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Regina police to require all pulled-over drivers to take sobriety test during March

A Regina Police Service officer conducts a demonstration of a breathalyzer test. Police in the city are launching a new initiative requiring any driver to do an alcohol screening test, no matter the reason they are pulled over. (Darla Ponace/CBC - image credit)
A Regina Police Service officer conducts a demonstration of a breathalyzer test. Police in the city are launching a new initiative requiring any driver to do an alcohol screening test, no matter the reason they are pulled over. (Darla Ponace/CBC - image credit)

The Regina Police Service is launching a new initiative during March that will require drivers to take a mandatory alcohol screening test when they are pulled over for any reason.

And they want drivers to know that under the law, drivers are required to comply with a demand for a breath test. Impaired driving is the leading cause of fatal collisions on Saskatchewan roads, according to SGI.

"It is estimated that over 1,500 people are killed by impaired drivers in Canada each year," Sgt. Shannon Gordon, who works in the Regina police traffic unit said in a news release.

"We would like to remind drivers that mandatory roadside alcohol screening is not targeted, but an effort to decrease these numbers and provide a safer driving experience for everyone on the road."

The reasons police can stop drivers include to check for sobriety — as well as speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, distracted driving, to do a license check and to check that the vehicle is mechanically fit to be on the road, Gordon told reporters in Regina on Friday.

Any of these things can result in a breathalyzer test.

Rights being eroded: defence lawyer

But Saskatoon-based defence lawyer Ron Piche said the Regina police initiative highlights the "slow but steady erosion of any rights of motorists," particularly after the federal government passed legislation in 2018 allowing police to demand a breath sample from anyone, regardless of whether officers have a "reasonable suspicion" of alcohol consumption.

One of his concerns with the mandatory demand is that drivers might not be aware they have no right to a lawyer at that point, and he's already seen examples of it.

"And a lot of these people have been watching TV and they're quite alarmed that for no reason whatsoever — i.e. they haven't had a drink, they've been driving properly — that the police are making a demand and they think it's within their rights to speak to a lawyer at that point," he said.

"The case law's quite clear. It is not a right they have at that point and that might result in a charge of refusal, which is a Criminal Code conviction."

Piche said he expects the issue will end up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.

SGI noted in its news release that penalties for refusing a roadside test can include an immediate roadside license suspension, a minimum 30-day vehicle impoundment upon conviction, a minimum $2,000 fine, mandatory impaired driver education, a $1,250 safe driver recognition penalty and one-year ignition interlock requirement.

Regina police said drivers who pass the sobriety test will receive a gift card for a coffee on behalf of the police and SGI.