PEI

Police can demand roadside breath sample from any driver as of December

Starting later this year, Island police can ask any driver for a roadside breath sample, even if the driver does not appear to be intoxicated.

'I'd welcome' anything to deter or detect impaired driving, says RCMP officer

RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie says he expects police will begin asking for roadside breath samples any time there's been a serious or fatal collision. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Starting later this year, Island police can ask any driver for a roadside breath sample, even if the driver does not appear to be intoxicated.

The new powers come from federal Bill C-46, which received royal assent on June 21. The law goes hand-in-hand with the upcoming legalization of cannabis, and comes into force in December (180 days after receiving royal assent).

RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie said it's a useful step, but Island Mounties intend to use their new power with discretion.

Baillie hopes powers used 'wisely'

"Impaired driving continues to be a fairly serious problem in Prince Edward Island, and any other tool we can put in our toolbox to maybe help deter, or detect impaired driving, I think I'd welcome," Baillie said.

Baillie said some people might see the new powers as an invasion of privacy, as officers don't need to smell alcohol or cannabis or see signs of impairment to ask for the breath sample.

"I can understand why some people are a little bit concerned by this change in the law," he said. "I'm hopeful the police will use this new power wisely. Certainly I don't think we'll ever see a situation where every driver that's stopped will be asked to provide a roadside breath sample."

New law could help police and public

However, he said he expects officers will begin asking for breath samples in fatal or serious collisions, or any instance where there's any suspicion of alcohol consumption. 

And Baillie said there will be cases where the new law will help police and the public.

"In some of the more serious cases ... I think it's almost in the public interest to obtain a breath sample from anybody who was driving a motor vehicle."

More P.E.I. news

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the law comes into effect on June 28. In fact, it takes effect in December.
    Jun 27, 2018 12:04 PM AT

With files from Brian Higgins

now