Jun 13, 2017 - MANDATORY ROADSIDE BREATH TESTS WOULD BE CONSTITUTIONAL, JUSTICE OFFICIALS INSIST

Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is confident mandatory screening would survive a court challenge, calling it ‘minimally intrusive’ but the lives saved ‘immeasurable

A proposed law that would allow police to take a roadside breath sample without evidence that a driver has been drinking was under scrutiny again in Parliament on Tuesday, as Canada’s justice minister defended it against arguments it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Questions around its constitutionality have been raised,” Jody Wilson-Raybould, flanked by senior justice department officials, acknowledged to a House of Commons committee studying the bill.

But she said she’s confident mandatory alcohol screening would survive a court challenge, calling it “minimally intrusive, but the benefits in lives saved will be immeasurable.”

Under current law, police need a reasonable suspicion a person has consumed alcohol before demanding a breathalyzer test, but Wilson-Raybould said evidence indicates around 50 per cent of impaired drivers tend to escape detection.

Deputy Attorney General William Pentney also argued the law, which still requires police to have a valid reason for pulling someone over in the first place, would have a large deterrent effect in itself.

“We’re not saying that every police officer that stops every person for a broken tail light must ask,” he said. “But we are saying that everyone who gets pulled over for whatever reason in whatever context should know that they might be asked, and if they’re asked, they have a legal obligation to comply.”

In an earlier statement on the law’s Charter effects, the government likened a mandatory breath sample to the requirement to show a driver’s licence, describing it as “simply information about whether a driver is complying with one of the conditions imposed in the highly regulated context of driving.”

The government cites studies suggesting Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have seen large declines in road-collision deaths under this policy.

Both opposition parties, as well as criminal defence lawyers and civil liberties groups, say the legislation is on shaky constitutional ground.

“Let’s not underestimate the fact that this is a significant infringement on individual liberty when we’re talking about taking a bodily sample without the slightest hint of suspicion that someone is breaking the law,” Conservative MP Michael Cooper said.

Bill C-46 is one of two bills concerning legalizing recreational marijuana use that the government introduced this spring, and will try to get through Parliament by next summer. Wilson-Raybould has insisted a timeline of having the legalization take effect by July 2018 is reasonable, despite concerns from provinces it’s too fast and will strain their resources.

The committee studying C-46 will now start hearing from experts on impaired driving and drug testing, likely well into the fall.

Other provisions in the bill would restrict the defences available to someone charged with drunk driving, in particular one defence that allows someone to claim they had the drink so soon before driving that the alcohol hadn’t yet entered their bloodstream.

The new law would simply make it illegal to be over the limit within two hours of driving, which Pentney said he hopes will alleviate the resource strain on courts dealing with drunk-driving cases. 

The legislation would also allow police to conduct a roadside saliva test for marijuana — though Wilson-Raybould conceded the science is still being worked on regarding how much marijuana in a person’s system constitutes impairment, and how well it can be tested.

“We’re taking a precautionary approach, the premise being that no level of drug impairment or ingestion of drugs is appropriate if you’re planning to get behind the wheel of your car,” she said, noting the legislation incorporates the best available evidence from an expert advisory committee, as well as impairment levels set by other jurisdictions.

“The science with respect to impairment by drugs is not as clear as it is with respect to impairment by alcohol … We’re going to continue to embrace recommendations that come from them as the science continues to evolve.”

Source: National Post


 

Last updated on: 2017-07-25 | Link to this post