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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

(Canadian Press)

Just Posted

Machine pistol among 14 firearms seized from Alaska man at Abbotsford border crossing

Corey Scott Kettering faces charges of smuggling and prohibited firearm possession

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Mission asks public for feedback on proposed Tree Management Bylaw

Currently, tree removal and cutting can take place without a permit

UFV to launch Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Abbotsford

Online event on Sept. 24 features keynote speaker Bob Rae and Steven Point

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in Mission RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving RCMP holding cell, police say; family has doubts

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read