Police in Canada can now demand breath samples in bars, at home

January 10, 2019
Article Source
Global News

It may sound unbelievable, but Canada's revised laws on impaired driving could see police demand breath samples from people in bars, restaurants, or even at home. And if you say no, you could be arrested, face a criminal record, ordered to pay a fine, and subjected to a driving suspension. 

You could be in violation of the impaired driving laws even two hours after you've been driving. Now, the onus is on drivers to prove they weren't impaired when they were on the road.

"It's ridiculous, it's basically criminalizing you having a drink at your kitchen table," Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer who specializes in impaired driving cases, told Global News.

"If you start to drink after you get home, the police show up at your door, they can arrest you, detain you, take you back to the (police station) and you can be convicted because your blood alcohol concentration was over 80 milligrams (per 100 millilitres of blood) in the two hours after you drove." 

Changes to Section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada took effect in December giving police greater powers to seek breath samples from drivers who might be driving while impaired.

Under the new law, police officers no longer need to have a "reasonable suspicion" the driver had consumed alcohol. Now, an officer can demand a sample from drivers for any reason at any time.


While many Canadians have heard about that part of the new legislation, lawyers said the two-hour provision has gone unreported.

"The public has completely missed this one," said Joseph Neuberger, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer.

He described a scenario in which someone has gone home and watches a hockey game, enjoys a few beers, and gets a knock on the door from police, who received a tip about someone in the house who was driving a vehicle suspiciously.

"The person answers the door and they say, 'Sir, we’ve had a complaint about your driving, we need you to provide a sample,'" said Neuberger, noting if the person failed to provide the sample it would likely lead to arrest.

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