Editor’s note: this article has been changed to more clearly delineate bill C-46’s implications for police powers. While police may now demand a breath sample at the roadside without cause, demands for a sample under the ‘two-hour rule’ still requires reasonable cause.
Kingston police and other Canadian police forces are now able to demand breath samples from people they suspect have driven impaired within a two-hour window.
The revised impaired driving laws allow officers to demand a breath sample from people in bars, restaurants, and homes if they suspect an individual was driving within two hours of having a blood alcohol level at or above 80 milligrams. If caught, a person can face criminal charges, fines, and a suspended licence.
“If we walk into that bar and that person is showing severe signs of impairment at that point the investigation turns to the root and we can proceed with the investigation,” said Const. Fil Wisniak with the Kingston police.
WATCH: Police in Canada can now demand breath samples in bars, at home
As previously reported by Global News, the impaired driving changes to the Criminal Code of Canada were made to provide officers with more power to demand breath samples from drivers at the roadside, whether or not they have grounds to suspect they are be driving impaired.
According to many defence lawyers and civil liberty experts, though, these changes are unconstitutional.
“Random police powers to stop, question, and take bodily samples from people can lead to serious human rights violation,” said Abby Deshman, director of the Criminal Justice Program at Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
The changes, though, could be beneficial for some, said Judah Dos Santos, owner and founder of SanTur Brewing. According to him, having more enforcement will help clean up the image of bars, pubs, and breweries.
“As a bar owner we are responsible for our customers, and if the police are able to help ensure the safety of all who dine at my place, I’m all for it,” Dos Santos said.
When many Kingstonians were asked whether they are comfortable with police having access to private businesses without any grounds for suspicion, however, they all agreed that it may lead to misuse of power.
When someone is charged with impaired driving under these new rules, Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it will be challenged by the defence lawyer and will go through appeal courts and to the Supreme Court of Canada, taking years to process.
Kingston police say each driver is innocent until proven guilty — even if there are several reports of impaired driving against them.
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