What is an Alberta Administrative License Suspension?
An Alberta Administrative License Suspension, commonly referred to as an AALS, entails a driver of a vehicle having their license suspended for a set period of time due to an impaired driving allegation. The suspension is administered under the Traffic Safety Act which outlines the procedure, beginning at section 88.1.
The wording of the legislation is long, complicated, and difficult to read and interpret. In short, pursuant to the Traffic Safety Act, a peace officer will issue you a “Notice of Suspension/Disqualification” if they believe that you:
- Are impaired by alcohol or drugs or a combination of the two,
- Failed or refused to comply with a demand to test your sobriety,
- The concentration of alcohol in your blood is equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood,
- Your blood drug concentration equals or exceeds a blood drug concentration prescribed by regulation, or
- Your blood alcohol concentration and blood drug concentration are equal to or exceed the blood alcohol concentration and blood drug concentration prescribed by regulation.
If a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you committed an impaired driving offence, they will serve you with a “Notice of Suspension/Disqualification.” Your license will immediately be suspended. Your vehicle will be seized for 3 days if this is your first AALS, or 7 days if you have received an AALS in the past.
You may also receive a criminal impaired driving charge alongside the AALS. Note that your AALS and your criminal proceedings are completely separate and distinct matters. Decisions made by criminal courts with respect to the related criminal charges have absolutely no bearing on your provincial license suspension. Regardless of the outcome of your criminal charges in criminal court, your AALS will remain in effect.
The only way to avoid serving the 15-month AALS is to successfully appeal the suspension. It is important to note that there is a 30-day deadline to appeal your license suspension. If you have had your license suspended, it is critical that you obtain a competent defence lawyer as quickly as possible, to not miss out on the opportunity to appeal.
What are the different types of roadside license suspensions?
Your driving privileges will be affected differently depending on which license suspension you are given.
- Alberta Administrative License Suspension (“AALS”): The AALS program imposes a 15-month license suspension to drivers who have been charged with an alcohol or drug-impaired offence. Your vehicle will be seized for 3 days if it is your first AALS, and for 7 days for a subsequent one.
- Alberta Zero Alcohol and Drug Tolerance Program for Novice/GDL (“AZAT”): If you are a Novice/GDL driver and alcohol or drugs are detected with an approved screening device, your license will be suspended for 30 days and your vehicle will be seized for 7 days.
- Immediate Roadside Sanction (“IRS”): Your license will be suspended if your blood alcohol concentration is equal to or exceeds 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood.
- First suspension: 3 days plus 3-day vehicle seizure.
- Second suspension: 15 days plus 7-day vehicle seizure. You will be required to participate in a Mandatory Education Program.
- Third suspension: 30 days plus 7-day vehicle seizure. You will be required to participate in a Mandatory Education Program and will have to appear for a Board Review of your driving privileges.
The peace officer who issues your license suspension will fill out and serve you with a “Notice of Suspension/Disqualification.” This Notice will indicate whether you have received an AALS, AZAT, or IRS, as well as the reason(s) for your license suspension.
What is the Alberta Administrative License Suspension Ignition Interlock program?
The Ignition Interlock, colloquially referred to as a “blow box,” is a breathalyzer installed in your vehicle which requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece before operating the vehicle. It prevents your car engine from being started if it detects alcohol on your breath.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be an Alberta resident,
- Have 30 days or less remaining in your minimum 90-day driving suspension term, and
- Not be currently serving any other suspensions.
You can apply for the Ignition Interlock program by purchasing an application from any Alberta Registry Agent and submitting it to Driver Fitness and Monitoring. You will receive a letter in the mail advising you of whether you have been accepted. You will then have to get the device installed in your vehicle and consult an Alberta Registry Agent to obtain a restricted driver’s license.
Penalties for an Administrative License Suspension in Calgary
An Alberta Administrative License Suspension is not a criminal offence. Because it is issued by the provincial government and not the federal government, it will not show up on your criminal record. This holds true regardless of whether you fight the AALS or not.
However, an AALS can have very significant consequences.
- Immediate consequences:
- Suspension: The suspension is for a duration of 15 months. After the initial 90-day period, you are eligible to apply for and participate in the Ignition Interlock program for 12 months. If you do not participate in the Ignition Interlock program, your license will be suspended for an additional 12 months after the initial 90-day period (15 months total).
- Costs of Ignition Interlock program:
- $63 + the Alberta Registry Agent fee for the application,
- $145 + gst for the installation,
- $95 + gst per month for renting the device, and
- $50 + gst for the removal.
- Collateral consequences:
- Insurance premium spikes: Because it will show on your driver’s abstract that you participated in the Ignition Interlock program, your insurance provider may increase your insurance premiums.
Appealing an Administrative License Suspension in Calgary
How do I file an appeal to get my license back?
An AALS has a short window of time where you are able to appeal. You must initiate the appeal within 30 days of receiving the suspension in order to be heard by the Alberta Transportation Safety Board (ATSB). The process for appealing an administrative license suspension is outlined in Section 39.2 of the Traffic Safety Act. There are several critical steps in this process:
1. Purchasing the appeal package
You must purchase an “Application for Hearing” from an Alberta Registry Agent. There are two types of hearings:
Your application form fee will be refunded if your appeal is successful.
