You’re probably aware that Ontario ramped up its impaired driving penalties at the start of the year.
What might have flown under the radar, however, is that new federal laws to tackle drunk drivers have also given Canadian police an unsettling degree of power.
According to the legislation, there is a two-hour window after you’ve been driving that can be used to determine if you were impaired while behind the wheel. Say you were driving, made an odd, albeit not drunk movement with your vehicle, and then arrived home. Then you have a few drinks. Police could show up an hour later, say they saw or received a report of your odd movement, and demand a breathalyzer. If you blow over the legal limit, you’re in trouble.
Furthermore, police no longer need to have “reasonable suspicion” that drivers consumed alcohol. They can just demand breathalyzers at will. Refusal to take a breathalyzer could result in arrest, a criminal record, and/or your license being suspended.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s basically criminalizing you having a drink at your kitchen table,” Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer who specializes in impaired driving cases, said in an interview with Global News. “If [the police] come and find you at the restaurant they can take you out of the restaurant despite the fact you’ve been drinking at the restaurant, maybe you weren’t going to drive away.”
Toronto criminal defence lawyer Michael Engel calls it “a serious erosion of civil liberties.” Doroshenko went further, calling it “profoundly stupid.”