provincial administrative penalties act
"Police across Alberta are now empowered as judge, jury and executioner".
On December 1st, 2020 Alberta introduced new legislation designed to make it easier for law enforcement to immediately punish presumptive impaired drivers. Overseeing this new anti-alcohol driving protocol is SafeRoads Alberta -- an administrative branch of Alberta Transportation responsible for hearing and reviewing disputes arising under the recently enacted Provincial Administrative Penalties Act, 2020 ("PAPA 2020").
The Provincial Administrative Penalties Act, 2020 is sold to Albertans as legislation that will make the roads "safer" through the introduction of an Immediate Roadside Sanctions Program. Prior to the change in law, when police developed reasonable grounds to believe impaired driving occurred, they would charge under the Criminal Code of Canada and issue an Administrative License Suspension (ALS). This paradigm effectively married criminal impaired driving law with administrative law.
PAPA 2020 has effectively removed criminal justice from the process for everyday impaired driving. Like many Canadians, this Alberta impaired driving lawyer has long been of the view that there is little or no public interest in prosecuting low level impaired driving offences. Accordingly, at first blush, many might think that the SafeRoads Alberta program is a laudable change to our approach to investigating, prosecuting and penalizing impaired drivers.
"As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for".
Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS)
Police across the Province are now empowered to issue a Notice of Administrative Penalty (NAP)/immediate roadside sanctions" (IRS) to anybody they have reasonable grounds to believe has committed an impaired driving offence. This means that even if it is equally likely that a motorist is not driving while impaired or perhaps even is not driving with any alcohol or drugs in the body at all, he or she is potentially liable to immediate roadside sanctions. Immediate Roadside Sanctions include:
- A minimum $1000.00 fine (as high as $2000) plus victim fine surcharge.
- An immediate 3 month absolute licence suspension, followed by 12 of months of restricted driving with a blow-box.
- Seizure of the motor vehicle.
- Impoundment of the motor vehicle for 30 days.
- Impound fees likely totalling more than $1200.00.
Perhaps the most draconian aspect of IRS is that the suspended driver must seek recourse within a short window of 7-days from the date sanctions were issued, must pay for his or her right to have the IRS review and then must argue before SafeRoads Alberta -- an administrative body -- who will decide the fate of the suspended driver on a low threshold of "more likely than not". Also, the burden of proof is on the motorist and hardship is not a factor for cancellation.
"Humanity has been removed from the process"
Without doubt, through PAPA 2020 the Alberta Government has placed incredible power in the hands of police and administrative adjudicators, while evicting Crown Prosecutors -- persons tasked with prosecuting offences where there is public interest -- from the process.
roadside sanctions lawyer
All of us, including the lawyers, are engaging SafeRoads/PAPA 2020 for the first time. It will likely take months, perhaps even years to fully appreciate the impact of this change of legislation and the manner in which it is adjudicated.
"The ability to drive has become so integrated into our lives that the loss of that ability may have devastating consequences for not only the suspended driver, but for innocent others who may be highly dependent on the vehicle seized and on that driver's license."
Where many motorists will happily endure immediate roadside sanctions, many will suffer extreme loss and hardship as a result of the program. For example, in a Province where good jobs are disappearing, there is little doubt that SafeRoads Alberta will force many Canadians to the unemployment line. The collateral consequences of unemployment are obvious.
If you have received Immediate Roadside Sanctions, call a qualified Alberta Roadside Sanctions Lawyer to explore your options. David Chow offers a free initial telephone consultation.