Your Guide to Immediate Roadside Sanctions (“IRS”) by DUI Lawyers in Calgary
Table of Contents
- What is an Immediate Roadside Sanction?
- Penalties for an Immediate Roadside Sanction in Calgary
- Reviewing an Immediate Roadside Sanction in Calgary
- What’s Next?
What is an Immediate Roadside Sanction?
An Immediate Roadside Sanction, commonly referred to as an IRS, entails a driver having their license suspended for a set period of time due to an impaired driving allegation. These sanctions are administered under the Immediate Roadside Suspension Program that came into effect in Alberta on December 1, 2020, replacing the Alberta Administrative License Suspension program. The length and type of suspension will depend on what type of license you have and the results of roadside screening. All suspensions are legislated in the Traffic Safety Act, which outlines the various procedures, 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, there are 5 different types of sanctions:
- IRS: 24-Hour
- IRS: Novice
- IRS: Commercial
- IRS Warn
- IRS: Fail
For the most serious of the sanctions (the IRS: Fail) a peace officer will issue you a “Notice of Administrative Penalty” if they believe that you:
- Are impaired to any degree by alcohol or drugs or a combination of the two,
- Failed or refused to comply with a demand to test your sobriety,
- Within 2 hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle
- The concentration of alcohol in your blood is equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
- Your blood drug concentration is over the legal limit prescribed by regulation, or
- The combination of your blood alcohol and drug concentration is over the legal limit prescribed by regulation.
If a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you committed any of the above IRS: Fail infractions your license will immediately be suspended. Your vehicle will be seized for a set period of time and you will need to participate in an education course and pay a fine. You will also need to participate in Alberta’s IRS:FAIL Ignition Interlock Program.
You may also receive a criminal impaired driving charge alongside the IRS. This may depend on the following factors:
- You have a prior DUI on your record,
- You caused bodily harm or injury, or
- You were driving with children in the vehicle.
Your IRS and any criminal proceedings you may be facing 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 IRS will remain in effect unless you appeal/review the IRS suspension.
You only have 7 days to launch a review of your license suspension.
If you have had your license suspended, it is critical that you obtain a competent IRS defence lawyer as quickly as possible, to not miss out on the opportunity to appeal.
What are the different types of IRS suspensions?
Your driving privileges will be affected differently depending on which license suspension you are given.
- IRS: 24-Hour: This sanction is imposed when a peace officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a driver’s physical or mental ability is affected from consuming drugs, alcohol, or a medical condition.
This sanction requires a lower threshold of evidence for the peace officer but results in a less serious penalty.
You will be immediately suspended from driving for 24 hours, your vehicle may be seized for 24 hours, and the peace officer may seize your driver’s license.
Once the 24-hour period expires, the suspension is lifted automatically, and you do not need to re-instate your license. You do, however, need to secure your license back from the police (if they took it) before you can drive again.
- IRS: Novice: This sanction is only imposed upon drivers who hold a learner’s license or a probationary license. A novice driver is not permitted to have any amount of alcohol in their system, and even a ‘warn’ result on a breathalyzer will result in a penalty.
You will be immediately suspended for 30 days, your vehicle will be seized for 7 days, you will receive a fine of $200 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you may be subject to additional reinstatement conditions.
- IRS: Commercial: This sanction is only imposed on drivers who are operating a commercial vehicle, such as a delivery truck or bus, with any drugs or alcohol in their system.
Like novice drivers, commercial drivers are not permitted to have any amount of alcohol in their system. The penalty for this sanction depends on whether it has happened before:
First time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 3 days, you will receive a fine of $300 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you may be subject to additional reinstatement conditions;
Second time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 15 days, you will receive a fine of $600 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you may be subject to additional reinstatement conditions;
Third or subsequent time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 30 days, you will receive a fine of $1,200 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you may be subject to additional reinstatement conditions.
- IRS: Warn: This sanction is imposed when a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver has between 50-80 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. This amount is less than what is required to be charged under the Criminal Code, but still results in sanctions. The penalty for this sanction depends on whether it has happened before:
First time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 3 days, your vehicle will be seized for 3 days, you will receive a fine of $300 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you may be subject to additional reinstatement conditions;
Second time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 15 days, your vehicle will be seized for 7 days, you will receive a fine of $600 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you will need to participate in the ½ day Crossroads education course;
Third or subsequent time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 30 days, your vehicle will be seized for 7 days, you will receive a fine of $1,200 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you will need to participate in the 2-day Impact education course.
- IRS: Fail: This sanction is imposed when a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver has committed an impaired driving offence as defined in the Criminal Code. This is the most serious type of sanction, and may also result in a criminal charge. The penalty for this sanction depends on whether it has happened before:
First time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 90 days followed by 12 months of mandatory participation in the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program, your vehicle will be seized for 30 days, you will receive a fine of $1,000 plus a victim fine surcharge, and you will need to participate in the 1-day Planning Ahead education course;
Second time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 90 days followed by 36 months of mandatory participation in the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program, your vehicle will be seized for 30 days, you will receive a fine of $2,000 plus a victim fine surcharge, you will need to participate in the 2-day Impact education course, and you will be charged under the Criminal Code;
Third or subsequent time: You will be immediately suspended from driving for 90 days followed by lifetime participation in the Alberta Ignition Interlock Program, your vehicle will be seized for 30 days, you will receive a fine of $2,000 plus a victim fine surcharge, you will need to participate in the 2-day Impact education course, and you will be charged under the Criminal Code.
The peace officer who issues your license suspension will fill out and serve you with a “Notice of Administrative Penalty.” This Notice will indicate the type of IRS, the penalty, and the reason(s) for your license suspension.
What is the Alberta Ignition Interlock program?
