Liberals looking to change impaired driving laws

The Liberal government took the first step in overhauling Canada’s impaired driving (DUI) laws by announcing that it will seek to eliminate the requirement for police to first have a reasonable suspicion that there is alcohol in the driver’s body prior to making a roadside screening demand. Simply put, this means a police officer can pull a driver over and demand that he or she provide a sample of breath into a roadside instrument without having any basis for believing the driver is impaired or even consumed alcohol.

As the law currently stands, a police officer has to have reasonable grounds that a driver is impaired to make a breath demand. It is often difficult to determine if a driver is impaired based only on the driving pattern and brief interaction with the driver, so officers generally make use of a roadside screening device. If the officer smells alcohol on the driver’s breath or if the driver admits to consuming alcohol, among other things, the officer can use the screening device to assist in forming reasonable grounds. A driver will register either a Pass, Warn of Fail. If the driver registers a Fail, the police officer will have grounds to arrest and make a breath demand.

While those on the side of stopping all impaired drivers applaud this move, they overlook the incredible violation of a citizen’s right to be free from an unlawful search and seizure and arbitrary detention that are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Imagine anytime you are operating a motor vehicle, a police officer can simply pull you over and demand that you provide him with a sample of breath to determine if you are over the legal limit, no matter the circumstance. If this still seems reasonable under impaired or DUI law, what about new laws for fighting the war on drugs. Would it still be reasonable for the government to change laws to allow police to stop any person walking down the street and search their pockets for drugs? In this context, very few would agree with this sort of police over-reach.