Drunk driving trials to take months

Drunk driving trials featuring arguments on disclosure and the Constitution will consume up to four months of Red Deer and Stettler court time next year.

Drunk driving trials featuring arguments on disclosure and the Constitution will consume up to four months of Red Deer and Stettler court time next year.

Red Deer provincial court heard on Tuesday that dates from May through August have been set aside to conduct trials and hear arguments about disclosure and the Constitution in at least 17 cases of people charged with various drunk driving offences in Red Deer and Stettler.

The cases will begin on May 28 in Stettler with arguments by defence lawyer Kevin Sproule and Crown prosecutor Anders Quest concerning disclosure of data contained in the computers of several RCMP breathalyzer machines. Sproule represents all 17 people charged.

Initial estimates placed the required court time at a month but that has changed due to the complex nature of the arguments and time required by a judge to rule on the case.

It’s expected that all 17 trials will be held.

The defence theory is that the information in the machine could be flawed and Sproule wants a private expert to test the data.

Sproule said earlier he’s prepared to go as far as the Supreme Court. He said the high court would be asked to rule if the legislation passed in July 2008 is constitutional.

The legislation places the onus on the defence to prove that breathalyzer machines weren’t working properly when blood-alcohol readings were taken by police.

Previously, the defence could call an expert on blood-alcohol absorption rates and its expulsion from the body to theorize that readings may not have been as high as recorded.

It was then up to the judge to weigh the facts from the readings and the expert’s evidence.

Depending on the outcome in provincial court, either the Crown or the defence will likely appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

And depending on that outcome, the losing side is expected to ask leave of the court to have the Supreme Court of Canada make a final ruling.

Sproule challenged the new law, passed in July 2008, this spring. The legislation limits technical defences in drunk driving cases.

Provincial court Judge Bart Rosborough said he’s available to hear the majority of the cases but other judges are required on at least four cases.

Sproule said earlier that other Canadian lawyers are working through their court systems on similar cases.

Sproule said the first case that makes it to the Supreme Court will likely put the other challenges on hold while the high court makes a decision, if it grants leave to hear the case in the first place.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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