Drunk Driving is Down in Calgary: What That Means for Your DUI Defence (Part 1)

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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.

In other words, the stricter laws and harsher punishments were meant to be dissuasive: scare people with extreme and even lifelong penalties for impaired driving, and people will be less likely to drive while impaired.

This line of thinking has been used in many areas of the criminal justice system, but has rarely if ever proven effective. Countries that still have the death penalty don't have statistically lower violent crime rates, for instance—they just have more executions. When Alberta's DUI laws were being debated—and even after they were passed into law—many people (some Calgary DUI defence lawyers among them) spoke out not only about the injustice of the laws but also about their predictable lack of impact.

And indeed, there doesn't seem to be a statistically significant decrease in the number of DUI charges laid against drivers in Alberta since the legislation was passed. In Calgary, though, there's a different story: impaired driving rates do appear to have fallen since the legislation was passed. The question is, why? And how might this impact you and your DUI defence lawyer in Calgary?

Calgary's DUI Laws Haven't Changed

The first thing to note is that the DUI laws in effect in Calgary haven't changed. DUI rates reported by the Calgary Police may be dropping, but the same strict laws that apply throughout Alberta continue to apply here in the city.

This means, among other things, that drivers in Calgary with a BAC (blood alcohol content) between .05 and .08 will face an administrative charge for impaired driving, while drivers with a BAC of .08 or greater will face a criminal DUI charge. Both charges carry automatic penalties that can apply from the time of arrest or the laying of a charge, before the accused even has an opportunity to raise a defence. In the case of criminal charges for suspected drunk driving in Calgary, drivers can have their license automatically suspended and the suspension can last until your case is resolved in the courts.

In short, just because the rate of DUI charges being laid in Calgary is dropping doesn't mean that law enforcement or Crown prosecutors are growing more lax, or that it's easier to put a DUI charge behind you should you find yourself facing one. Avoiding a charge altogether is still your best defence, though it may not always be possible.

Contact a Calgary DUI Defence Lawyer Today

We'll continue to examine the current state of DUI enforcement in Calgary in Part 2 of this article. If you have questions about your own DUI defence in the Greater Calgary Area, please contact my office today.

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