgary and are accused of impaired driving, the actions you take immediately following the accident are very important.
Back in 1983, Ivan Henry was convicted of ten sexual assaults that occurred in downtown Vancouver between 1980 and 1982. He was declared a dangerous offender and imprisoned for an indeterminate sentence. Unfortunately, during Henry’s incarceration, assaults similar to the ones he had been accused of continued; the wrong man had been convicted, and it would take another twenty-seven years before the miscarriage of justice would be rectified.
It was not until 2002 that Vancouver police were able to link another man to some of the assaults with the help of DNA evidence; the man would later plead guilty to the crimes. Due to the similarities between these cases and the crimes Henry had been convicted of, an investigation was launched to determine whether he could reopen his appeal. Finally, in 2010, the British Columbia Court of Appeal entered acquittals on all charges, and Ivan Henry was a free man.
Drug offences remain a common cause of arrest in Calgary, and the resulting defence cases can place a strain on the city's criminal justice system. For some people accused of drug offences in Calgary, Drug Treatment Court can provide an alternative to a traditional defence case, ensuring people get the help they need rather than a criminal sentence that can only impede their future.
Part of the philosophy behind Calgary's Drug Treatment Court is that drug offences, especially when committed by repeated offenders, are more of a public health issue than they are a problem of more general criminality. This does not mean, however, that drug cases going through the Drug Treatment Court are not handled as legal matters, or that participants in the program avoid all potential for charges and a criminal record.
There is no question that being the victim of an assault or any violent crime can be a traumatizing experience. The emotional and psychological impacts of an assault event can last far longer than any physical harm, and it is important that such offences are taken seriously.
It is also important that Calgary, its court officials and law enforcement agents, and its citizens take the defence of those accused of assault seriously, too. The emotional and psychological impacts of an erroneous assault charge can also be devastating, whether the accused was acting in self defence, has been mistaken for the actual assailant, or is a victim of a malicious and unfounded accusation.
Your Calgary DUI defence begins as soon as you are pulled over, and a lawyer with experience successfully handling impaired driving cases can be an important part of that defence. Many articles on this site detail exactly how a DUI defence lawyer can help you with your case, but what actually happens when you contact a lawyer? When should you first call, what should you be prepared to discuss, and where will things go from there?
According to the Calgary Police, a crackdown on property crimes has led to the laying of more than one hundred charges, all from the arrest of fifteen people, between April 12 and April 21.
Property crimes, which include non-violent offences such as car thefts and breaking and entering, have been on the rise in Calgary compared to the five-year averages for the city. Police hope that this recent "crackdown" will help to reverse that trend, and have asked all Calgary residents to take care in locking doors and vehicles to help reduce property crimes.
Gang violence in Calgary has declined in recent years as the two major gangs in the region were pursued by law enforcement, and as increasingly effective and available social programs helped youths in many at-risk Calgary neighborhoods and families find better alternatives to joining a gang. This is an unquestionable good, for those who might be affiliated with gangs and for Calgary at large: violence helps no one, and doesn't defend justice.
Everyone deserves justice, and the full protection of their rights no matter what crimes they've been accused of. When it comes to Calgary citizens accused of gang-related crimes, this is more true than ever.
It's easy to make gang members look frightening or downright evil in the press. Few people realize how young and vulnerable most future gang members are when they first start to see gang life as an attractive option; having worked on numerous gang-related cases in my capacity as a Calgary defence lawyer, I am acutely aware that clients accused of gang affiliations want a secure and happy life as much as anyone in Calgary.
If you've been arrested for or charged with a drug offence in Calgary, your best chance at putting the charge behind you quickly and completely is partnering with an experienced criminal defence lawyer.
Just as Calgary Police, other law enforcement officers, and Crown prosecutors have extensive experience in gathering evidence and presenting cases to obtain convictions, defence lawyers have understanding and experience with the related laws and criminal justice procedures that can help mitigate punishments and in many cases settle cases without a criminal conviction. An experienced criminal defence lawyer may be able to mitigate the outcome of your drug offence case; though you are not required to partner with a lawyer, it can frequently lead to a better outcome and a less stressful ordeal.
Your defence against an impaired driving or DUI charge in Calgary begins the moment you are pulled over or otherwise contacted by law enforcement. Failing to comply with lawful requests for roadside sobriety tests, including a breath analysis of your blood alcohol content or BAC, is now a criminal offence in and of itself and can result in an automatic license suspension.
In some circumstances, you must also answer questions asked by Calgary Police officers or other law enforcement agents regarding your identity, and again, failing to do so can result in further legal trouble. Beyond these requirements imposed by standard criminal investigation procedures and Alberta's impaired driving laws, though, you have the right to refrain from providing any further information—including responding to any questions—before you have consulted with a Calgary criminal defence lawyer.
An off-duty officer of the Calgary Police Service was placed on seven-day paid leave following theft of a police department assault rifle from his personal vehicle.
According to the officer, the gun was taken from his Subaru, a non-departmental vehicle, while parked in front of a local Calgary business. The gun was in a locked hard case but was "improperly tethered" to the vehicle, allowing the theft to take place.
Part 1 of this article provides an overview of how DUI cases in Calgary originate with law enforcement, and the immediate consequence of license suspension that many Calgary drivers accused of impaired driving face.
