Controversial revisions to Canada’s impaired driving laws could see police follow motorists into a bar, restaurant, or even their home to demand a breath sample, up to two hours after you finish driving.
Intended to give law enforcement greater powers when administering breath tests, the revisions to Section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada came into effect in December, yet the public remains largely unaware.
Under the new law police no longer require reasonable cause to request a breath sample, meaning that officers can force random motorists to blow for no justifiable reason.
It is just common sense to allow police to have more powers when trying to eradicate impaired driving, but a report this week by Global News consumer watchdog Sean O’Shea shows that the type of policing this encourages has already been abused in Ontario.
Returning bottles to the Beer Store? Beware of possible breath test by police
A 70-year-old Streetsville man named Art, contacted O’Shea after he was pulled over by police and forced to give a breath sample after he was seen returning empties to The Beer Store.
The man told O’Shea that “He said, ‘I saw you at the Beer Store and to me, you were taking back, what looked like in my opinion, an excessive amount of bottles’”.
When Art asked what would happen if he refused, the officer informed him that he would be arrested, be charged criminally and have his licence suspended.
The gentleman agreed to the test, passed and went on his way, but “felt like I was violated in a way.” Adding that “They shouldn’t have that right to pull a person over unless there is a good sign the person is doing something wrong.”
All because it occurred to some enterprising police officer that people returning empties might have already been drinking and was judging that by the number of empty bottles people were returning.
In the past, police had to have reason to believe that a driver was under the influence of alcohol before demanding a breath test.
Art’s story is a real-world example of how this new law can be abused at the roadside, but let’s have a look at the other aspect of the law for a moment.
Imagine that you have had a rough day at work, followed by a rougher commute home. You walk into your house at 7 pm, pour yourself a stiff drink and relax in front of the TV. Soon, you pour yourself a couple more drinks. By 8:45, you have enjoyed three healthy scotches. One drink every thirty minutes isn’t a stretch for many of us. You hear a knock at the door and answering the door, you find a police officer, who explains that someone reported you driving erratically. The officer demands that you must now blow into his little machine when you are fully aware that you have had a few after driving. If you refuse to blow, you are arrested and charged criminally. If you blow over, you are charged with impaired driving, even though you caught your buzz while sitting on your couch.
Look, we all know that drinking and driving is stupid. We also all know that it continues to be a problem that needs to be battled. Putting laws into place that basically constitute an intrusion into our civil rights in an effort to combat impaired driving is not the answer. We will be watching this story as it develops in the coming months.
Ontario Gets Tough on Distracted Driving
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