The Ignition Interlock, colloquially referred to as a “blow box,” refers to a breathalyzer installed in your vehicle which would require you to blow into a mouthpiece before operating the vehicle. It prevents your car engine from being started if it detects alcohol on your breath. If you receive an IRS Fail, you will need to participate in the Alberta Ignition Interlock program for a set period of time prior to your license being reinstated without conditions.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be an Alberta resident,
- Have 30 days or less remaining on your minimum 90-day driving suspension term,
- Complete the required remedial education course (you must present your course completion certificate to the installer at your installation appointment), 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.
The Traffic Safety Act does allow for exemptions to the mandatory blow box.
In order to be exempted, a driver must show it is not feasible to comply with the requirement. Feasibility is defined as “the physical incapacity or physical incapability to comply”.
Feasibility does not include financial constraints, vehicle inaccessibility, or occupational hardship. In place of the blow box, you may be able to serve a longer suspension or be given an additional condition.
Penalties for an Immediate Roadside Sanction in Calgary
An Immediate Roadside Sanction is not a criminal offence. Because it is issued by the Alberta 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 IRS or not.
However, an IRS can have very significant consequences.
- Suspension: The suspension can vary depending on IRS but may be anywhere from 24 hours to 90 days and a lifetime of driving with a blow box. A first-time IRS Fail has a suspension 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). It’s important to note that getting an IRS:FAIL result for the third time results in a lifetime suspension.
- Costs of Ignition Interlock Program:
- $63 + gst for the Alberta Registry Agent fee for the application,
- $145 + gst for the installation ($245 for heavy trucks and specialty vehicles),
- $95 + gst per month for renting the device, and
- $50 + gst for the removal.
- Fines and Tow Bills: An IRS can come with heavy fines depending on the type of sanction. The amount can vary between $200 and $2,000. These fines may also include a victim fine surcharge, making it a costly penalty. Additionally, you will be required to pay any fees related to the seizure, towing, and storage of your vehicle.
- Cost of Mandatory Education Courses:
- 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.
Reviewing an Immediate Roadside Sanction in Calgary
How do I schedule a review to get my license back?
The window of time for appealing an IRS is very short. You must initiate the appeal within 7 days of receiving the suspension in order to be heard by SafeRoads Alberta.
SafeRoads is the adjudicative branch of Alberta Transportation and resolves appeals within 30 days. The process for appealing an administrative license suspension is outlined on the back of your notice of administrative penalty and on the SafeRoads website.
There are several critical steps in this process:
- Log in to the Administrative Penalty Information System (APIS)
The APIS is an online portal which allows suspended drivers to pay fines, access their disclosure, schedule a review of their suspension, and upload documents. You can access the portal on the SafeRoads website or click here. In order to find your matter, you will need to input your:
- Last name;
- Date of birth;
- Contravention number (found at the top of the Notice of Administrative Penalty); and
- Occurrence time.
- Request the review
Once you log in to the portal, you may request a review of your IRS, either in written or oral form. This review has a non-refundable fee of $150. To request the review, find the box on the right side of the main page entitled “Apply for a Review”. It looks like this:
Note that you must request a review within 7 days of your suspension. While late reviews can be allowed up to 12 months after the date you are suspended, late reviews are only permitted if you were not aware of the administrative penalty, you were unable to respond due to physical or mental incapacity, or you experienced unforeseen and unavoidable events rendering you unable to respond. Late reviews are exceptional, it’s best to take prompt action in order for your review request to be considered.
- Schedule a review
After requesting a review, you must then select a date and time. This date must be within 21 days of your suspension. You can change this date and time one time before the scheduled review however, it still must fall within 21 days of the suspension. While SafeRoads offers several options for a review slot, it cannot guarantee additional time slots will be available, so ensure you book a day that will allow time for your defence to be prepared.
- Upload your documents
Your written argument and any supporting documents (such as witness statements or photographs) can be submitted through the portal. They must be submitted at least 2 full calendar days before the scheduled review.
Regardless of the type of hearing you choose, SafeRoads 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 SafeRoads 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 review) will be arguing that your IRS should be confirmed based on the evidence provided by police.
After considering the evidence and the arguments made by both sides, SafeRoads 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 within 30 days of your suspension.
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.
While all the above can be done by you, due to the technical nature of the review, it is highly recommended that you hire a licensed lawyer. Once retained, we can perform all the steps on your behalf.
What are the best arguments to appeal my immediate roadside sanction?
Although losing your driving privileges can have incredibly negative and potentially long-term consequences for you, SafeRoads 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, SafeRoads 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 IRS will depend on the particular circumstances of your case.
The grounds for appeal of an IRS 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 IRS 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, SafeRoads will not consider it. For example, if the police obtain breath samples from you after having violated your Charter right to counsel, SafeRoads might decide against considering the results of the breath sampling procedure.
- Reasonable excuse: If you received an IRS 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 SafeRoads 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 SafeRoads with a copy of your “Notice of Administrative Penalty,” 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 SafeRoads to uphold your license suspension without being satisfied of which charges formed the basis for your suspension.
How can I help appeal/review my immediate roadside sanction in Calgary?
If you have been served with an immediate roadside sanction 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 information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
What can a lawyer do to help me appeal my immediate roadside sanction in Calgary?
When you log into the SafeRoads portal, the Administrative Penalties Information System will provide you with access to the disclosure package that will be presented to SafeRoads 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 decisions that support your arguments, and
- Uncovering administrative and technical errors.
Our experienced impaired driving lawyers will then argue before SafeRoads, either in 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, IRS investigations (and the associated defences) are highly technical and fact-specific.
Even if you think that there is no hope that your appeal would be successful, our team of experienced impaired driving and IRS 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 lawyers within the 7-day appeal period to conduct a thorough review of your situation. We will work with you to custom tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful IRS review.