No matter what the specifics of your initial engagement with Calgary law enforcement, and regardless of the outcome of your BAC analysis (if any), you defence against a DUI charge in Calgary begins the moment you are accused, arrested, or charged. Though every impaired driving case is different, everyone's next step should be the same.
There's a lot more to criminal defence law than many outsiders realize. It isn't just about keeping innocent people out of jail—though that's unquestionably an important part of the job—and it certainly isn't about preventing those guilty of serious crimes from facing any consequences (despite the way the job is often portrayed in movies and TV dramas).
Though the number of DUI charges laid in Calgary has been dropping steadily for several years, well over 1,000 drivers in the Calgary area are accused of an impaired driving offence each year. In the vast majority of these cases, drivers end up with at least a temporary license suspension, and many are left without the ability to legally get behind the wheel for extended periods of time.
2014's Calgary DUI numbers are in, and the news is definitely encouraging: there was more than a ten-percent decline in impaired driving charges laid in Calgary during 2014 when compared to 2013, continuing the steady decline in drunk driving incidents the city has seen in recent years.
Alberta's new DUI laws were passed into effect nearly three years ago, but they have been stirring up controversy ever since. Earlier this month, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Thomas Wakeling ruled on a challenge to the impaired driving law that asserted it was unconstitutional.
The specific arguments used in the case aren't especially important to the average Calgary citizen, but the result is: the law stands, and drivers are at the mercy of Calgary Police, Crown prosecutors and the Calgary courts. Though many Calgary citizens, including Calgary DUI defence lawyers, continue to believe there are serious problems with Alberta's impaired driving sanctions, protests have fallen on deaf ears and your rights might still be in jeopardy.
As radio host and news commentator Rob Breakenridge noted in a [recent opinion piece for the Calgary Herald], Alberta's DUI laws were a major issue in Calgary and throughout the province during the 2012 election. Strong opposition to the law was raised by the Wildrose Party, while other politicians vociferously defended it.
You've read a lot on this site about the potential consequences of an impaired driving or DUI charge in Calgary, including the potential for fines, mandatory alcohol and driver safety education classes, and even criminal penalties including jail time. The law takes drunk driving very seriously, and it's a big public safety concern, as well, for everyone on Calgary's roads.
One of the penalties prescribed by Alberta's impaired driving laws, and that many people convicted of DUIs in Calgary have had to contend with, is an ignition interlock. This DUI outcome has been mentioned here before, and it might not seem especially important compared to license suspensions, imprisonment, and other possible DUI outcomes, but these devices can be far more disruptive than you might think.
Shootings of any kind are thankfully quite rare in Calgary, and shootings that result in someone's death are rarer still. The fact that there have been two deaths as the result of shootings by Calgary Police in the past month is a tragic departure from our city's typical peacefulness, both in the events themselves and in the speculation and commentary that have followed in their wake.
It is central to the interests of justice, central to Canadian law, and central to the spirit of Calgary that people are not judged before all of the facts are in—that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Yet the two recent police shootings have polarized many in Calgary, leading to the condemnation of those killed in these incidents or, alternatively, to the condemnation of the Calgary Police officers who pulled the triggers.
Drunk driving remains a common cause of cases making their way through the Calgary courts, but not all DUI cases begin with alcohol consumption. Detection and evidence gathering by the Calgary Police can be more complex endeavors for impaired driving cases involving substances other than alcohol, but DUI cases involving other drugs are still vigorously prosecuted.
Drug-related DUI charges can also lead to just as much trouble as drunk driving offences, and arguably even more so in some cases. Make sure you know the legal risks involved whenever you get behind the wheel of your car with a controlled substance in your system, or you might find yourself at the mercy of Calgary Police and Alberta's impaired driving laws.
Alberta's crackdown on all kinds of crime, from harsher impaired driving or "DUI" laws to the increasing attention being paid to drug violations, has many hidden consequences. Some of these new laws can put innocent people and those accused of minor crimes at risk of potentially severe penalties, and that doesn't serve anyone in the province or our city of Calgary well.
Newer laws involving criminal organizations or gangs are especially worrisome. Not only are the penalties for gang-related behavior made harsher, in many cases, than the penalties for the same crime committed by non-gang members, but what constitutes a gang is now more broadly defined. Simply "participating" in a gang or other criminal organization is now a crime in and of itself, without any other illegal activity necessary for a charge to be laid against you.
You get second chances with a lot of things in life, but if you've been charged with a DUI offence in Calgary you want to get your defence done right the first time. Miss your chance, and you could find yourself with years of legal troubles and a lifetime spent with your DUI conviction following you around.
A recent story in the Calgary Sun reports the ranking of Calgary neighborhood crime rates according to 2014 statistics, just released by Calgary Police. The Sun story notes that the Beltline and downtown core show the highest crime rates, while eastside communities including Forest Law, Dover, Marlborough, and Falconridge are also among the highest.
At the same time, neighborhoods like Bel-Aire and most of the residential westside of Calgary have very low crime rates. These statistics are accurate and perhaps unsurprising, but they don't tell the full story of crime's development in Calgary.
What happens when you're charged with a DUI in Calgary? That depends in part on the context of your DUI, and also on the actions you take following your arrest. The sooner you contact a Calgary DUI lawyer, the better your chance of returning to your normal life quickly and with minimal interruption. A lawyer isn't required, but it can mean the difference between losing your driver's license, paying substantial fines, earning a criminal recording, and even spending time in jail.
