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New bill could allow police more leeway to stop impaired driving

In most cases, simple suspicion is insufficient grounds for a police officer to detain a citizen. Probable cause is required in most instances before an officer may probe a matter further. Proposed new federal legislation may give police the right to partially circumvent that necessity in an effort to reduce impaired driving in Ontario, and across the country.

As the law currently stands, a police officer may only administer a sobriety test with a screening device if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect a motorist is impaired. Under the terms of Bill C-46, introduced on April 13, any motorist legally stopped could be subjected to a test, such as a Breathalyzer, even if there is no suspicion of impairment. An additional amendment proposed for the Criminal Code would allow a police drug recognition expert to testify during criminal trials.

In addition to the expanded liberties for police, there may be a change to the maximum penalty. Bill C-46 proposes a maximum sentence of life in prison for impaired driving causing death, a significant jump from the current maximum of 14 years. A similar bill tabled earlier in April, but deferred until May, recommends a mandatory five years in prison with respect to each person killed by a convicted impaired driver in instances of multiple deaths in a single accident. 

Should either of these legislative initiatives pass into law, the stakes for impaired drivers who cause the death of another person will be very high. Additionally, allowing officers the freedom to test any driver legally stopped may lead to more charges for impaired driving in Ontario. Anyone facing a legal battle after a traffic stop, or an accident may want to seek counsel from an experienced defence lawyer.

Source: canadianunderwriter.ca, "Legislation allowing alcohol testing of drivers without prior suspicion tabled on Parliament Hill", April 21, 2017

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