Stricter drunk driving laws to take effect across Canada today

It gives police officers the right to ask for a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop

New rules that increase penalties for drunk driving and expand police powers to demand breath samples take effect across Canada on Tuesday, with some predicting the law will face a series of legal challenges.

The legislation, which passed in June at the same time as new rules for drug-impaired driving, is intended to curb injuries and death by helping police catch drivers with more than the legal limit of alcohol in their bloodstreams.

READ MORE: Drivers can expect compulsory breathe tests at road checks

It gives police officers the right to ask for a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop, lowering the bar from the previous legislation, which required that an officer have reasonable suspicion that a person had been drinking. Such a system is already in place in more than 40 countries.

Toronto-based lawyer Michael Engel, who often defends those charged with impaired driving, said the new rules are a big change that raise concerns about baseless searches.

“This is a radical departure from previous law, which insulated people against warrantless searches without probable cause,” he said.

The new rules could lead to a backlog in the legal system as lower courts wait for higher courts to make a decision on likely challenges to the law’s constitutionality, he said.

“It’s a brave new world,” Engel said. “This is a wholesale change to the criminal code.”

RELATED: Police in Ontario resort to ‘naming and shaming’ drunk drivers

Civil rights organizations have also sounded alarms about the new rules, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressing concern that mandatory alcohol screening will unfairly affect racial minorities who are disproportionately singled out by cops for traffic stops.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has said she has “every expectation” the law will be challenged in the courts, but noted that she’s sure it’ll pass the test. She said it’s in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Toronto police spokesman Sgt. Brett Moore said the lower standard for administering breath tests gives officers another tool in their belt to stop drunk drivers.

“Police miss a lot of impaired drivers,” he said, noting that people can be quite good at masking their impairment.

“It’s just a really good, strong message that there’s a real high likelihood that if you get stopped by police, you’re going to get asked to submit to a breath test.”

The new law has also been welcomed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which said mandatory alcohol screening has a proven track record of making roads safer.

READ MORE: Supreme Court upholds B.C.’s drunk driving laws

Under the new rules, maximum penalties for many alcohol-impaired driving offences are being bumped up to 10 years from five, which the federal government and police forces alike hope will act as a deterrent for would-be drunk drivers.

But Engel said that whether it has an effect remains to be seen.

“To date, it’s not apparent that any of the measures, which are already quite punitive, are having any deterrent effect,” he said.

Provincial police in Ontario noted that between the beginning of 2018 and the middle of November, its officers had laid more than 7,300 impaired driving charges.

According to federal statistics, an average of almost four people die in Canada daily due to impaired driving.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

(Canadian Press)

Just Posted

Snowfall warning for Kootenay and Paulson passes

Up to 30 cm expected in mountain passes Saturday and Sunday.

Nelson Leafs hang on to edge Chase Heat 4-3

Nelson has won 14 of its last 15 games

Community Futures launches cannabis consultation program

The Cannabis Business Transition Initiative helps businesses move into the legal economy

Nelson receives over $400,000 in gaming grants

The annual funds are handed out to non-profit sports and arts organizations

Kootenay Patricks assemble to take on Montreal Canadiens alumni

The charity game takes place Jan. 23 in Nelson

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

VIDEO: B.C. man trapped under ATV for days shows promise at Victoria hospital

Out of induced coma, 41-year-old is smiling, squeezing hands and enjoying sunshine

Most Read