You've seen a lot of information about facing DUI charges in Calgary on this site. Alberta's DUI laws, the approaches used by the Calgary police when it comes to finding impaired drivers, the penalties you might face if you are convicted of a DUI in the Calgary courts—all of these have been detailed at length in the information I've produced for this site.
Winter is finally showing signs of giving up, and that makes me as happy as anyone else in Calgary. Soon I'll be able to keep the office windows open, go for a nice stroll when I need a break from the desk-bound life of a defence lawyer, and get set for the coming Calgary summer and the quickened pace of the city as everything comes to life.
This is the second part of a two-part article series outlining what you can expect when facing a DUI charge in Calgary. For Part 1, click here.
Joseph Raymond Staels will soon be able to put the botched home robbery he took part in behind him, due to the efforts of Calgary defence lawyer Susan Karpa in her arguments before Judge Catherine Skene in October of last year.
Before you've faced a DUI charge in the Calgary area, you might have thought all cases were essentially the same, dealing with a clear and straightforward set of facts and consequences: someone got drunk and got behind the wheel of their car, got in an accident, and was charged with impaired driving or "DUI." There's no real defence, you might have thought; anyone charged with a DUI is bound to lose their license and face other penalties imposed by the Calgary courts.
You've seen plenty on this site about Alberta's harsher DUI penalties and you know that simply not getting behind the wheel when you've been even slightly impaired by alcohol or other drugs is the best way to keep yourself and others safe, and to stay out of legal trouble. But many in Calgary still make the mistake of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated—-what the Calgary Police and courts officially call "impaired driving"—so there are definitely some things that bear repeating.
Crime in Calgary has been on a steady downward trends as preventative and rehabilitative efforts have reduced gang presence and violence in the city, and have helped create a city and a society that creates greater opportunities and protections for those who might otherwise see criminal offences as a viable way to earn a living or achieve the security they need.
Believe it or not, this news is just as encouraging for criminal defence lawyers in Calgary as for anyone else; less violence is always a good thing, and fewer arrests and prosecutions for petty crimes and those not harmful to the greater good means more justice for all—and that's exactly what criminal defence lawyers fight for.
Drunk driving or "DUI" offences can be pretty polarizing. There are many groups and individuals who flat-out condemn anyone accused of a DUI without wanting to look at the facts of the charge or the factors affecting the accused's actions and behaviors. Calgary defence lawyers who take on DUI cases are often also tarred with the same brush.
It is this very attitude towards DUI cases and DUI lawyers in Calgary that makes a robust, informed, and experienced defence for those accused of DUI infractions so important.
In case you haven't heard the news, Alberta enacted new sanctions targeting drunk drivers in 2012, and there's no sign of them being rescinded any time soon. Calgary Police have also ramped up their efforts when it comes to identifying and arresting drunk drivers, including widespread public awareness campaigns and an increased use of "DUI Checkpoints"—areas on certain Calgary roads that become temporary traffic stops to check all drivers and ensure their sobriety.
Drunk driving remains a relatively common offence in Calgary, despite the dangers it presents both to drunk drivers themselves and to other Calgary residents and visitors. With Alberta's harsh penalties for driving while impaired by alcohol, the dangers aren't just physical but also legal, and finding a lawyer can be an important step in recovering from the incident and returning to a normal and productive life.
A criminal defence lawyer can be a great asset when a young person in Calgary is accused of a crime—ensuring that mistakes made in one's youth don't create a lifetime of trouble is something every Calgary citizen should be able to get behind, and it's a defence lawyer's job.
An editorial in the Calgary Herald asks an interesting question: is the tougher stance on crime taken by Canada's federal government, including imposing mandatory minimum sentencing and removing conditional sentencing as an avenue explored in the defence of the accused, doing more to harm Calgary society than help it?
When it comes to detecting DUI or impaired driving infractions in Calgary, law enforcement officers have increasingly sophisticated (though often problematic) technologies and techniques at their disposal. Impaired driving defence lawyers might not be quite so fortunate, needing to help their clients contend with Alberta's harsher laws and some of the automatic penalties they impose, but they can still be of tremendous assistance.
No matter what you call it—impaired driving, driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI)—if you take to Calgary's roads and highways after drinking or using drugs, you're not only exposing yourself and others to a greatly increased risk for physical harm, you're also exposing yourself to significant legal troubles. You can hire a Calgary criminal defence lawyer to help you with your case after impaired driving charges have been laid against you, but even better would be avoiding the trouble altogether.
You've heard it many times, including in every DUI article posted to this site: the best defence against a DUI is simply staying out of the driver's seat if you've had any alcohol. This advice is even more important ever since Alberta toughened up the penalties for DUIs, including the establishment of administrative penalties for anyone driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) between .05 and .08 and more severe criminal penalties for drivers with a BAC over .08. These new laws have already had an impact on DUI's in Calgary, in more ways than one.
Despite changes in law enforcement attitudes and the legal penalties facing certain drug offences, including charges related to the possession of marijuana, drug offences in Calgary remain a common cause for arrest and for the laying of criminal charges. If you've been arrested for a drug offence in Calgary or the surrounding area, you don't have to face it alone. You are entitled to speak with an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer, who might be able to help you put these charges behind you quickly and more painlessly than many persons accused of drug-related crimes can do on their own.
