Saskatchewan

Tougher impaired driving laws could run afoul of Charter rights, says senator

New, stricter impaired driving laws are drawing criticism from Conservative Senator Denise Batters, who said the changes could tie up the courts and result in cases being tossed out.

Police can demand breath sample from drivers without reasonable suspicion

Senator Denise Batters says impaired driving cases might be thrown out of court due to potential Charter violations. (CBC)

New, stricter impaired driving laws are drawing criticism from Conservative Senator Denise Batters, who said the changes could tie up the courts and result in cases being tossed out.

The new law came into effect this week and gives police who have pulled someone over the authority to demand a breath sample without reasonable suspicion, such as the smell of alcohol or slurred speech.

"I think Canadians who are law abiding citizens don't deserve to be treated like criminals by the state," Batters, who is a lawyer, told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition on Thursday.

Batters said the new law could run violate the Charter right to unreasonable search and seizure. If court challenges arise, it could tie up the courts and clog up the system more than it already is, she said.

She referenced the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision, which found accused people have a right to be tried within a reasonable time frame — 18 to 30 months depending on the severity of the alleged crime.

"I don't want to have people who should be getting convicted and sentenced for their crimes acquitted because a Charter right has been violated," Batters said.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has previously said the Canadian government expects there to be legal challenges but is "100 per cent confident" the new law doesn't violate any Charter rights.

Eric Dumschat, a lawyer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, agreed with Wilson-Raybould and described the organization as being confident the law would be upheld if there were challenges.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition

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