Pubdate: Fri, 14 Apr 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Authors: Jacques Gallant & Sammy Hudes
Page: A6
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Proposal gives officers power to test drivers for alcohol without
reasonable suspicion

Legalizing marijuana was of course the main focus in Ottawa on
Thursday, yet at the same time that it announced proposed legislation
on the issue, the federal government also indicated it will toughen
the laws around driving when impaired by alcohol.

Under the proposed legislation, a police officer will be able to
conduct a saliva test on a driver following a legal roadside stop "if
they reasonably suspect that a driver has drugs in their body."

A positive reading would help the officer determine if an offence has
been committed and the person would then be subjected to a further
test at the police division, likely a blood test.

Officers currently need a "reasonable suspicion" before administering
a roadside breath test to a driver suspected of being impaired by
alcohol. Reasonable suspicion can be as simple as the smell of alcohol
on the person's breath or the person admitting that they've been drinking.

However, under the proposed legislation, when it comes to alcohol,
officers who have an approved screening device for breath tests on
hand when they lawfully stop drivers, such as at check stops, will be
able to demand a test without first determining if they have a
reasonable suspicion.

The result of a failed test would not automatically lead to a person
being charged with an offence, but would mean they would have to go to
the police station for further tests.

Criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown questioned why the government is
proposing a different standard - reasonable suspicion to test someone
suspected of being impaired by drugs, but no need for reasonable
suspicion for someone suspected of being impaired by alcohol.

"Reasonable suspicion is not a high hurdle to overcome in order to
demand that somebody provide a sample, and yet it's a proper screening
mechanism so that not all drivers are held up to perform screening
tests at the will of the officer," he told the Star.

He said it would be difficult to see the proposed changes to
alcohol-related driving offences survive constitutional scrutiny.

"We've certainly heard previous governments who claim that their
legislation is constitutional, only to see it overturned in the courts
. . . because they don't meet constitutional standards," he said.
"Having at least some suspicion that a person is involved in drinking
and driving, before demanding that they provide breath samples, isn't
an unreasonable standard."

Dr. Doug Beirness, a senior researcher and policy analyst for the
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse who has studied cannabis use and
driving, told the Star roadside saliva tests will also mean an
increase in the cost of investigating drug-impaired driving offences.

"Whereas you can do a breath test for a few cents really . . . for
oral fluid you're talking at least $30 per test. That can add up
really, really quickly. If we're going to go the mandatory route,
we're going to still want to be a little bit selective of whom we test."
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