Calgary Police suspect three recent gun crimes are connected to gang-related activity in Calgary and potentially to drug-related offences connected to two of Calgary's largest gangs. Though police have not yet confirmed these suspicions, their analysis is based on past crime patterns in the capital City of Calgary.
This is the final article in a series detailing the development and current state of all Canadians' right to remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, whether or not they are under suspicion of criminal activity. It deals specifically with three recent rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the use of technology by law enforcement and defining Canadians' right to privacy on their own electronic devices such as computers and cell phones; these decisions can inform the defence against criminal charges presented in Calgary courts.
A DUI in Calgary can lead to administrative penalties—fines, the loss of your driver's license, and more—as well as criminal charges if your BAC (blood alcohol content) is over a certain limit. For repeat DUI offences, the penalties grow even more severe. There are some very simple defences against charges of driving under the influence available to everyone in Calgary—defences that can help you get back on track faster, and ideally avoid any risk of a DUI charge at all.
A lot of folks in Calgary—and everywhere else—have the wrong idea about criminal defence lawyers and what their job entails. The way things are presented on TV, in films, and sometimes in news stories, it can seem like there's an "us vs. them" mentality, with law enforcement and prosecutors on one side and criminal defence lawyers on the other.
This article deals with cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada that have helped shaped rules and laws regarding law enforcement searches and seizures during criminal investigations and arrests. For a full (yet brief) look at the history of Canada's laws against unreasonable search and seizure, from the Magna Carta to the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, please see the previous installments of this article series: [Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Part 4], [Part 5].
Let's face it: an arrest by Calgary Police or other area law enforcement for a DUI-related charge is a big deal. A defence lawyer can be a tremendous asset following a DUI/DWI charge, and not just because lawyers can offer more comprehensive legal knowledge and greater experience discussing evidence and negotiating with law enforcement agencies and Crown prosecutors. One of the ways Calgary defence lawyers can help the most is by offering the compassion and understanding needed by persons accused of driving under the influence.
With a department already facing a heavy workload and a growing number of cases pouring in daily, the Cybercrime Support Team—a unit within the Calgary Police Service—has raised concerns about its effectiveness in identifying and pursuing targets for criminal investigations related to online and computer-assisted crimes.
"Our cyber-crime area is already stretched to the limit because the use of technology to commit crimes...is continuing to grow," said Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson in an interview with the national news service Metro.
Previous articles in this series have detailed the development of Canada's law against unreasonable searches and seizures from the time of the Magna Carta to the Elizabethan Age and the dawn of the Modern Era through to the American Revolution. These major milestones, while important, still didn't bring Canadian law to its modern stance on the matter, nor did they anticipate the significant technological advances of the coming centuries that would be cause for entirely new appraisals of what constituted an "unreasonable search" by law enforcement as they conducted criminal investigations, and what defence private citizens had when it came to these intrusions.
Let's face it: most DUI/DWI arrests made in Calgary are 100% avoidable. Don't drink alcohol or take drugs—including many kinds of prescription drugs—before getting behind the wheel of your car, and the odds that you'll be pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated are virtually non-existent. You've heard it before, but it bears repeating each and every time the issue comes up: your best defence against a DUI/DWI is not to get behind the wheel when you're even the tiniest bit impaired.
From the outside in, and maybe even from reading some of the legal information articles on this site, it might seem like a criminal defence lawyer leaves little room for humanity. Full of rules, numbers, that special brand of legal logic and the calculations of justice, criminal defence can seem to have forgotten those being defended.
As discussed in previous articles, drug use is increasingly seen in Canada and throughout the world as a public health issue rather than a matter of pure criminality. Drug offence arrests and prosecutions have been declining in Calgary for the past several years, in keeping with this trend (and with the overall decline in crime Calgary has been experiencing), but law enforcement still makes plenty of drug-related arrests every year. If you're the one detained or charged by Calgary Police with a drug offence, trends and statistics probably don't offer much in the way of reassurance.
Founded with the help of now Assistant Chief Judge Jim Ogle in 2007, Calgary's Drug Treatment Court has always operated on a tight budget yet has nonetheless shown a tremendous capability to reduce drug crimes amongst the program's graduates. University of Alberta researchers tracked more than twenty recent participants in this drug crime diversion program, all long-term drug users committing daily crimes to maintain their drug habits, and found that 68% had no new criminal charges or convictions two years their completion of the Drug Treatment Court program. Amongst all graduates, criminal convictions went from 794 prior to participation to only 48 after.
English Common Law has recognized a certain right to privacy and freedom from government intrusion as important features of a just society since at least the early 13th century, yet these principles didn't begin to take their modern forms with law enforcement officers, courts, and the criminal justice system until the era of the New World discovery and colonization. The freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures enjoyed by those in present-day Calgary, and the ability to cite unreasonable and unlawful searches as effective parts of a criminal defence, took time to develop as the British Empire became more widespread and ultimately more democratic.
In previous articles, we've seen how the recent ruling by Supreme Court on cell phone searches by law enforcement is part of a long line of legal thinking regarding government searches and personal privacy that stretches back at least as far as the Magna Carta and which became more prominent during the Elizabethan Era. When the eighteenth century rolled around, the Enlightenment set about revolutionizing political thought and things like law enforcement, citizens, privacy, and defence against government intrusion took on a form that modern residents of Calgary might recognize.
