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Impaired Driving Laws

Canadian Law Update 2019: New Impaired Driving Laws Are In Effect

If you were not aware already, Canada has new impaired driving laws that came into effect at the end of the year in 2018. As an effort to crack down on impaired driving, new law has come into effect that gives law enforcement more power when interacting with drivers. As of December 18, 2018, the alcohol-related driving laws have been reformed, and the Canadian Criminal Code of Canada has been updated. These changes to the drug and alcohol laws came as part of the form Bill C-46. The goal is to have some of the strongest laws in the world. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost and may violate some of your Charter Rights.

The new laws give law enforcement the authority to demand breathalyzer tests from any driver they stop. The law as it was before, required the police to pass a reasonable suspicion test which required objective facts of alcohol consumption, as well as a subjective belief from the officer of alcohol consumption. The stronger laws that have been implemented mirror the ones that are in several other countries, particularly in Europe.

Before the new law, there existed a defence where a defence lawyer could argue that by consuming alcohol just before driving, it was not absorbed at the time of the driving. The new law essentially eliminates this defence, by spreading the time frame of the legal limit to extend two hours after driving.

There has also been a serious increase in penalties for impaired driving, especially for those charged with impaired with one or more previous convictions on their criminal record.

These new laws put our civil rights at risk, which are meant to protect people against warrantless searches, protected by our Charter of Rights. It is not a stretch to say that these new laws may affect the racially marginalized people in greater numbers since there already exists a disproportionate amount of traffic stops to racial minorities.

While drinking and driving is an extremely serious offence, it is important for the law makers to uphold the Charter of Rights, and be cognizant of the need to provide protection to those already marginalized. Additionally, it is important to find an equal balance between our charter protected rights and the implementation of law enforcement. It will be interesting to see how these new laws play out in practice and how the courts handle it.