The New Impaired Driving Laws, Part 1

There are new impaired driving laws in Canada, the framework of which has been discussed on previous blog posts. In the next two blog posts, we’re going to try to take an impartial look at these laws by evaluating what proponents of the law think is beneficial about it in this post, and what those opposed to the law are worried about in the next post. Giving a survey of these new laws should help you have a more informed opinion about the potential benefits and pitfalls, and enable you to advocate for either side in good faith.

First, let’s describe the new laws in brief. Police can ask a driver to take a breathalyzer test without probable cause, and being intoxicated within two hours of operating a motor vehicle is illegal (where intoxication is a BAC of .08 or over). The reasoning behind this is two-fold. The first portion of the law was put into place because police were arresting drivers who were, in fact, intoxicated. When they got to the courts, however, drivers would sometimes be acquitted because the courts found that the police who pulled them over did not have the probable cause necessary to conduct a breathalyzer test. By eliminating the need for probable cause, the new laws take away this avenue to defense. The second part of the law is governed by the same principle, that defenses used for people who were legitimately endangering the population should be eliminated. The “within two hours of drinking” eliminates two possible defenses; the first is the “last drink” defense where an individual claims that when they were stopped, their blood alcohol content wasn’t actually that high, but by the time the police took a blood sample, the last drink they took had entered into their bloodstream. The second defense is that after a hit-and-run, the driver panicked, went home, and started stress-drinking alcohol, which is why their BAC was so high when a blood sample was taken.

Advocates of these legal changes cite risk reduction as their primary concern. The idea of impaired driving laws isn’t just to get dangerous drivers off the streets, but to serve as a deterrent; with such stark legal consequences for impaired driving, drivers will be less likely to engage in risky behaviour. The advocates for the changes say that they only serve to close loopholes that allowed dangerous drivers to continue acting poorly, making the law a less powerful deterrent.  Further to this, because the defense relies on drinking a bunch before leaving the bar, it encourages even riskier behaviour as a legal defense. They say these changes will discourage people from taking those risks.

You can find more details on the legal defenses that were employed before these changes here. For now, should you be charged with impaired driving, contact an experienced DUI lawyer who will be able to defend you adequately after these legal changes. On our next post, we’ll discuss why some are against these changes.