2. Filing the appeal
Once you purchase the form, at the very least, you must:
- Complete the top portion of the form with your information;
- Tick the boxes indicating that you are including a copy of the “Notice of Suspension/Disqualification” and that you are granting the police permission to provide full disclosure to the ATSB of all evidence in this matter;
- Either write out the reasons for appeal, OR indicate that the reasons for appeal will follow once you have received the police disclosure package;
- Sign and date the form; and
- Submit (or have your lawyer submit) the original physical form, along with a copy of your “Notice of Suspension/Disqualification” to the ATSB at the following address:
Alberta Transportation Safety Board
Suite 302, Willow Park Centre
10325 Bonaventure Drive SE
Calgary, AB T2J 7E4
3. Submitting argument on appeal
The written argument can be submitted at the same time as filing the appeal, or after receiving the police information package (disclosure).
If the written argument is being submitted later, it must be sent to both the ATSB and the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
Alberta Transportation Safety Board
Suite 302, Willow Park Center
10325 Bonavista Drive SE
Calgary, AB T2J 7E4
Registrar of Motor Vehicles
2nd Floor Peace Hills Trust Tower
10011 – 109 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 3S8
Regardless of the type of hearing you choose, the Board will consider all the relevant information before it, including:
- Police disclosure including reports and notes,
- Sworn or affirmed statements,
- Footage such as Body Worn Camera and In-Car Digital Video, and
- Any other relevant information.
If you want the Board to consider your side of the story (beyond just the legal arguments), you should consider submitting an affidavit (a sworn or affirmed statement of your version of events) as part of your materials.
The Registrar (the opposing party to a license suspension appeal) will be arguing that your AALS should be confirmed based on the evidence provided by police.
After considering the evidence and the arguments made by both sides, the Board will either uphold your license suspension or cancel it if it is satisfied that you did not commit the offence. In either case, they will notify you of their decision in writing.
If your license suspension is cancelled, you will be able to go to an Alberta Registry Agent to get your license back and will be refunded for the application form fee.
What are the best arguments to appeal my administrative license suspension?
Although losing your driving privileges can have incredibly negative and potentially long-term consequences for you, the Board cannot consider any issues of hardship caused by your license suspension. For example, if you lose your job because you need a valid license to work, or if you need your license to drive your children to school, the Board will not consider those factors in making its decision.
Impaired driving investigations are highly technical in nature and every case is fact specific. The strongest arguments to successfully appeal your AALS will depend on the particular circumstances of your case.
The grounds for appeal of an AALS will typically include:
- Factual innocence: You can argue that you did not commit the offence that you are being accused of. For example, if you received an AALS because you drove a motor vehicle while you were impaired, you can argue that you were not impaired or that you were not driving a vehicle.
- Evidence was collected in a way that violated your rights: If the police collected evidence in a way that was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Board will not consider it. For example, if the police obtain breath samples from you after having violated your Charter right to counsel, the Board might decide against considering the results of the breath sampling procedure.
- Reasonable excuse: If you received an AALS because the police claim that you refused or failed to comply with a demand, you can argue that you had a reasonable excuse to do so. For example, if you tried to provide a breath sample but were not able to because of a medical condition, or if you refused to provide a breath sample because you were not properly afforded your right to contact a lawyer, you may be able to convince the Board that you had a reasonable excuse to fail to comply with the demand.
- Technical defences: There are a number of technical defences that our lawyers can utilize to appeal your license suspension. For example, if the Registrar does not provide the Board with a copy of your “Notice of Suspension/Disqualification,” you may be able to argue that there is insufficient evidence that you were served with a copy of the Notice, and that it would be unfair for the Board to uphold your license suspension without being satisfied of which charges formed the basis for your suspension.
How can I help appeal my administrative license suspension in Calgary?
If you have been served with an administrative license suspension in Calgary, the following can help your lawyer prepare their written or oral argument:
- Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and record about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, receipts, prescriptions, or photographic evidence.
As soon as you can, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. If you are uncertain about what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action for gathering information.
What can a lawyer do to help me appeal my administrative license suspension in Calgary?
The Registrar will provide you with a copy of the disclosure package that will be presented to the Transportation Safety Board for your hearing. In preparation for the hearing, our lawyers will do the following:
- Thoroughly review police actions and the evidence against you,
- Prepare the arguments for your hearing, and
- Assemble evidence to support your arguments.
Some of the strategies that our lawyers use include:
- Preparing and having you and/or other witnesses swear or affirm an Affidavit in support of your version of events,
- Assembling photos and videos,
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police which undermine your Charter-protected rights,
- Researching past ATSB decisions that support your arguments, and
- Uncovering administrative and technical errors.
Our experienced impaired driving lawyers will then argue before the Board, either in person for an oral hearing or with persuasive written arguments, that your license suspension should be cancelled.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation; however, impaired driving investigations are highly technical in nature and fact-specific.
Even if you think that there is no hope that your appeal would be successful, our team of experienced impaired driving lawyers will review your case thoroughly and find as many arguments as possible to challenge your license suspension.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Calgary Impaired Driving Lawyers within the 30-day appeal period to conduct a thorough review of your situation. We will tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful license appeal.