Two weeks ago, I invited a guest lecturer to speak to my criminal procedure and evidence class about defending impaired/over 80 offences. The lecturer, a lawyer, did an exceptional job of walking the students pictorially through a typical impaired/over 80 case by using photographs of the Alert or roadside screening device, of the "Breath Bus" or Checkstop bus, and of the breathalyzer machine (actually, the experts insist on referring to them as "instruments" per the Criminal Code).
It became very clear to the class that impaired/over 80 cases are complex, highly technical cases involving difficult evidentiary and legal issues such as expert evidence from the breathalyzer technician, Charter challenges, and the use of the legal presumptions under s. 258 of the Criminal Code.
Another message was equally clear: do not drink and drive. Although drinking and driving cases are technical in nature and open to a myriad of legal arguments, if the Crown and police have all the legal requirements properly in place, a conviction will result. This was "scared straight" in legalese.
Now two weeks later there is much political talk of making the impaired driving laws tougher in Alberta. How tough? Well, BC tough. In tomorrow's blog, I will expand on what "getting BC tough" really means and the possible repercussions. But, in the end, will "getting tough" deter impaired drivers? Will the carnage on the highways, which we sadly read about on a weekly basis, lessen? Will these new laws make our roads safer?
It is difficult to determine if tougher laws do, in fact, deter and change behavior, despite Premier Clark's insistence that statistics prove her tougher laws work. I, for one, prefer the old fashioned route - education. My son and, recently, my daughter attended the P.A.R.T.Y or Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth Program offered across Canada through the local health services. At this workshop, the 14 to 15 year olds meet people who have made the wrong choice to drink and drive. Although some are in wheel-chairs and some are not, they all are scarred, either physically or emotionally, by their actions. The students listen to their stories, they hear the terrible consequences of poor choices, and they decide not to make the same decision. To me, this is the best form of prevention.
For some foreshadowing of tomorrow's blog entitled, Impaired Driving Legislation: A Little Diversion, read today's Calgary Herald editorial cartoon.