I despise drunk drivers – not just because of the lives they’ve destroyed, but because I’ve had to talk to so many of them at 2 in the morning when I’m on duty counsel for the night. Take it from me: you don’t know true frustration until you find yourself trying to explain to an indignant, barely coherent drunkard his right to remain silent but also that it’s a criminal offence to refuse a police officer’s request for a breath sample.
Most people likely feel the same way, which is why no politician – even those who otherwise doubt the efficacy of “tough on crime” policies – ever lost votes by cracking down on impaired driving. But even when everyone is agreed that the crime is inexcusable, it’s still possible for the government to go too far in fighting it.
And recent changes to Canada’s impaired-driving laws go way too far:
Canadians could now face criminal charges for driving with illegal amounts of alcohol in their system, even if they were stone cold sober while behind the wheel, under tough new impaired driving laws passed by Parliament, according to criminal defence lawyers.
Bill C-46, which came into effect last month, gives police wide-ranging new powers to demand sobriety tests from drivers, boaters and even canoeists.
Police no longer need to have any reasonable grounds to suspect you’re impaired, or driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than .08, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, before demanding you submit to testing.
Refusing the test can result in a criminal charge.
But even drinking within two hours after you’ve stopped driving or boating could now get you arrested, if your BAC rises over .08.
Previously, if drivers could prove they weren’t yet over the legal limit when they were stopped by police, a court could find them innocent.
The new law removes that defence.
“Its primary purpose is to eliminate risky behaviour associated with bolus drinking, sometimes referred to as drinking and dashing” Wilson-Raybould told Parliament.
But Brown calls the law a solution for a problem that rarely existed and claims it will “criminalize Canadians who have done nothing wrong.”
He points to number of scenarios where people park their cars with no intention of driving anytime soon, then start drinking.
If you drive yourself to a restaurant, bar or party and have a few drinks after you arrive, you can be found guilty of impaired driving. Even though you weren’t impaired when you were actually driving. I’m confident this will be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada eventually, but many innocent people may have their lives thrown into complete turmoil in the meantime.
Last summer, the federal government made applicants for a summer-jobs program sign an attestation that its “core values” aligned with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And now this same government is trampling on the presumption of innocence, regardless of what s. 11(d) of the Charter reads.
A Liberal government picking and choosing what sections of the Charter holds sacrosanct? Shocking, I know.