Article by Sarah Leamon, Cannabis Life Network
On December 18, 2018, impaired driving laws in this country underwent a massive overhaul. Police officers are now able to conduct roadside, warrantless searches to compel drivers to provide a breath sample…and they don’t need to form any grounds in order to do so.
Understandably, this has left a lot of people confused and looking for answers.
In this column, I will attempt to answer the five most commonly asked questions about changes to Canada’s impaired driving laws.
1. How have impaired driving laws changed?
While there have been a number of changes to Canada’s impaired driving laws, the most notable change in alcohol-impaired driving law has to do with the procedure at the roadside.
Prior to December 18, 2018, police officers who stopped a motor vehicle were required to perform a preliminary investigation prior to making a breathalyzer demand. This was in order to determine whether or not they had reasonable grounds to suspect that the motorist had alcohol in their body.
In the course of this investigation, officers could ask a simple question like, “have you had anything to drink tonight?”. They could also make note of physical symptoms of alcohol consumption, like bloodshot, glassy eyes, slurred speech or coordination issues.
If, after considering these factors, the officer felt that they had reasonable grounds to suspect that the person had alcohol in their body, they could ask them to submit to a roadside breathalyzer test. Without such grounds, the officer could not make such a demand and the motorist would be allowed to continue on.
Under the new law, the reasonable suspicion standard for alcohol impaired driving has been done away with. A police officer no longer needs to form any grounds whatsoever in order to compel a driver to undergo a roadside breath test. The test is now arbitrary and mandatory in nature.
The sole precondition in making a breathalyzer demand is that the officer must have a device on hand. If they do not, then they must form a reasonable suspicion in order to detain the driver until one becomes available to them.
2. Why have the impaired driving laws changed?
These changes were brought about by Bill C-46. This bill was introduced as the companion bill to Bill C-45, aka the Cannabis Act, which legalized recreational cannabis on October 17, 2018.
The rationale behind these changes boiled down to safety. Proponents of the changes said that they were necessary in order to increase road safety and to better protect the community given the legalization of cannabis.