Like everything else this year, the holiday season is going to be, well, different. But you can rest assured that one thing will remain the same. Police officers across the province will be running roadside checks for impaired driving due to drugs and/or alcohol.
The annual R.I.D.E. (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program is as much a holiday tradition as any other. The goal of R.I.D.E. is to identify and deter drunk drivers and reduce the incidence of drinking and driving.
What You Need to Know About Ontario R.I.D.E. Programs
There are many benefits of the R.I.D.E. program, especially for reducing road deaths and injuries due to drunk drivers. But, if you are stopped, you must be aware of your rights and be able to defend them if you are charged with impaired driving, or another offence, as a result of a R.I.D.E. stop.
The following points will help clarify your understanding of your rights if you are pulled over at a R.I.D.E. checkpoint.
- Police Rights Stop at Checking You for Alcohol and/or Drug Impairment – The powers of police at R.I.D.E. stops are quite unprecedented. They are allowed to stop you without grounds or probable cause to believe you are impaired or have committed any other offence.
But those rights don’t extend to investigating other criminal offences or performing searches that do not relate to the purpose of R.I.D.E.
- Roadside breath samples can be demanded without “reasonable suspicion” – In December 2018, the Criminal Code was amended and it provided the police with extraordinary powers to search for impaired drivers. If you enter a R.I.D.E. program the police can now demand a sample of your breath into a roadside screening device known as an Approved Screening Device (A.S.D.) even if there is no evidence you have been consuming alcohol. If you are provided with a demand for your breath roadside you must comply with the demand.
However, if the police do not have an A.S.D. in their possession at the R.I.D.E. program, the police do need “reasonable suspicion” before issuing a roadside demand. Additionally, the police also need “reasonable suspicion” before they are able to demand you submit to physical coordination testing known as a Standard Field Sobriety Test (S.F.S.T.). Suspicion may be raised by factors like the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or open/closed alcohol within the view of the officer.
- Telling officers you have “had a couple” can make your case worse – many drivers who have been drinking often admit to having a few drinks in the belief that it will show honesty in their responses and help their case.
When you tell officers you have been drinking, even a small amount, this can be the basis for the officer’s reasonable suspicion of impairment or alcohol consumption and the trigger for a roadside breath test which may give the officer the grounds to arrest you.
Many of the answers you give to the officer before you are arrested can be used by the officer to form grounds for arrest or a roadside breath demand. These responses cannot be used as proof of anything, but they do help form the basis of the officer to build a case against you.
- Results of Refusing a Breath Sample or a Breath Sample “Fail” – If the results of your breath sample are a “fail” according to the screening device, the administering officer must tell you of your legal rights, including the right to be represented by a lawyer. If you refuse to give a breath sample, your status will be the same as if you have been charged with impaired driving.
- Police Cannot Question or Detain Passengers – With the purpose of identifying and deterring impaired drivers, R.I.D.E. programs do not give police the authority to question or detain passengers, regardless of the existence of a reasonable suspicion that those passengers are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
As a criminal offence, being convicted of impaired driving has many serious consequences. It is crucial that you protect your rights in court.
X-Copper legal team of qualified and specialized impaired driving lawyers, former police officers and legal professionals are experienced in defending against impaired driving charges and how to get the best possible outcome for you.
To find out more about criminal traffic offences, check out our article “Dangerous Driving vs Careless Driving”.