Changes in DUI driving offences raise concerns

Changes in impaired driving laws in Alberta and across Canada went into effect recently. The new laws increase penalties for those convicted of driving offences related to alcohol or drug impairment. Drivers should be aware of the changes, especially over the New Year’s holiday when police may be especially vigilant.

Since impaired driving is a federal offence, someone convicted of DUI likely ends up with a criminal record, and repeat offenders usually face harsher consequences. Under the new laws, a driver who is convicted of a repeat offence has more at risk, including the chance of spending five to 10 years behind bars and being designated as a dangerous offender. There’s also a special drug-impairment category now, following the recent legalization of marijuana, which carries a fine up to $1,000.

Perhaps the most controversial part of the new law is the expanded authority it grants to police. Previously, an officer needed to suspect a driver of alcohol impairment before requesting the driver submit to a roadside breath test. However, the new law allows police to require a breath test of any driver they stop for reasonable cause, even if the cause is not related to impairment. Opponents of the bill worry that this will increase incidents of racial profiling.

Alberta drivers have a lot to be concerned about since the new laws took effect. While it is always the wisest move to avoid getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, now it is important for drivers to be aware of the powers and limitations of law enforcement. Seeking legal advice when dealing with any charges for driving offences can improve the chances of a more positive outcome.

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