EDMONTON - An Alberta judge has ruled three people who lost their driver's licences under a new impaired driving law will not get them back pending the outcome of their constitutional challenge.

Chief Justice Neil Wittman of Court of Queen's Bench ruled that returning their licences would mean many more people would likely apply as well to get their licences back.

"The balance of convenience does not favour the granting of a stay," Wittman wrote in his decision released Tuesday.

"To grant a stay at this point would effectively determine the issue, finally, for the applicant and potentially for a great many other Albertans whose driver's licences are currently suspended."

The province's new law came into effect last July and, in five months, police charged more than 4,000 people with impaired driving offences.

Under the law, drivers who blow over .08 have their vehicles impounded for three days and lose their licences until their cases are resolved in court.

Lawyers for three people charged under the law filed a constitutional challenge in November, arguing the legislation presumes guilt and violates people's rights by suspending their licences indefinitely.

They say other provinces have passed similar laws but they all specify a fixed period of time for licence suspensions.

Wittman ruled the challenge is not a frivolous one and the licence suspensions have affected the work and family relationships of the three applicants in the case.

But he said allowing them to drive again would also "deny the public a large part of the benefit of the legislation in advance of a determination on the merits."

Lawyer Fred Kozak, one of the lawyers representing the three, said he doesn't plan to appeal the ruling.

He expects the constitutional challenge will be argued in court in May or June.

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  • For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: Automatic criminal charge

  • For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: Immediate licence suspension which is sustained until criminal charge is resolved.

  • For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: 2nd charge: sustained licence suspension, 7- day vehicle seizure, "Impact" course.

  • For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: 1st charge: sustained licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure, "Planning Ahead" course.

  • For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: 3rd charge: sustained licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, "Impact" course.

  • For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: Mandatory ignition interlock after criminal conviction - 1 year for 1st conviction; 3 years for 2nd conviction; 5 years for 3rd conviction.

  • For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08: 1st offence - Immediate 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.

  • For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08: 2nd offence - Immediate 15-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, "Planning Ahead" course.

  • For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08: 3rd offence - Immediate 30-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, "Impact" course.

  • For new (GDL) drivers with blood alcohol over .00: GDL driver found with any blood alcohol - Immediate 30-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure