By Lethbridge Herald on December 5, 2018.
The Lethbridge Police Service is warning local motorists that due to new federal mandatory alcohol laws coming into effect later this month officers will have sweeping new powers to perform roadside breathalyzer tests.
“Effective Dec. 18 the federal government has introduced (with Bill C-46) a number of new initiatives to combat impaired driving,” said Traffic Response Unit commander Sgt. Wade Davidson at a press briefing on Wednesday. “One of the big initiatives coming out of it is mandatory alcohol screening. What that is going to mean is in the past officers have been required to have a reasonable suspicion that a person has alcohol in their body before they can make a roadside breath demand. As of Dec. 18, an officer who has an approved road screening device with them will be able to make a demand of that person to provide a sample as soon as they are stopped.”
Further, explained Davidson, it will also now be against the law to refuse to comply with such a test.
“If there is refusal to provide a sample on the roadside device, we’re not bringing them back here (to the station) to give them another shot at it,” Davidson said. “Refusal to provide a sample to a roadside device is a criminal offence, and it is treated the same as if the person were double the legal limit; so it’s a very high minimum penalty that’s going to be in place for a refusal.”
While he expected the federal bill to eventually be challenged at the Supreme Court level by legal rights advocates, Davidson said until such time as the Supreme Court rules, one way or another, LPS officers would enforce the law.
“The aim of mandatory screening is to reduce impaired driving,” he stated. “We know at Check Stops we miss a significant portion of drivers who are impaired. Now with mandatory alcohol screening, the expectation is going to be everybody who pulls up to a Check Stop is going to be screened for alcohol consumption with an appropriate screening device.”
Davidson hoped the public would co-operate fully in the spirit of helping to prevent intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel.
“My hope is people are going to make good decisions and not drink and drive because their odds of getting caught or apprehended are going to dramatically increase with this legislation,” stated Davidson. “Please don’t be offended if we ask you to provide a breath sample. We are not implying you are drinking behind the wheel. Please understand it is everybody who is getting checked, not just that individual.”
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