Starting next week police officers across Canada won’t need to have any specific reason for demanding a roadside breath sample from drivers they pull over.
The federal government is enacting Bill C-46 on Tuesday to come into effect just before the holidays.
Saskatchewan RCMP Cpl. Rob King said prior to this new legislation, officers had to state reasonable grounds for demanding a breath sample to determine if a driver was impaired by alcohol.
“Previous to this legislation, an officer would have to formulate grounds to believe that the person had been drinking, there must be signs and symptoms to believe that the person had consumed alcohol prior to driving,” King said.
He listed examples like bloodshot eyes, smelling alcohol on their breath, struggling with fine motor skills.
King said the change could potentially mean an increase in impaired driving charges because it may help officers catch chronic drinkers who might fly under the radar under the current law because they can function while impaired.
“They may have been kind of skirting the system all these years, but now it will be much more difficult for them.”
King said this doesn’t mean officers are going to demand a breath sample from everybody, and he believes the average driver won’t notice much of a difference in police stops.
“Police officers are not going to be telling every person they stop over ‘here blow into this device’, it’s simply not practical, it’s simply not realistic,” King said.
“There’s going to have to be something that you’re going to be seeing to make you believe that the person has consumed alcohol prior to driving before you’re going to bother going to that test.”
When asked for a response to those who may feel this extra power is an infringement on rights, King pointed out police follow the laws as laid out by the government.
“It’s the law, it’s another tool in our toolbox to work to try to curb impaired driving,” King commented.
—With files from 980 CJME’s Jessie Anton