Mandatory alcohol testing in Ontario: CCLA expresses concern

An increase in drunk driving-related collisions has prompted Ontario Provincial Police to begin imposing mandatory breathalyzer checks (MAS) at all traffic stops in the Greater Toronto Area, a move that a rights group civilians considers “not acceptable.

Speaking with CP24 on Thursday, Shakir Rahim, director of the Criminal Justice program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), said that because the new measures do not require officers to have cause to request a breathalyzer test, they are unjustifiable.

“This is an unjustified power to intervene in someone’s life without any suspicion (that) they have done something wrong,” he said. “That is not acceptable.”

Announced on Wednesday, the OPP said the implementation of MAS follows a nearly 30 percent increase in drunk driving-related crashes over the past year, compared to the average of the previous five years, with The GTA is the best-ranked jurisdiction for this type of crime.

“We’ve seen drunk drivers, you know, their breath doesn’t smell much and in the wind, in the weather, it’s hard to tell,” said OPP Highway Safety Division Sgt. said Kerry Schmidt in an interview with CP24. “And now this eliminates any bias, any situation, we’re just going to test everyone.”

Schmidt said if drivers refuse to provide a breath sample, they will be criminally charged.

“If a breath sample is not provided, that is also poor satiation. You will be criminally charged for refusing, and that is a criminal charge, just like failing (a breathalyzer is a criminal charge).”

Before these measures, officers only requested breathalyzer tests when they had reason to suspect a driver was under the influence. While Schmidt said these provisions already in place will not change, people who are stopped for other reasons will have to submit to a breathalyzer test.

“Maybe that’s why we’ve wanted to spread this awareness about education, people are confused,” he said. “They get pulled over for having a cell phone, they get pulled over for speeding, and now they’re being asked to provide a breath sample.”

While the move is sparking some backlash, criminal defense attorney Lydia Riva says MAS has been part of the law for five years, so police are legally authorized to do so.

“This has been the law since 2018, since then, the police have been able to demand breath on the road without reasonable suspicion of driving while intoxicated, if the officer has in their possession an approved detection device and has stopped the person for a legal purpose. “Riva told CP24.

An OPP press release said MAS are used and recognized around the world and have proven results.