By Stan Ashbee
Alberta Newspapers Group
As of Dec. 18, anyone stopped by a police officer while driving will have to take a breathalyzer test. From drivers that haven’t had anything to drink to those who might have had an after dinner drink or an egg nog at home — no exceptions.
According to Sergeant Neil Bailey from the Bow Island/Foremost RCMP, when a driver is now pulled over by a police officer everybody that is pulled over will have to blow into a breathalyzer — even those going to church on Sunday and those who have never had a drop of liquor in their life. The idea is to alleviate the notion of any type of profiling because of race, culture, age, etc. — in regards to roadside breathalyzer tests.
“Regardless of who you are — everybody’s got to blow,” noted Bailey. And this means at every stop — even if it’s for a burned-out tail light.
“It’s definitely going to be different and we’ll see what happens or where it goes,” Bailey said.
Prior to Dec. 18, Bailey explained, the Criminal Code stated an officer needed to have reasonable suspicion a driver had alcohol in their body. “Meaning they admit to drinking or you smell it or you see evidence of it.”
“That was the only way you could do it before,” he added. “But now that this has changed, they don’t have to have reasonable suspicion.”
In Australia, Bailey noted, during a roadside check stop it has been mandatory for drivers to blow into a breathalyzer for years.
“A person gets stopped in Australia — they roll down their window, they take the keys out of the ignition and put them up on the dash and they sit and wait until the police comes up and makes them blow — and then they start having their conversation,” he said.
As for the Bow Island/Foremost RCMP detachment, the detachment now has a breathalyzer up and running again, according to Bailey.
“There hasn’t been one up and running here for about five or six years. We have a person that’s a trained breath tech now and we do have an Intoxilyzer or breathalyzer that’s up and running. If anybody is caught they could be processed here locally. Not sent off to Taber or Redcliff, like they were doing,” he noted.
Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. In 2017, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-46, the most comprehensive reform to the Criminal Code transportation regime in more than 40 years. The Bill passed Parliament on June 20, 2018 and received Royal Assent on June 21. The new law is a modern, simplified, and more coherent system of reforms to better deter and detect drug and alcohol-impaired driving.
It is important to note, provinces and territories have additional laws or regulations that may apply. Make sure to check the laws in your area. The part of the legislation related to alcohol-impaired driving and that repeals and replaces the transportation regime, including the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code, came into force on Dec. 18.
This includes mandatory alcohol screening, facilitating the proof of blood alcohol concentration, eliminating and limiting defences that reward risk-taking behaviour, and clarifying Crown disclosure obligations.
Prior to Dec. 18, drivers could have argued the alcohol they drank just before driving was not fully absorbed and so they were not over the limit when driving. This is known as the “bolus drinking defence.” The new law removes this defence by making it illegal to be at or over the alcohol limit within two hours of driving.
Further, under the law prior to Dec. 18, a driver could have claimed they consumed alcohol after driving, but before testing. They could have claimed this alcohol was what put them over the limit at the time of testing and they were not over the limit while they were driving. The new law only allows this defence in a situation where a driver drank after driving and had no reason to expect a demand by the police for breath testing.