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Calgary Criminal Law & Misdemeanours Law Blog

How does plea bargaining work in Canada?

The Law Reform Commission of Canada defines plea bargaining as "an agreement by the accused to plead guilty in return for the prosecutor's agreeing to take or refrain from taking a particular course of action."

While that basic definition provides an overview of how plea bargaining works in Canada, it is important to realize that there are three specific categories:

Court finds drunk driving sentence not too harsh

The Alberta Court of Appeal found that a six-year prison sentence imposed on a drunk driver who killed a motorcyclist was in line with the law.

A 2 – 1 split decision led to the dismissal of the argument filed by the man who caused the accident. While he believed the sentence was too harsh, the court disagreed. The justice overseeing the case noted that the punishment reflected the seriousness of the crime, adding the following: "Sentences for impaired driving causing death have increased in recent years, commensurate with legislative changes and society's need to deter and denunciate the senseless loss of life on Canadian road."

Alberta man facing 2 murder charges

A 27-year-old man has been charged with two counts of murder following a multi-agency investigation involving police from Alberta and British Columbia. The Edmonton resident is facing a charge of homicide in the first degree in connection with the October 2014 shooting of a 23-year-old-man in Richmond, B.C., and a second-degree murder charge for his alleged involvement in the death of a man in Edmonton in July 2014.

According to police, the investigation uncovered a string of street-level violent crimes including home invasions, armed robberies and drug trafficking. Officers say that the killings were likely intended to spread fear and send a message to other gangs. Authorities have reported that additional arrests are likely to be made in connection with the case.

New appeal filed in connection with Alberta drunk driving law

On March 31, news sources reported that a drunk driving law that has been in effect in Alberta since July 2012 is facing a new appeal. Under this law, motorists who are charged with impairment lose their driving privileges pending resolution of their cases in court. In addition, the vehicles of allegedly impaired drivers are impounded for three days; however, statements made by lawyers who filed a constitutional challenge on behalf of a group of clients in November 2012 suggest that the fixed period of time for vehicle impoundment may be less problematic for charged motorists than the loss of the driver's licence for an indeterminate period of time.

Lawyers for the three motorists argued that the Alberta drunk driving law presumes guilt and violates both the Charter of Rights and the rights of the charged individuals. In February 2013, the judge ruled against the motorists, who were seeking to drive pending the outcome of the constitutional challenge. In the ruling, however, the judge also said that the challenge was not frivolous and that the licence suspensions had impacted the motorists' work and family relationships.

3 face drug charges in Alberta following 2 overdose deaths

In Alberta, two men and one woman are facing drug charges following the deaths of two people on the Blood reserve. News sources indicate that the decedents, who were found at a home in Standoff on March 20, are believed to have overdosed on a potent batch of illegal fentanyl. Sources say that two additional people were taken to hospital in connection with the incident. At press time, information regarding their condition is not available.

Illegally produced fentanyl has reportedly been linked to more than 100 deaths in the southern reserve in 2014, and police indicate that more than 88,000 pills were seized in surrounding communities from April 2014 through March 2015. Unlike fentanyl that is produced legally for pharmaceutical use, the illegal version of the drug, which can be stronger and more toxic than morphine, is created in covert drug labs and sold on the street in pill or powder form. Sources report that some fentanyl buyers may be led to believe that they are purchasing heroin or OxyContin.

Case against Alberta nurse proceeds with juvenile's testimony

The criminal case against a Calgary nurse who formerly worked at the Alberta Children's Hospital proceeded with testimony by a juvenile on the trial's first day. The 46-year-old nurse is facing charges of sexual interference and sexual assault for conduct that allegedly occurred at the hospital in September 2011.

According to the teenager's testimony, the man touched him sexually on his genitals and talked about masturbation to him twice after he went to the hospital for treatment of an abscess. The young man was reportedly 13 years old at the time of the alleged incident.

RCMP charge 2 in connection with $400K Alberta drug bust

According to authorities with the Grande Prairie RCMP, two men have been charged in connection with a drug case in which police reportedly discovered $412,000 in cash. The charges came after law enforcement officials executed search warrants on March 1.

The warrants were executed by officers on two vehicles and two separate apartments. The apartments were located in the areas of 97th Street and 82nd Avenue in Patterson as well as near 96th Avenue and 92nd Street in Smith. Upon the searches, officers reportedly recovered the cash as well as 915 grams of alleged cocaine, 2 ounces of heroin, 507 fentanyl pills and 10 ounces of meth.

Alberta licence suspensions upheld

An Alberta law that suspends the licences of anyone charged with drunk driving leading up to their trial has been upheld. The law has been in effect since June 2012, but drivers whose licences were suspended after they were charged with driving under the influence challenged the law in 2013.

The drivers argued that the law rests upon a presumption of guilt before the trial and violates the rights of individuals who face the charges. Unlike other provinces, Alberta does not have a limit to how long this suspension may last. With trial dates reaching out as far as a year and a half, some individuals were advised to enter guilty pleas in order to get their licences back. However, the judge in this case argued that driving a vehicle is not a constitutional right. The judge also wrote in his opinion that the law had saved lives.

Man sentenced in $2.5 million drug bust in Alberta

On Feb. 23, a judge at Lethbridge Court of Queen's Bench sentenced a 57-year-old man to two years in a federal penitentiary after he entered a plea of guilty to one charge of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking. The drug bust, one of the biggest in Alberta's history, included approximately $2.5 million worth of marijuana.

According to the report, on Oct. 22, 2013, Royal Canadian Mounted Police pulled over an eastbound semitrailer near Crowsnest Pass on Highway 3. As they were checking the truck's log records, they noticed the odd behaviour of the Ontario man and another passenger, a 57-year-old woman. Suspecting drugs, officers searched the truck with the help of a narcotic-detection canine and located at least two kilograms of hash, about seven kilograms of cannabis resin and 136 kilograms of marijuana hidden below the sleeping area, which is enough to make at least 450,000 marijuana joints.

Understanding the differences between manslaughter and murder

Alberta residents may be interested in how the law differentiates between different types of serious crimes. When a person is killed, the circumstances surrounding it can determine the nature of the criminal charges and the minimum punishment.

The law distinguishes between acts of homicide on a few important points. First-degree murder requires that the act of killing be both intentional and planned ahead of time. This type of offence carries an automatic sentence of life imprisonment and ineligibility for parole for the first 25 years of that prison term. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, does not require that the killing be planned. However, there must still be intent to commit the homicide. The penalties for second-degree murder must be at least 10 years in prison without parole but could potentially be even longer.