If you or a family member is already facing charges in Calgary courts for a gang-related criminal offence, a criminal defence lawyer with full knowledge of the law and experience handling cases like yours can most likely be of substantial help. The courts and Canadian law recognize the significance of having a lawyer by your side, and you are entitled to consult with a criminal defence lawyer from the moment you are arrested or charges are laid.
Calgary—and Canada—saw more than its fair share of crime-related headlines this year. From the incident in Ottawa to local tragedies, we Calgarians have been given plenty of opportunity to focus on people running afoul of the law.
That isn't the whole story, though, and in fact 2014 has been a pretty good year for Calgary as far as crime is concerned:
This is Part 2 in an article series discussing the development and current state of your rights under Canadian law to remain free from unreasonable searches and property seizures. For Part 1, click here.
Calgary uses checkstops throughout the year to catch drunk drivers and to discourage people from driving while intoxicated, and this time of year the efforts ramp up significantly—not just in Calgary but throughout Alberta. The holiday season is unfortunately also a season of high rates of drunk driving and high rates of DUI/DWI charges laid by the Calgary police, with as many as one-quarter of all intoxicated driving charges laid in December resulting from daytime or evening checkstops. Law enforcement throughout the Calgary area will be on the lookout for intoxicated drivers in an attempt to keep everyone safe, so be sure to make responsible choices while driving this holiday season.
To the untrained eye, there might not be much about being a criminal defence lawyer that seems to embody the holiday spirit. The supposed cynicism that comes with a career in the legal world might seem to negate all of the "peace on Earth and goodwill towards men" sentiments that abound during Christmas time, especially in a city as boisterous about the holidays as Calgary.
All residents of Calgary and of Canada as a whole are afforded a certain right to privacy that prevents law enforcement agents and other government officials from performing "unreasonable" searches of your personal property. In some cases, these rights are very black-and-white; in order to search through your private residence for evidence of a crime, for instance, Calgary police or other law enforcement agents would need to present evidence that they have a valid grounds to believe that they will find evidence there, and they need to get a judge to agree and issue a search warrant.
If you've glanced at a newspaper or caught the news on TV in the past few days, you've likely seen something about the recent Supreme Court ruling that deemed it legal for police officers and other law enforcement agents in Canada to search suspects' cell phones without a warrant. Misunderstandings and speculation regarding this ruling are running rampant, despite the fact that the direct practical implications remain to be seen, so some straight talk from an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer might provide some useful insight.
A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has created a lot of buzz in the law enforcement and criminal defence worlds, and with good reason. The Court's decision has far-reaching implications for what constitutes a reasonable search under Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allowing police throughout Canada—including the Calgary Police and all area RCMP divisions—to search criminal suspects' cell phones immediately upon arrest, without a warrant or any other approval from a judge.
The number one suggestion any Calgary DUI/DWI criminal defence lawyer—or anyone else, for that matter—can offer when it comes to drinking and driving is simple: don't do it. Avoiding impaired driving is easy and will keep you and those around you safe when it comes to your physical well-being. It also, of course, offers the greatest legal protection against impaired driving offences and will help keep you on the roads and out of court.
Most drivers in Calgary don't need a lawyer's advice to know that drinking (or drug use) and driving is a dangerous mix that is best avoided at all costs. DUI/DWI remains a relatively common cause for arrest and for charges throughout the Calgary area, however, so clearly the message isn't sinking in for everyone. So just in case you're one of those drivers who thinks getting behind the wheel while intoxicated isn't always a bad idea, here's some information that might change your mind.
Some areas of the law are fairly black and white, and successful performance as a lawyer means understandings the intricacies and the ins and outs of the law itself—a knowledge of facts and the ability to apply those facts to a given situation. Criminal defence involves this kind of knowledge and understanding, too, but there's a lot more to it, as well. Successful criminal defence cannot be defined in purely legal terms, but must also weigh the human components of every charge and every defence case.
There's been a lot of news lately regarding changes to the Calgary police force and the way they go about detecting and investigating crimes (and alleged crimes).
New technologies for facial recognition. New budgets that make for slower growth in the ranks of Calgary police officers. New approaches to youth intervention and prevention leading to reduced crime and gang membership. And all the while, Calgary's already low crime rate has continued to fall.
Budget tightening has become a way of life in Calgary over the past few years, but the police force has often risen above the cuts. The next four-year budget plan, however, still being debated by the Calgary city council, will only provide the Calgary Police ten more officers.
As you might have guessed, the practice of criminal defence in a city the size of Calgary is nowhere near as glamorous or action-packed as television and film would have you believe. Not only does my job require extensive legal research and case analysis, but it also requires hours of writing, filling out, and otherwise handling paperwork.
Attitudes towards the criminalization of drug possession have been undergoing significant changes in Calgary and throughout Canada over the past few decades, in response to an increasingly evidence-based look at how criminalizing drug use impacts the rates and outcomes of drug use. Criminal defence lawyers have more reason than most to stay up-to-date on their knowledge of drug use and drug offence laws in Calgary, and that knowledge can help everyone, not just persons accused of drug-related crimes, understand the problem of drug criminality now and as it might look in the future.
