New impaired driving laws called 'groundless' by lawyer

By Jessie Weisner
December 6, 2018 - 5:02pm Updated: December 6, 2018 - 6:56pm

 

MEDICINE HAT, AB -- Chances if you’ve had your driver’s license for a few years, you’ve been pulled over by a cop.

You may have also been through a few check stops. 

However, as of December 18,you might be subjected to a mandatory test in those situations, even if you haven't done anything wrong.

“If a police officer pulls over anybody for any reason and they happen to have an approved screening device in their vehicle, we can ask somebody and demand that they blow the approved screening device right there,” says Staff Sergeant Sean Maxwell with Redcliff RCMP.

Legislation is coming into affect that allows officers to conduct mandatory breathalyzer tests, without reasonable suspicion that the person had been drinking.

Police say some people have disguised their breath or denied drinking, preventing them from finding a legitimate reason to screen them.

“A lot of people that might do what I would describe them as habitual drivers because they’re drinking and they just do it,” says Maxwell. “Hopefully this gives them more of a wake up call and they change their ways.”

According to Statistics Canada, there were 12,191 impaired driving incidents in Alberta in 2016, and 70,500 country wide.

“We want you to drive sober,” says Valerie Maconochie, president of the local MADD chapter. “So maybe that will be an extra thing in their minds to think of before they get behind the wheel.”

However, one lawyer says this could cause more problems that it solves.

“There’s a real concern this is going to disproportionately affect minorities in our society,” says Michael Spratt, an Ottawa defence lawyer. “That means if you’re especially a young black or Arab male, you’re likely going to get pulled over more often for no reason.”

“We’re for sure gonna see challenges in court but we won’t see them for a while,” he added. “These things take time to make their way through court.”

Spratt says this is concerning, because those challenges could take up to a year and half to make their way through the courts.

Overcrowding the system even more than it already is.

“Were gonna see our courts backed up dealing with these sorts of cases,” he said. “That of course means our courts will not be in a position some of the other very serious and violent offences.”

Maxwell says this is one of the biggest changes to the Criminal Code he’s seen in 22 years, and he understands concerns.

“It will probably result in further court cases but that’s obviously to be determined,” he said.

He’s also not overly worried about racial discrimination, because he has trust in his members.

“I know that the RCMP definitely is bias-free policing, that’s 100 per cent the goal,” he said.

The legislation is going through in under two weeks time, and although results are unpredictable, Maxwell says their goal remains the same.

“Our message out to people is do not drink and drive, it hasn’t changed.”

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