Starting December 18th, police will no longer need reasonable suspicion to demand a breath sample from motorists. Some of the concerns around the current legislation is that many times roadside tests are being done outdoors where the environment and wind can mask the odor of alcohol and drugs.
"It can become quite difficult to detect that odor," stated Police Chief, Paul Ladouceur, "and sometimes people mask those signs very well. And if you have someone who is a seasoned drinker, they have a higher tolerance level so they can talk clearly and present very clearly but in fact, may be consuming alcohol."
He added that the new legislation goes back to the adage that driving is a privilege, not a right.
"Vehicles operate on the public roadways and everyone has the right to ensure that they're not being met by an impaired driver."
"I think what this legislation does is it allows officers to do those random checks and administer that quick test to ensure that motorists are driving sober."
He doesn't believe that this will be a case where the police will go overboard but use the test to ensure the safety of the public much like they do at airports.
"When you go to an airport and go through an airport screening device, sometimes you'll get flagged and you'll be called aside and they'll say you've been selected for a random search. Why do we do that at airports? To ensure public safety. Why are we doing it on our roadways? I would content it's the exact same reason."
"In my view, it was a case where after 30 years or 40 years we had finally see impaired driving come to an end and people be sensible about this issue, we wouldn't need to do that but clearly that's not the case because there are still far, far too many impaired drivers on our roadways."
Similar programs in other countries such as Australia and Ireland have seen a reduction in impaired driving.
There is a discussion on whether or not this will stand up in court but Ladouceur feels it is a positive change in the fight against impaired driving. It is important to note that refusing a breath demand is a criminal offense which carries the same penalties of impaired driving.
According to the Department of Justice Canada website:
The proposed legislation would enact some new and higher mandatory minimum fines, and some higher maximum penalties. Currently, the mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving are:
• First Offence: $1,000 fine;
• Second Offence: 30 days imprisonment;
• Third Offence: 120 days imprisonment.
The proposed legislation would increase the mandatory fines for first offenders with high BAC readings or who refuse to provide a sample:
• A first offender with a BAC of 80 to 119 would be subject to the current mandatory minimum fine of $1,000;
• A first offender with a BAC of 120 to 159 would be subject to a mandatory minimum fine of $1,500;
• A first offender with a BAC of 160 or more would be subject to a mandatory minimum fine of $2,000; and
• A first offender who refuses testing would be subject to a mandatory minimum fine of $2,000.