A section of Canada’s new impaired driving laws underlines the need for clarity in legislation as the current language invites confusion and potential abuse in its enforcement.
Section 253 of the Criminal Code now states that “everyone commits an offence who has within two hours after ceasing to operate a motor vehicle,” including boats, aircraft and railway equipment, subject to a clause that states no person commits such an offence if “they had no reasonable expectation that they would be required to provide a sample of a bodily substance.”
Clear as mud?
It’s especially confusing now that police have the power, courtesy of the federal government, to collect breath samples on demand, on pain of a $2,000 fine for those who refuse to comply.
We should say outright that we of course agree with the spirit of the law, and that is to get impaired drivers off the road and save lives that would otherwise be taken by drunk drivers. What right-thinking person can disagree with that?
Police say we should not worry about potential abuse of this new law by officers, not all of whom, as in any profession, are possessed of Solomonic wisdom. A representative of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association rightfully points out that ad hoc assurances from police and politicians that they won’t do this or that is no adequate replacement for clear language in law.
As Micheal Vonn, of the BCCLA, put it, “We don’t want our rights dependent on a promise. We need to have the legislation structured so that our rights are protected.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Given the controversy surrounding this one, hopefully the courts, if not the government, will soon provide that clarity.