Calgary police expanding mandatory impaired driving breath checks
300 alcohol testing devices are available for officers to sign out
The Calgary Police Service is expanding the use of mandatory alcohol screening by equipping front-line officers with testing devices.
Since December 2018, when Bill C-46 came into effect, police have been allowed to demand a breath sample from anyone they pull over for a traffic stop or at a checkstop, even if there's no suspicion that the driver is intoxicated.
"The legislation has been in place for over a year, but now you should expect in Calgary that if a policeman stops you, when they approach your vehicle, they may ask you for a breath sample," said Const. Andrew Fairman during a press conference held Thursday.
Since CPS started conducting mandatory alcohol screening just over a year ago, more than 15,600 samples have been taken, resulting in 142 Criminal Code charges and 359 provincial sanctions, police said in a release.
When drivers enter a checkstop or a traffic stop, officers will approach the driver and say, 'This is a mandatory alcohol screening. You are required to immediately provide a breath sample.'
Giving a breath sample — by blowing into the alcohol screening device — takes less than two minutes, and the driver remains in their car as they do so.
"If there's no alcohol in your system, in all likelihood, we'll have that result in 15 to 20 seconds," Fairman said.
Once a driver is cleared, the regular traffic stop procedure continues, with the officer requesting the driver's licence, registration and proof of insurance.
Risk of 'impairing race relations'
Some lawyers have raised concerns about the new legislation since it was introduced in 2018.
Michael Bryant at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said he didn't blame local police for implementing the law, but he did blame Ottawa for passing it, calling it "unconstitutional."
"It raises a risk, the real risk of impairing race relations in Calgary and elsewhere," Bryant said. "Because where these mandatory tests take place, it's going to matter a lot. If it's in a particular ethnic neighbourhood, it is going to seem like legalized racial profiling of that neighbourhood."
During the police press conference, Fairman said the legislation says that every motorist is to supply a sample.
"The officers have been directed that, for mandatory alcohol screening, when they're doing it, they need to do it with everybody. There's nobody picking on anybody in particular," he said.
Impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. In 2015, a total of 718 people were seriously injured or killed in impaired driving incidents, police said.
With files from Helen Pike