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MPs argue over constitutionality of proposed roadside testing bill

Automotive accident lawyers are keeping tabs on an ongoing debate in the House of Commons concerning the constitutionality of mandatory roadside breathalyzer tests. On June 13, federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould took the floor to defend Bill C-46, which would allow police to demand breath samples without evidence of intoxication.

“Questions around its constitutionality have been raised,” Wilson-Raybould said, but she insisted the law will be “minimally intrusive” and that “the benefits in lives saved will be immeasurable.”

Deputy Attorney General William Pentney also stridently defended the bill.

“We’re not saying that every police officer that stops every person for a broken tail light must ask,” he said. “But we are saying that everyone who gets pulled over for whatever reason in whatever context should know that they might be asked, and if they’re asked, they have a legal obligation to comply.”

Under current roadside testing laws, police must have a reasonable suspicion of intoxication before demanding a breathalyzer test. With marijuana legalization on the horizon, however, fresh concerns about intoxicated driving have been raised by road safety advocates and automotive accident lawyers. Bill C-46 represents the Canadian government’s attempts to address those concerns; under the proposed law, police would also have the right to conduct saliva tests for marijuana intoxication.

Both the NDP and Conservative parties believe the policy would be difficult to defend under the Canadian Constitution.

“Let’s not underestimate the fact that this is a significant infringement on individual liberty when we’re talking about taking a bodily sample without the slightest hint of suspicion that someone is breaking the law,” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper.

The Liberals have used a number of arguments to defend the Bill, including pointing out that police would still need a good reason to pull someone over; that around half of all impaired drivers go undetected; and comparing a mandatory breathalyzer test to the existing requirement for drivers to show a valid license when they are pulled over.

Liberal MPs have also noted that Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland have all implemented similar strategies and have seen significant decreases in road-collision deaths, a result that would be welcomed by automotive accident lawyers.

While the opposition parties are well within their rights to question Bill C-46’s constitutionality, the Liberal government’s focus on reducing road traffic fatalities is also commendable. Whether or not the legislation can be passed in sync with Ottawa’s desired marijuana legalization date of July 1, 2018, remains to be seen.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident involving an intoxicated driver, contact the automotive accident lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to discuss how we can help you access compensation for your injuries.


Image credit: KOMUnews/Wikimedia Commons


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