Bill 21: Alberta’s Tough New DUI Laws


On December 1st, 2020, the Alberta Government announced sweeping new and stricter changes to DUI laws across the province. 

Bill 21, also known as the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act (which we discussed in a previous post “Bill 21: What You Need To Know”) has now officially been passed into law.  

Under the new impaired driving laws, first time and repeat offenders can expect harsher penalties if they are caught driving under the influence. This new law aims to make roads safer, reduce congestion in courts, and enforce police to focus on traffic and non-criminal impaired driving matters on the street rather than in courtrooms. It is based on similar laws that have been implemented in British Columbia. 

We take a look at the most significant changes in Bill 21

What Are The Significant Changes Under Bill 21? 

For First-Time Offenders 

Unlike the previous law, first-time offenders will face harsher penalties if caught driving under the influence. This will also apply to novice drivers and commercial drivers. Offenders can expect: 

  • Vehicle seized for 30 days,
  • An immediate 15-month driver’s licence suspension 
  • A $1,000 fine 
  • Will be required to complete mandatory impaired-driving education.

Unless they have caused bodily harm or death, most first-time offenders won’t necessarily face a criminal charge. Their cases will be handled outside the Alberta Courts and through SafeRoads Alberta – a new adjudication branch that allows offenders to pay penalties, request more time, sanction reviews and request or dispute their vehicle seizure.

For Repeat Offenders 

Not much has changed for repeat offenders. The only significant difference is that they will now face a mandatory education program and ignition interlocks. 

  Those that are repeat offenders or who have caused harm or death (even first-time offenders), will be required to appear in Court, carry Criminal Code charges and face administrative penalties.

Administering The Law 

Perhaps the biggest change to the law is the manner in which it is administered. 

Previously, traffic officers who had reasonable grounds to believe a person had committed a DUI, issued an Alberta Administrative Licence Suspension. This administrative penalty included an immediate 15-month driving suspension and seized the vehicle for three days. 

Drivers were allowed to get behind the wheel after three months if they installed an ignition interlock device, while they could appeal with the Alberta Traffic Safety Board within 30 days to have the manner overturned. 

 Now, a traffic officer issues an administrative penalty called the IRS FAIL, which includes a requisite fine and suspension. Drivers though will again be able to drive after three months if they install an ignition interlock device. However, if they refuse, they will now have to serve the full licence suspension. 

Drivers can appeal through SafeRoads Alberta but will have to schedule their oral review within 21 days or 30 days for written reviews. 

 For more detailed information on the key differences, check the table below, provided by the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act Overview



Hiring A DUI Lawyer in Calgary 

Ultimately if the driver is unsatisfied by the review results from SafeRoads Alberta, they can seek judicial review via the Court of Queen’s Bench. In this situation, it’s best if they contact a DUI lawyer in Calgary and Edmonton to help them with their case. 

Handling these situations on your own can result in you facing the full punishments of the law. 

Joel Chevrefils of Alberta Criminal Defence Lawyers is here to defend you against all criminal charges. When charged with a criminal offence, such as impaired driving, domestic violence, or DUI, the first thing you should do is call your trusted Calgary criminal defence lawyer. His professionalism can help you with all concerns regarding your charges and the complex nature of Canada’s legal system. Chevrefils can help you with your charges in and outside Calgary, including Provincial Courts in Cochrane, Airdrie, Okotoks, Red Deer and Edmonton. Trust your case to Calgary’s most experienced criminal lawyer. Call Alberta Criminal Defence Lawyers today at (403) 830-1980.

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