Several past articles on this blog have discussed the risk factors and dangers of a DUI/DWI charge in Calgary, primarily from a legal and criminal justice perspective. While it is important for every driver on Calgary's roads to know the laws and how one can be affected by them, it is also important to know the inherent physical dangers drivers present to themselves, their passengers, others on the road, and to private and public property. These dangers are very real, and are the underlying motive behind administrative and criminal charges for impaired driving.
In a controversial move, Calgary police have announced that they will begin using a new face-identification software to aid in their criminal investigations.
Using a database of existing mugshots from convicted criminals and non-convicted suspects—a database that is likely to grow rapidly now that Calgary police are all equipped with body cameras that can store pictures of everyone they encounter—the NeoFace software can compare crime scene photo and video footage to stored faces and find matches far more quickly than a manual search.
Taking the long view, and in many cases the short one, it's easy to say that no one benefits from gangs. Not Calgary as a whole, not the communities and neighborhoods where gangs are most prominent, not the families and friends of gang members, and not even the gang members themselves.
That being said, gangs exist and people continue to join them because they do seem to offer certain immediate benefits. Camaraderie, security, and a sense of belonging are the biggest. People turn to gangs because they see them as the best alternative, and in a city as wonderful and full of opportunities as Calgary, that means gangs exist because there is a serious perception problem.
New laws and harsher penalties imposed by Alberta's government have made impaired driving—also known as driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated (DUI or DWI)—less common in Calgary than it used to be, but there are still many residents of the Calgary area accused of impaired driving each year. Alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, and even prescription medication can lead to impaired driving offences, and even the most responsible drivers can find themselves facing an impaired driving charge.
In an article shared here last week, we saw how new and ongoing research is continuing to shed light on the problems of gang-related crime and violence in the Calgary area. This article noted that many new immigrants and first-generation Canadians in Calgary and surrounding cities such as Airdrie and Cochrane feel shut out of Calgarian society at large, and might even face physical violence at the hands of other residents, making gangs seem an attractive alternative to a life of near-constant threat and oppression.
While Alberta's new DUI/DWI laws have helped reduce the number of drivers who choose to take to Calgary's roads when they're not sober, they haven't eliminated the problem altogether. And, of course, they've made the legal troubles facing those who choose to drive after too many drinks even tougher, meaning you could face more severe and longer-lasting sanctions if you are convicted of a DUI/DWI.
These harsher penalties—in addition to the harm drunk driving can cause to people's safety and their property—make it even more important for Calgary drivers to know their limits and to make sure they avoid a DUI/DWI. For that reason, here are the three top DUI/DWI tips straight from an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer to you.
Calgary has faced, and continues to face, the gang-related crime found in most cities with a large and diverse population. While social programs and law enforcement efforts have been somewhat successful in curbing gang activity in the city and of mitigating its worst effects, the best way for Calgary and the criminal justice system to handle gang-related crimes is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Though this may seem obvious, it is easier said than done.
The Airdrie RCMP has requested 24 additional officers to be added to their force over the next three years—eight officers added each year from 2015 to 2017—at an estimated cost of about $6 million, according to Alderman Allan Hunter, who is also a member of the police advisory committee.
"This addresses the growth we are at right now," said Hunter. “We were at critical mass a while ago. We have looked at all of our options and this is the best way to achieve safety in our community. We have responsibilities to protect our citizens and we need to give officers every tool and support so they can come home to their families at the end of the day."
This is the tenth and final article in a series detailing what you might expect in many Calgary area criminal defence cases. Previous installments can be found here:
[Part One], [Part Two], [Part Three], [Part Four], [Part Five], [Part Six], [Part Seven], [Part Eight], [Part Nine]
In this article series, you've seen how a typical criminal defence case might progress from an initial complaint or investigation all the way through a trial. Though every case is unique, including in the details of each trial as it progresses, it is hoped that you've developed a basic understanding of what can be expected at each stage of a criminal proceeding through the Calgary or surrounding regional courts.
You already know that being aware of Alberta's new DUI/DWI laws is important for anyone taking to Calgary's roads, but there's another potential danger you might not have heard about yet that can lead to an automatic criminal offence. Even if you're driving sober—which should, of course, be the case every time you get behind the wheel—it's possible to get a DUI/DWI-related offence. Knowing the law is always your best protection, so keep reading to make sure you don't inadvertently commit a criminal offence while driving.
This is the ninth article in a series detailing what you might expect in many Calgary area criminal defence cases. Previous installments can be found here: [Part One], [Part Two], [Part Three], [Part Four], [Part Five], [Part Six], [Part Seven], [Part Eight].
Everyone in Calgary, every Canadian, and every media-connected citizen of the world knows what happened in Ottawa on October 22. The violence, the death of a man who proudly served his country, the heroism that brought the incident to an end—all of these things are known. Other questions remain, and answers will probably never emerge with any certainty.
I have no special knowledge of the events, no insights to offer, and no explanation for the worst impulses of humanity that lead to these incidents. Like most Canadians, I can only watch from distance and wonder about the "why" of it all, while knowing that ultimately the reasons for such random acts of violence matter less than the way we as a nation respond to them.
The Perfect Mix for a Calgary DWI/DUI Defence?
As detailed in last week's article, Alberta established new administrative penalties for drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over .05, and new criminal and administrative penalties for drivers with a BAC over .08. These new DWI/DUI rules are meant to keep everyone on Alberta's roads—including in the City of Calgary and the surrounding area—safer and healthier, and so far they seem to be working as intended. Fewer people are driving while intoxicated, and fewer alcohol-related accidents are occurring.
