Recently the Trudeau Government announced their plan to liberalize the laws surrounding marijuana use. However, the bill is surprising because it is buried within a suggested measure that slaps the notion of personal autonomy right in the face.

The Trudeau government have tabled a provision to allow a police officer to compel roadside breath samples without even as much as a reasonable suspicion.  While the need to protect individual rights and the importance of public safety are often litigated, the new provision would run contrary to 30 plus years of Charter litigation.

As the law stands right now, an officer has the authority to compel a roadside breath sample if they have a reasonable suspicion that the operator of the motor vehicle has alcohol in their body.  The Courts have found that a reasonable suspicion has been grounded in nothing more than the odor of alcohol coming from the operator.  The threshold is clearly low but it is there for a reason.  There is a multitude of Charter rights that come into play during an impaired driving stop.  The right against arbitrary detention, the right against arbitrary search and seizure, the right to speak with a lawyer before participating in an investigation, the right not to participate in an investigation, all of these are put on hold if a reasonable suspicion exists.

Requiring a reasonable suspicion provided the balance needed between the individual and the state.  Eliminating the threshold is completely impermissible given the nature of the consequences that come with failing a roadside screening test.  The driver is arrested, jailed and forced to provide further evidence against themselves.  There is a mandatory license suspension for 90 days before any court has determined guilty or innocence.  Losing the ability to drive plays havoc with the ability to maintain employment and provide for loved ones.

There is also a mandatory motor vehicle impoundment that accompanies a roadside fail, with all the associated costs resting upon the driver.

It appears that the Trudeau Government wants to appease the opposition by introducing a tougher approach to impaired driving.  While there is no doubt that the law surrounding drug impaired driving needs work.  Altering the alcohol-impaired driving provisions does nothing but deflect the attention elsewhere.  This move will just further burden an already strained court system with needless litigation of Charter standards that have already been well established.

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