Police can now stop anyone and oblige them to take an alcohol breath test without the previous necessity of a "reasonable suspicion" of alcohol consumption. In some provinces, including B.C. it can result in an immediate roadside suspension and seizure of the vehicle (Jonathan Dupaul via CBC)

Concerns about civil rights over new drunk driving law

New drunk driving laws have come into effect in Canada, and have caused quite a stir in the legal community not the least of which involves civil rights issues

Micheal Engel (BA, LLB) has a legal practice in Toronto specialising in drunk driving charges.


We often hear of the terms DUI, driving under the influence (of alcohol), or DWI- driving while intoxicated.

In Canada, there are three different drinking and driving charges you can face: Impaired driving, operator care and control over .80 ( the legal blood alcohol limit) and refusal- (to take a breathalyser test).

Michael Engel’s law practice in Toronto specialises in drunk driving cases. ( supplied)

In a new law, police who previously would have to have some reasonable suspicion of being over the limit to demand a breath test, such as slurred speech or a smell of alcohol, now no longer are constrained by that requirement.

Possible abuse

They can also now, up to two hours after an alleged drinking and driving incident, can come to your house and demand you take a breathalyser test.

Critics say this could lead to of the new law. They say someone bent on revenge or spite could phone in a completely unfounded complaint about you drunk driving, and the police could come to your door and oblige you to take a breath test. If you’ve been sitting at home the whole time and having a couple of alcoholic drinks you could be arrested for having blown over the limit.

The shift in legal consequences under the new law goes from the time of driving, to the time of testing.

The new law also changes responsibility for being over the legal alcohol limit (0.08) from the time of the actual driving stop, to the time of the test, which may be long after the alleged incident. (Darryl Dyck- CP)

This means that a person blowing over the limit, even long after the car has been parked and the person has been at home, will then be charged and would have to defend themselves in court in what lawyer Engel suggests could now be an uphill battle.

He says there’s a strong likelihood that such cases under the new law will be challenged in court under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and likely also to make its way to the Supreme Court.

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