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News Jan 10, 2019 7:53 AM EST

Canada's new impaired driving laws can arrest innocent people in their own homes

Canada’s laws on impaired driving now allow police to demand breathalyzer tests from regular citizens minding their own business in bars, restaurants, or even in the comfort of their own home.

Canada's new impaired driving laws can arrest innocent people in their own homes
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

It was a bright cold day in December, and as the clocks were striking midnight on December 19th and the holiday season was in full swing, Canada’s rules of the road were significantly changed, especially when it comes to impaired driving laws.

It’s yet another hit to Canadian civil liberties, but this one seems more brazen. The lack of subtlety, concern, and self-awareness on the part of our government seemingly knows no bounds.

Canada’s laws on impaired driving now allow police to demand breathalyzer tests from regular citizens minding their own business in bars, restaurants, or even in the comfort of their own home.

And as it has always been, you, as a private citizen, have every right in the world to decline taking the test. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. On the contrary, you could be arrested, charged, made to pay fines and fees, and subjected to having your license suspended.

The absurdity knows no bounds, and it is no laughing matter. You could be in violation of the new impaired driving laws, even up to two hours after you’ve been driving. As unbelievable as that sounds, it is now up to the driver to be able to prove that they were not impaired when they were on the road, as many as 2 hours prior.

Imagine the following

To ensure the gravity of the situation is fully understood, let’s paint out a very possible scenario. A scenario that could happen to innocent citizens and that would not be too far fetched.

Picture this: It’s Saturday evening, and your favorite hockey team is playing a big game against your least favorite hockey team. Imagine you’re driving on your way to your province’s nearby liquor shop to purchase a pristine 24 case of your favorite domestic beer.

On your drive back home, you make a bit of an aggressive move and may have cut off the person behind you. (Yes, we know fellow reader. You would never do this. But for the sake of the scenario, please imagine.) It’s nothing illegal, but the person behind you is not too pleased, and decides to make a call to the police department on the case that they believe you may be driving under the influence.

Now you’ve already arrived home, and are prepared to watch the big game with your friends. After an hour or so, you’ve responsibly consumed a few beverages when you hear a knock at the door. It’s the police. Your vehicle was reported for what someone perceived as reckless driving, and it’s now up to you to prove that you were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating your vehicle.

You are absolutely able to refuse entry to officers at your door if they do not have a valid warrant. It's what is totally advised to you, and what you shoul do in any and all scenarios. Officers can enter your home if they are in "hot pursuit" of someone they have the authority to arrest. But what if you are none the wiser, and allow them into your home?

It’s completely within the police’s rights to breathalyze you, and begin disciplinary action as they see fit. In scenarios like these, you’d be very hard pressed to plead your case. The evidence as seemingly piling against you, when the fact of the matter is that you are an innocent civilian who has done nothing wrong.

“If you start to drink after you get home, the police show up at your door, they can arrest you, detain you, take you back to the (police station) and you can be convicted because your blood alcohol concentration was over 80 milligrams (per 100 millilitres of blood) in the two hours after you drove.” says Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer who specializes in impaired driving cases

Under these new laws, police enforcement no longer need to have a reasonable suspicion. Officers can now demand a sample from drivers for any reason, at any time.

It's already happening

In a story reported by Global News, a man by the name of Art went to his local Ontario Beer Store to return about three dozen beer bottles and 10 wine bottles, which his family had accumulated over the Christmas season.

Not much time had passed, and Art had been pulled over in a traffic stop by a police officer who asked if he had been drinking. Art said he had not.

Art says the officer demanded a roadside breath sample. Art asked the officer what would happen if he did not provide the breathalyzer test, to which the officer informed him that he would face arrest, a criminal charge, and a license suspension. All of this from a 70 year old man who was simply returning bottles to the Beer Store.

Art took the breathalyzer test. He passed the test, and went on to continue his day.

“I felt like I was violated in a way. They shouldn’t have that right to pull a person over unless there is a good sign the person is doing something wrong,” said Art, who claims to have not been using a cellphone, speeding, or violating any traffic laws.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s not a matter of if these laws will be abused, it’s a matter of when, and against who. What do you think? Are the laws a welcomed step in the right direction? Or is the government overstepping boundaries? Let us know.

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