DRUNK DRIV­ING IS A SCOURGE, BUT SO IS GOV­ERN­MENT OVER­REACH

Calgary Sun - - COMMENT - [email protected]­media.com @sun­lorne­gunter

One week be­fore Christ­mas, Cana­dian driv­ers were in­tro­duced to the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s dra­co­nian new im­paired driv­ing law.

Now po­lice have the right to de­mand a breath sam­ple from ev­ery driver they stop, even if of­fi­cers have ab­so­lutely no rea­son to sus­pect a par­tic­u­lar driver has been drink­ing.

And any driver who re­fuses is guilty of a crime. It is pre­sumed they re­fused so they could hide the fact they’d been drink­ing. (Even if they re­fused be­cause they don’t be­lieve a gov­ern­ment should have the power to search any­one who hasn’t given po­lice “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion” of hav­ing com­mit­ted a crime.)

Any driver who re­fuses is likely to be ar­rested, given a hefty fine, have their driver’s li­cence sus­pended and re­ceive a crim­i­nal record.

The worst case I have seen so far is that of a 70-year-old Mis­sis­sauga man who was forced to give a breath sam­ple af­ter re­turn­ing emp­ties to a bot­tle de­pot af­ter the hol­i­days.

An of­fi­cer fol­lowed the man for three blocks, then pulled him over and made him do the breath test be­cause the of­fi­cer thought the man was re­turn­ing an ex­ces­sive num­ber of bot­tles — and that might in­di­cate he was prone to driv­ing im­paired.

There was also an oc­to­ge­nar­ian B.C. res­i­dent who was charged with “fail­ing to pro­vide a breath sam­ple” be­cause she, quite lit­er­ally, lacked the breath strength to pro­vide a vi­able sam­ple.

Drunk driv­ing is a scourge, but so too are gov­ern­ments that pass laws that crush valu­able pro­tec­tions, such as the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence un­til proven guilt. Not the other way around.

But it turns out the Lib­er­als new drunk driv­ing law is even worse than first thought.

There is also a pro­vi­sion in it that po­lice may de­mand a breath sam­ple up to two hours af­ter you have driven, even if you are no longer be­hind the wheel. Of­fi­cers may come into a bar or even into your home and in­sist you blow if they be­lieve you were drunk driv­ing up to two hours ear­lier.

Of course, this is prob­lem­atic. What if you’ve had a drink or three af­ter you got home? What if you’ve been drink­ing in the bar (duh)?

You can’t refuse to blow, be­cause that is a crim­i­nal of­fence. And if you do blow, you will blow over the blood-al­co­hol limit, which is also a crime, of course.

If po­lice sin­gle you out, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But blow­ing over at that point is not proof you were driv­ing im­paired two hours ear­lier.

How­ever, the way the new law is writ­ten there is re­verse onus. You have to prove you weren’t im­paired while driv­ing ear­lier. How do you prove that un­less you were sur­rounded by wit­nesses who are pre­pared to tes­tify you were sober?

All this is de­signed, of course, to make the Trudeau gov­ern­ment look as if it cares deeply and is do­ing some­thing tough about an im­por­tant is­sue.

But how come they don’t care just as much about an­cient rights against un­just in­crim­i­na­tion? As im­por­tant as re­duc­ing drunk driv­ing is, pro­tect­ing le­git­i­mate civil rights is more im­por­tant.

The new law is equiv­a­lent to say­ing po­lice should be able to stop and frisk ev­ery­one on the street be­cause, who knows, maybe they’ll find il­le­gal weapons or ev­i­dence of a crime.

Or how about mak­ing ev­ery­one run all their fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions through gov­ern­ment com­put­ers so au­thor­i­ties know you aren’t pay­ing cash for ren­o­va­tions to avoid sales tax, skip­ping child sup­port, fail­ing to pay duty on on­line pur­chases or vis­it­ing web­sites you shouldn’t be?

Or per­haps we should in­stall GPS track­ers on all ve­hi­cles so gov­ern­ments can check our where­abouts or keep us from speed­ing.

This is a very slip­pery slope.

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LORNE GUNTER

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