Article by Jeff Lagerquist, CTV News
Proposed changes to Canada’s impaired driving laws could allow police to show up at your doorstep and demand a breath sample a full day after you arrive at home, according to a criminal lawyer studying the issue.
Officers may also be within the law to lay charges within two hours of a driver exiting their vehicle.
The changes outlined in Bill C-46, currently before Parliament alongside the marijuana legalization legislation, are raising a number of red flags for legal experts — some who say the plan blatantly steps on constitutional rights.
“If you are completely sober, you drive your car to a wine tasting or cocktail party. You plan to leave it there, and you have some drinks at the party. If the police have reason to come and question you, and they smell some alcohol on your breath, you can actually be charged with drinking after driving,” Ottawa-based criminal lawyer Michael Spratt told CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday.
The Trudeau government introduced the overhaul in July as the federal government unveiled its roadmap to legalize recreational marijuana. Mandatory roadside breath samples and much harsher penalties for some offences that could result in up to 10 years in prison were among the measures.
Spratt said one particularly troubling proposal shifts the burden of proof from law enforcement to the accused. For example, someone who is approached by police in their home would have to demonstrate that alcohol or drugs were consumed after they exited their vehicle instead of before they drove.
The idea is to rule out situations where drivers claim they were not over the legal limit because alcohol was not fully absorbed into their system, or attempt to flee the scene of an accident, return home, and claim the alcohol was consumed there.
Legal observers have pointed out that this may run contrary to the presumption of innocence.