Speeding law hits 2nd bump
Newmarket judge throws out stunt-driving charge as unconstitutional
By BRETT CLARKSON, SUN MEDIA
Last Updated: 24th November 2009, 8:28am
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For a second time, a provincial court has put up a stop sign on the province's stunt-driving law.
A Newmarket judge threw out the stunt-driving charge laid against an 18-year-old woman who was accused by police of driving 157 km/h on Hwy. 407, near Pine Valley Dr., in March 2008.
Alexandra Drutz had pleaded not guilty to the charge, laid under Section 172 of the Highway Traffic Act.
Judge Peter West ruled the law isn't constitutional because a person charged under the legislation can't mount a defence even though the violation carries a possible penalty of six months in jail.
He released his decision last week.
In September, Judge G.J. Griffin of the Napanee provincial court overturned the conviction of Oakville's Jane Raham, 62, who was clocked at more than 50 km/h over the limit. Griffin found the conviction unconstitutional.
The province has appealed Griffin's decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. A decision is expected in January.
Attorney General Chris Bentley yesterday called the law an important public safety initiative and said it'll continue to be enforced despite this second ruling.
"The law was brought in to save lives," Bentley said.
He said he'd be taking a look at West's ruling before deciding whether to appeal it, but added he's not planning to make any changes until the Court of Appeal rules on the Raham case.
The law gives cops the power to impound an accused speeder's car -- on the spot -- for seven days and sets fines of between $2,000 and $10,000.
Vincenzo Rondinelli, a lawyer in the Drutz case, said that despite the worthy motivations behind the law, it's flawed.
"Obviously it came on the heels of some very horrific types of crashes on our highways," Rondinelli said. "No one is going to doubt that that is a problem and we all want to fight it.
"It just has to be done in a way that meets the constitutional paramaters we have in Canada," he said.
Rondinelli and lawyer Paul Cooper successfully argued that the potential for a jail term, while remote, is an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the law doesn't permit the accused to mount a defence or give reasons for why they might have been speeding.
The stunt-driving law targets drivers travelling at 50 km/h over the posted speed limit.
Rondinelli said drivers shouldn't assume they can now speed without facing a harsh penalty.
The judge's ruling doesn't yet change anything and police will continue to enforce the law.