The New Impaired Driving Laws, Part 2

To fully understand this post, it would be best if you read Part 1. You should also take the time to peruse some previous blog posts that go into more detail about the impaired driving changes, including changes to the level of THC you can have in your blood as part of Canada’s legalization of marijuana. In our last post, we discussed what advocates of the new laws appreciate about the changes, namely that it discourages risk-taking behaviour and aids in the prosecution of drunk drivers. Today, we’ll look at the flip side of the laws, and why those against them are tense about the possible consequences.

Police can now ask for a breath sample without probable cause. There have been many concerns about implicit bias in policing. Add those two things together, and you get what critics of the law say is a noxious brew; police racially profiling drivers, pulling them over and asking for breath samples because they don’t need probable cause. Critics worry this might aggravate an already toxic relationship between police and minorities, and could create more tensions between at-risk groups and police. They go on to say that those who would dismiss this as a minor inconvenience are not properly equipped to understand the fear that such interactions can instill in minorities.

The second part of the law critics are concerned about is the “within two hours” clause, because it’s not entirely clear what the consequences might be. Let’s say you drive completely sober, get home after a long day, and decide it’s time to pound a few back. While critics certainly aren’t encouraging binge drinking, they point out that it is a reality, and that if police show up at your house asking for a breath sample because you were driving erratically on the road, you might be put in a very compromising position, as your BAC may very well be over .08, and it’s certainly within 2 hours of you driving. This is, in some sense, a fairly charitable possibility; it’s assuming the police saw you driving erratically, or that they got a genuine report that you were. Now, instead, imagine that you have a vindictive neighbor or relative who wants to see you suffer; they might tell the police you were drinking before driving, and you might end up in a very compromising position even if it wasn’t true at all.

In short, critics worry that these new laws give police too much power, and that the power they get isn’t worth the reduction of risky behaviours. They point to the amount of times last drink defences have been successful as insufficient to change these laws to what they see as a draconian new reality.

There will undoubtedly be a plethora of court challenges arising from these new laws; if you’ve been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence, find a Winnipeg DUI attorney to help you.