It may sound unbelievable, but Canada’s revised laws on impaired driving could see police demand breath samples from people in bars, restaurants, or even at home. And if you say no, you could be arrested, face a criminal record, ordered to pay a fine, and subjected to a driving suspension.
You could be in violation of the impaired driving laws even two hours after you’ve been driving. Now, the onus is on drivers to prove they weren’t impaired when they were on the road.
Changes to Section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada took effect in December giving police greater powers to seek breath samples from drivers who might be driving while impaired.
Under the new law, police officers no longer need to have a “reasonable suspicion” the driver had consumed alcohol. Now, an officer can demand a sample from drivers for any reason at any time.
He described a scenario in which someone has gone home and watches a hockey game, enjoys a few beers, and gets a knock on the door from police, who received a tip about someone in the house who was driving a vehicle suspiciously.
“The person answers the door and they say, ‘Sir, we’ve had a complaint about your driving, we need you to provide a sample,” said Neuberger, noting if the person failed to provide the sample it would likely lead to arrest.
Engel said someone could be unjustly prosecuted. If a disgruntled business associate or spouse called police with a complaint and an officer went to investigate at the persons’ home or place of business, police could demand a breath sample.
While criminal lawyers predict the new law will be challenged, likely through appeal courts and even to the Supreme Court of Canada, they expect that process will take several years. In the meantime, they say drivers are vulnerable to unfair arrests and prosecution.