In Minnesota and throughout the USA, suspended or revoked DWI offenders are able to get their driver’s license back after a specific period of time. However, our northern neighbors in the province of Alberta have recently taken a huge step by imposing DWI suspensions for an indefinite period until an alleged drunk driver’s criminal charges are finally resolved in court. This may mean that drivers wanting to get their licenses back quicker will feel pressured into pleading guilty to the DWI charges filed against them, as opposed to putting up a long legal battle in defense of their charges.
Alberta has become Canada’s first province to impose indefinite suspensions for motorists caught with blood alcohol content levels higher than 0.08.
There will be no changes in BAC limits, although the legal consequences of exceeding these limits have changed. Drivers caught with a BAC exceeding 0.08 will have their driver’s license suspended immediately, and will not be allowed to get behind the wheel until their DWI related charges are resolved. Additionally, drivers who are convicted under federal laws will be required to install an interlock ignition device in their vehicles for a maximum of five years. This device prevents a vehicle’s engine from starting if the device detects that a driver has high BAC levels. Those with graduated licenses are also bound to receive tougher penalties, which include vehicle seizure for seven days.
The plan of the Alberta government to bring down the number of road accidents due to drunk driving was strongly criticized when first introduced in the legislature about a year ago. Opposition said it would consequently increase roadside criminal convictions.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver said recently that he is confident the legislation can survive any court challenge due to its adequate safeguards and avenues for appeal, and that some people in the province he sought advice from believe that this legislation will withstand constitutional challenge.
However, many lawyers decrying the government’s decision to suspend DWI offenders’ driving licenses indefinitely are set to take on Alberta’s new, toughened DWI penalties. A lawyer specializing in drinking and driving cases said that the government’s decision is clearly contrary to the Constitution and to the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Lawyers opposing the decision said that they intend to challenge the legislation by bringing a full-fledged Constitutional challenge to strike the legislation down. They are just waiting for the government to charge the first people with DWI before they make their planned move against the new DWI law.
The lawyers also believe the new penalties will more likely cause suspected DWI offenders to plead guilty instead of challenging their drunk driving cases in court. The good thing about this tougher legislation is that it forces guilty offenders to plead guilty. On the other hand, it will force innocent drivers to plead guilty as well. One lawyer even considered it as Alberta’s way of extorting guilty pleas from people who don’t want to lose their licenses for several months.
In Minnesota, unless the driver is granted a temporary reinstatement of their driving privileges, he or she will generally lose their ability to operate a motor vehicle within seven days from the date they are served with a notice of revocation. Although, upon filing a judicial challenge to the license revocation, the driver, in most counties, may have a civil hearing prior to the resolution of their criminal case to determine whether their revocation should be rescinded or sustained by the court . However, even upon filing a challenge, the implied consent hearing may not be held for several weeks.