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Edmonton Alberta Criminal Law Blog

How can you contest a blood alcohol test?

Breathalyzer tests are commonly used to test a driver's level of impairment from alcohol. However, the breathalyzer has often been criticised for its unreliable results.

In addition to breath tests, Alberta law enforcement may also employ blood alcohol tests if they suspect you of drunk driving. This test involves a lab technician drawing a blood sample, which they test for alcohol. While law enforcement praises the test for its accuracy, is it unbeatable in court?

Examining impaired driving laws post cannabis legalization

It’s been almost a year since the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada. Since then, the government has opened its online store, and allowed private brick-and-mortar shops to open in different provinces.

The Federal government also updated their impaired driving laws to include specific drug-related situations, and many provincial governments have also updated their respective highway traffic legislation as well. The updates also served to address public concerns over the legalization, and what protections were going to be in place to protect drivers and pedestrians if someone should get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs.

What conditions present the same signs as driving while impaired?

Every driver should know that driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is something to avoid. Not only could these types of impaired driving lead to legal consequences, they can also contribute to a serious accident. However, just because a driver appears impaired does not mean he or she is.

There are numerous lawful conditions that can mimic the symptoms of impairment, which include eye and vision issues, balance problems, confusion and unsafe driving behaviours.

How will police test drivers for cannabis impairment?

Police cannot lay criminal charges for drug-impaired driving offences without sufficient evidence. They must have reasonable grounds for stopping drivers, as defined in the Criminal Code, before they can collect this evidence from any driver.

The federal government established three offences for drug impairment, based on the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a person's bloodstream. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that impairs a user. One is for having 2 to 5 nanograms (ng) of THC in your blood, and the other is for having 5 ng and above. A third offence is for users who combine 50 mg of alcohol with 2.5 ng of THC in their bloodstream.

Do you know the laws regarding the legalization of cannabis?

You may be among the many in Alberta and across Canada who have been eagerly anticipating the legalization of cannabis. Perhaps you are looking forward to trying it for the first time, or you may simply be relieved to not worry about breaking the law when you enjoy cannabis with your friends. Your wait is nearly over. Already legal and available for authorized medicinal purposes, cannabis will be legal for recreational use by the end of 2018 under careful federal and provincial regulation.

The regulations will limit the amount of cannabis you can carry or grow as well as setting age restrictions for those who can use the substance. The government seeks to protect you by overseeing the production and distribution of cannabis and educating the public about the risks of using it. Like alcohol consumption, cannabis can affect your ability to drive safely, and law enforcement will be vigilant about identifying and arresting those driving while impaired.

Your BAC may not be enough to convict you

When you were in science classes, you may remember thinking that you would never use the information your teacher thought was so important. Little did you know that some of that science would come in handy at the most surprising moment: during an impaired driving arrest.

If Alberta police recently detained you under suspicion of driving while impaired, you may have submitted to a breath test, which provided police with enough reason to place you under arrest. You may feel that the results of the test are enough to convict you of the offence, but there could be some very strong reasons to fight the charges.

Do you know your rights when stopped for impaired driving?

If you face allegations or charges of impaired driving, you may not be familiar with criminal law and your legal rights. You will likely experience high levels of anxiety and stress because of the potential consequences. No one wants one mistake to cause the loss of driving privileges through licence suspension, and a conviction resulting in jail time can be detrimental to your employment, your home life and your reputation.

You may not be aware that testing for blood alcohol content is not always 100 percent accurate, and law enforcement could have made errors in the testing or arrest procedures that might benefit your defence.

Knowing your rights when the police pull you over

The last thing you want to see and hear when you're driving down any Alberta highway is flashing red lights in your rearview mirror and the sound of a siren blaring. Unfortunately, this typically means that it's time to pull over and roll down your window for the police officer who will be coming your way. It's also a time to stay calm and composed.

One thing you will want to avoid should you ever face this nerve-wracking situation is automatically apologizing, especially if you don't know why the police have stopped you to begin with. This can appear like an admission of guilt and might be used against you later in court.