The ineffective side of the government’s impaired driving laws

Published: June 30, 2019

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In an effort to curb impaired driving incidents, the federal government introduced new laws through Bill C-46 that allow police to conduct breathalyzer tests randomly. Previously, law enforcement could only do such tests after articulating suspicious of impairment. Many critics of the law say it infringes upon basic human rights.

Many people are starting to complain about the law, calling it a police state ruling. CBC reported on a case involving Jimmy Forster, a British Columbia man who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and severe asthma. Forster cannot physically give a breathalyzer test and has been charged twice in the last month for refusing tests.

Of course, this is not a new problem. People with lung problems have not been able to give breathalyzers in the past. One key difference was police previously have had suspicion of impairment before the introduction of Bill C-46. While mistakes used to happen, now police can charge people who cannot give a breathalyzer, even if there is no suspicion of impairment.

In both incidents involving Forster, police did not seem to have a suspicion the motorist was over the limit for drink. Interestingly, Forster volunteered for a blood test but was denied by police and charged anyway for refusing the breathalyzer.

B.C. law allows police to suspend a driver’s license if they refuse a test, so Forster lost his license twice and had his car impounded. He now does not have a car and is $1,800 out of pocket for the fines that accompany a test refusal charge.

RCMP says officers have no choice on this matter. Under Criminal Code details, police can accept other testing methods (such as blood) if they suspect impairment. However, if they are conducting a “mandatory alcohol screening” they cannot accept another testing method as there is no Criminal Code provision.

Still, it is worth noting the law does not force officers to charge people for failing a test, such as in Forster’s case.