The odd broken window or side mirror is nothing out of the ordinary for Calgary police, but 30 vandalized vehicles in one night is something else entirely.
"We haven’t had anything similar to that recently," said Const. Karen MacLeod. "Often something will happen like, car windows or side-view mirrors, but I’ve never seen over 30 vehicles targeted in one night."
This is the eighth article in a series detailing what you might expect in many Calgary area criminal defence cases. Previous installments can be found here: [Part One], [Part Two], [Part Three], [Part Four], [Part Five], [Part Six], [Part Seven].
Canada as a whole and Alberta specifically have been stepping up their response to driving while intoxicated or DWI (also called driving under the influence or DUI). This means all drivers in Calgary and the surrounding area should make themselves familiar with the current blood alcohol content (BAC) limits, and with the legal ramifications and even criminal penalties that can arise from choosing to drive while impaired.
There's a reason I do what I do (that is, criminal defence law), and a reason I do it where I do it (Calgary and the surrounding area, for those who haven't been paying attention). Those reasons are one and the same: my clients.
This is the seventh article in a series detailing what you might expect in many Calgary area criminal defence cases. Previous installments can be found here: [Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five] [Part Six]
Arrests in the Calgary area for alleged drug offences have been in a continuing decline, according to the most recent statistics available from the Calgary Police Service, but they still make up nearly three percent of the arrests made in the City of Calgary. This includes arrests for simple drug possession as well as for trafficking and other more serious offences.
According to a report from the frequently-conservative Fraser Institute, Calgary's police have been very effective when it comes to preventing crime. That's good news for Calgary citizens, who can be thankful for a plummeting overall crime rate, but is it bad news for the cops themselves?
This is the sixth article in a series detailing what you might expect in many Calgary area criminal defence cases. Previous installments can be found here:
There are plenty of reasons to love living in Calgary, and it isn't just the city itself that makes it such a great place to call home. The greater Calgary area and indeed the rest of Alberta is easily accessible, and provides a lot of fantastic spots for both quick getaways and longer excursions.
Though hiring a criminal defence lawyer is by no means a requirement of Canada's criminal justice system, many people who have been accused of crimes will find it beneficial to speak with a trained, knowledgeable, and experienced professional at certain points in their case, and quite possibly to have that lawyer represent them in a criminal defence trial. Deciding you want a lawyer and choosing the right one for you from the many Calgary area criminal defence lawyers available are two different things, though.
This is the fifth installment in an ongoing series of articles describing how a criminal case might proceed through the Calgary and Canadian court system. Read the previous articles in the series here:
Drug offences [investigated by law enforcement] (http://www.calgary.ca/cps/Documents/statistical-reports/2013-annual-statistical-report.pdf) in Calgary and the surrounding area have been falling gradually for the past five years, however there were still over 1,000 cases involving simple drug possession in 2013 within Calgary's city limits. The number of more serious drug-related offences, including trafficking and "cultivation" (which includes growing plants like marijuana as well as manufacturing other drugs), has dropped more rapidly, yet though they occur more infrequently these offences can lead to much harsher consequences for the accused.
A few short weeks after a series of initiatives aimed at reducing crime rates amongst Calgary's at-risk kids was announced, there's more good news for youngsters in the Forest Lawn neighborhood: thanks to funding from the non-profit Calgary Police Foundation, a pilot program will equip schools with full-time physical education courses, staff psychologists, after-school programs, and other initiatives aimed at reaching children who lack the support often necessary to prevent criminality.
This is the fourth installment in an ongoing series of articles describing how a criminal case might proceed through the Calgary and Canadian court system. If you haven't already, you might want to read Parts One, Two and Three before you continue
As you might have noticed if you've read the previous installments in this article series, there's a lot that happens in a criminal defence case before you set foot in a Calgary or other Canadian court: there's a complaint and/or an initial investigation by law enforcement, the laying of an official criminal charge with the courts, and frequently an arrest. A bail hearing or "show cause" hearing after an arrest is usually the first time an accused person will find themselves in a courtroom or in front of a justice of the peace or judge, and is also frequently the first time many consult with a criminal defence lawyer—though it doesn't have to be.
After a bail hearing, you may be released or detained pending the outcome of the matter.
The passage of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in 1996 marked a major shift in the way Canada views and handles drug offences and substance-related crimes. Though the possession of many drugs and controlled substances is still a criminal offence that can result in both fines and jail time, the Act takes various factors into account in its determination of sentencing limits and is part of a shift towards viewing drug offences as public health concerns.
Criminal defence cases against many drug-related offences or accusations is different from other criminal cases in the Calgary courts, and is viewed differently by the Canadian criminal justice system at large. Understanding the difference might help you rest a little easier if you're facing a drug related charge, and for that we need to take a quick look at the recent history of drug laws in Canada.
Well, no one can claim that life in Calgary isn't exciting. No matter what your job or how you spend your days, there's no avoiding the weather, and there's no predicting it either.
I'm thinking, of course, about the surprise September snowstorm the Calgary area was treated to last week. Watching a gentle snowfall from my office in downtown Calgary can be a nice distraction after a few hours of defence-related paperwork, and cold weather can be great for clearing the head and getting invigorated when I have a case coming up in court. But that much snow that quickly really does a number on the city, especially when it's so unexpected.
