Lawyer questions new rules that allow police to conduct breathalyzer tests hours later
New Canadian rules are giving police more power to catch impaired drivers.
Police can now demand a breath sample any time, any place, even if the suspected drunk driver is no longer behind the wheel, two hours later.
“The civil libertarian side I think is more important in this instance,” said Tony Merchant, Regina lawyer who sees red flags on the new impaired driving laws.
"You have to have reasonable grounds to ask somebody to get a breath test either they said they been drinking or driving erratically. Now, they can arrest anyone they like, stop anybody and make you give tests."
Last December, under Bill C-46, amendments have been made to section 253 of the Criminal Code, giving police greater power to conduct a breathalyzer test for drivers who might be impaired.
Regina Police Service Constable Jonathan Turner said police’s power to conduct an impaired driving investigation has not changed since he started policing 12 years ago.
“For me to knock on somebody’s door in regards to an impaired investigation, I have to first be given some sort of information needed from the general public or myself seeing a vehicle driving erratic or something like that,” he added.
Turner said the changes were put into place to combat the recent consumption defense of an accused. Turner told CTV News there have been previous impaired drivers involved in hit-and-run and the accused then says they consumed alcohol after the accident.
“They’re trying not to get arrested, then they get home and we get them at home and they say they consumed alcohol at home. If somebody drives sober and gets home sober, they have no expectation they will have to provide a breath sample,” the constable said.
Michelle Okere, Regional Saskatchewan Manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) Canada supports the law and they expect to see a 20 percent decrease of impaired driving fatalities.
“This is something we lobbied the federal government for. It’s something that’s in place in a variety of other countries including Australia, New Zealand and many of the European countries. Saskatchewan has been the worst province when it comes to the rates of impaired driving in all of the country.”