Huh?…Guilty until proven innocent?
Alberta’s new Bill C-26 has a major flaw…it violates one of the basic tenants of justice: Innocence until guilt is proven. Under the proposed legislation, a charge of blowing over the legal limit, refusal or failure to provide a breath sample, or a charge of impaired driving will result in an immediate licence suspension that lasts until the completion of the criminal charge!
No trial. No process. No reasonable doubt. No cross examination of witnesses to test the veracity and objectivity of their observations. No protection. Welcome to Nazi Ger…er, I mean the Province of Alberta.
For those that exercise their right to a trial, they will go without a licence. For how long? Sherwood Park, Bonnyville, Fort Saskatchewen and other jurisdictions are setting trials as far as a year from the date of entering a plea. We advise clients that the process usually takes 9-12 months, no matter the jurisdiction, during which they will now be without a licence.
The Province will coin the loss of licence as a removal of a privilege, which they believe is within their right. Apples or oranges, a spade’s a spade…the “removal of a privilege” is a punishment, pure and simple. Do we no longer care about the protection of the innocent?
Benjamin Franklin stated “it is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer”, and yet we ignore principles of democracy and freedom in the name of fear and political posturing.
As I write this, I am reminded of a case that I had this very day…my client was arrested by the police, taken to a police station and subjected to a breath demand from a police officer. He refused, and was charged. Sounds reasonable, right?
However, the police demanded that he respond to the breath demand before he was able to exercise his right to contact a lawyer! They made him answer the demand, even though he said he wanted to contact a lawyer. They lied to him, stating he had to give them an answer before they would let him talk to a lawyer. He said no. He contacted a lawyer, and then told the police he would give a sample of his breath. The police response? Too late, we’ve already charged you with refusal…
Did I forget to mention that this was all while chained and shackled to the floor? Fortunately (or unfortunately, because the Court never heard the case!) the matter never proceeded to trial, and our client was able to avoid prosecution. However, under the new legislation, our client would have gone the last two years without a licence!
Principles of fundamental justice cannot be ignored, circumvented, or legislated around. When this is attempted, we all suffer. This is what Alberta’s unelected Premier Alison Redford does not understand. Considering she is a lawyer, her actions are shameful, and amount to political posturing, not what is in the best interests of a free and democratic society.
Do we all want to combat impaired driving? Of course. But as Sir Thomas Moore stated in “A Man For All Seasons”:
Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
Posted on February 21st, 2012