In an article posted last week, the basics of Canadian criminal law regarding drug offences were described. As that article detailed, criminal offences involving different types of drugs or controlled substances carry different potential sentences even for the simple crime of possession—some drugs come with higher sentencing thresholds than others.
Maximum allowable punishments for drug offences under Canadian law are determined by which "schedule" a drug or controlled substance is listed on; these schedules were themselves established by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and continue to be reviewed and adjusted periodically. Understanding the basic drug schedule system and the substances that appear on each schedule can help you understand your criminal defence case if you've been charged with a drug offence.
This is the third installment in an ongoing series of articles describing how a criminal case might proceed through the Calgary and Canadian court system. If you haven't already, you might want to read Part One and Part Two before you continue.
After starting with complaints and investigations (as discussed in Part One of this series) and the laying of criminal charges (as addressed in Part Two), the next phase in many criminal defence cases is an arrest. Arrests are sometimes made as part of an initial investigation, as well, such as when Calgary police or other law enforcement arrive at the scene of an alleged crime.
As reported by Global News, the nearly three-million dollars currently filling the coffers of the Civil Forfeiture Fund—the fund created from the sale or management of assets seized in criminal proceedings—will largely be going to youth programs throughout Alberta aimed at preventing crime.
The expenditures recently allocated from the Civil Forfeiture Fund include a two-year $500,000 grant for Calgary's YouthLink Interpretive Center, whose purpose is to mentor and educate minors facing difficult decisions and situations. Such funding is hoped to have a direct impact on overall rates of youth criminality and on assisting youths "on the edge" of criminality and the Calgary court and criminal justice system.
This is the second in a series of articles detailing some of the steps that occur in a Calgary criminal defence case, from a police investigation through the end of a criminal trial in the Calgary courts. Keep checking back for more information, or contact experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer Susan Karpa for a free initial consultation.
In Part One of this article, you learned that criminal cases in Calgary—and in Canada at large—begin with a law enforcement investigation that is sparked by an initial complaint or through the uncovering of potential criminal acts in the normal course of police duty. Whether the investigation lasts an hour or a year, the decision to lay criminal charges will be made by law enforcement when they feel the investigation has warranted it.
Drug offences, actual and alleged, are an all too common cause for arrests, detentions, and charges brought before Calgary judges. Persons accused of drug offences in Calgary don't have to face the criminal justice system alone, however; not only do all people in Canada accused of any criminal defence have the right to consult with a criminal defence lawyer, they also have the right to know the laws they are accused of breaking and to seek a fair hearing and a just outcome.
Calgary and its citizens love a good competition.
I'm not talking about the court system or my work as a criminal defence lawyer—there's enjoyment in a job well done, but I hardly view protecting people's rights as a competitive game. I'm talking about the Calgary Stampede, the Calgary Stampeders, the Canada Olympic Park, and the many other athletic competitions that call Calgary home.
This is the first in a series of articles detailing some of the steps that occur in a Calgary criminal defence case, from a police investigation through the end of a criminal trial in the Calgary courts. Keep checking back for more information, or contact an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer if you have any questions that aren't answered here.
Few things in the typical Canadian's life cause more worry and uncertainty than facing a criminal accusation. The aftermath of an accusation can have a dramatic impact on the rest of your life: on your employment and income, on your family and loved ones, and on your very freedom and ability to control your own future.
After recent mixed news regarding crime rates in Calgary , the city's fifth-place ranking in The Economist's annual Global Liveability Ranking and Report is an achievement that provides no shortage of reasons to smile.
Facing a criminal charge, a criminal accusation, or even simply being detained by law enforcement can be a frightening ordeal. It can often feel like the world's against you: no one's listening, and no one's standing in your corner.
Persons in Canada charged with or merely accused of a criminal offence, even people who have simply been detained by law enforcement, have the right to consult with a criminal defence lawyer before answering any questions, making any statements, or otherwise responding to law enforcement. This right is so essential to the concept of justice and fair treatment that it is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as discussed in [this three part article] (http://susankarpa.com/blog/criminal-law-makes-you-your-first-line-of-defence-part-1/).
One of your rights under Canadian criminal law is the right "to be tried within a reasonable period of time." When you've been arrested or charged with a criminal offence, the Crown has a responsibility to prosecute your case as soon as it is reasonably able to do so.
Practicing criminal defence law in Calgary can lead to many difficult decisions. One of the easier "conflicts" I deal with on a daily basis is trying to determine which makes me happier: the area of legal practice I've chosen, or the city I get to practice it in.
Statistics Canada has issued its [latest report on Canadian criminal offences](http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140723/dq140723b-eng.htm?HPA), and the news is generally good—crime is down almost everywhere and by almost every measure.
This is Part Three of a three-part article on your criminal defence rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This is Part Two of a three-part article on your criminal defence rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Calgary citizens, listen up: while a good criminal defence lawyer is an absolute necessity if you've been arrested or accused of a crime, you are the first line of defence in Canada's criminal justice system. Though it might sound strange coming from a lawyer, it's the truth: there are some things that only you can control, and they can make or break your criminal defence case.
I started my legal career as a Crown prosecutor, a minister justice for the people of Calgary, but despite meeting with success and recognition my work left me dissatisfied. I wanted to perform work that had a real positive impact on the lives of average Calgary citizens, and the prosecutor's office left me feeling that I could do more.