Sarnia case challenging new impaired driving law

A Windsor police officer performs a traffic stop on Huron Church Rd., April 28, 2015. (Photo by Jason Viau)

A London law firm says a case out of Sarnia is the first constitutional challenge of Canada’s new impaired driving law.

Millars Law is representing a client who was pulled over by OPP for allegedly having a peeling licence plate just days before changes to the law took effect.

Under new rules introduced in December, officers do not need a reason to demand a roadside breath test from any lawfully stopped driver.

Criminal defence lawyer Nick Cake said the driver failed a roadside test even though the officer wrote in his notebook that there were no signs of impairment or suspicion that the driver had been drinking. He’s arguing the law is a violation of rights and should be struck down.

“In the end, it may get more impaired drivers off the road, but where do the powers stop then?” said Cake. “I mean, if the police can now search or seize bodily samples without any grounds whatsoever then what’s next? Can they come into your house because someone said you have a handgun in your house? Guns kill people, too.”

Cake believes the Sarnia case has a chance to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen isn’t surprised by the challenge but welcomes any tools to combat impaired driving.

“In theory anytime you can test somebody for impaired driving, if they are impaired it does takes another impaired person off the road,” said Hansen. “However, we’re not going to be driving around pulling cars over and testing for no reason at all. I do applaud the law, it’s an effort to get impaired drivers off the road and we’ll see how it works in the courts.”

In 2016, police reported nearly 70,000 cases of impaired driving across Canada.