Stricter impaired driving laws are set to come into force next week.
When Bill C-46 kicks in on Dec. 18, police will be able to demand a breathalyzer test from any driver pulled over for violating traffic laws or at a check stop.
Under the current law, officers must have reasonable grounds, such as bloodshot eyes, slurring, the smell of alcohol, a driver stumbling or admission of drinking, to suspect a driver is impaired to demand a breathalyzer test.
Under the new mandatory alcohol screening provisions, police will be able to demand a breath sample from a driver immediately, without having to have reasonable grounds to suspect the driver is impaired.
“The problem we face right now is many impaired drivers are not that easily detected and, in some instances, may not even show obvious signs of intoxication — at least while they’re sitting in the driver’s seat of their vehicle,” RCMP Supt. Gary Graham said at a news conference in Edmonton Monday. (CBC news)
Some lawyers have warned that the bill may violate charter protections against unreasonable searches and may be deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
The Senate amended the bill earlier this year to remove the provision allowing police to demand a breathalyzer test without reasonable grounds, but it was rejected by the House of Commons.
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould conceded the law will likely be challenged in court, but said she is “100 per cent confident” it does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government cites authorities in Ireland who credit mandatory screening laws for reducing the number of road deaths by roughly 40 per cent in the first four years after it was enacted in that country.
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By Paul Mitchell, Pushor Mitchell LLP