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

High death rate at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Abbotsford has the worst-performing large hospital in B.C. on key safety measure

VIDEO: Fence saves driver from 50-ft plummet after crash in Abbotsford

Young man walks away uninjured after crash leaves him dangling over steep rock embankment

VIDEO: Look back at the 1977 Abbotsford International Airshow

New images from the 1977 show have recently surfaced online

UPDATED: Mission man dies at CP Rail yard in Coquitlam

Kirk Charles McLean had been working as a locomotive engineer and had 32 years of experience

Identity confirmed of body found in torched vehicle in Abbotsford

Sukhdev Dhaliwal, 48, had rented the Chevy Tahoe before his death last month

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Raptors fans show Kawhi the love in his return to Toronto

Leonard receives championship ring, leads new club to win

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

Snowfall warning issued for Coquihalla Highway

Up to 25 cm of snow is expected to fall in the region by Thursday

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by pellet gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Most Read