‘Tis the Season for Police R.I.D.E. Programs in Ontario

It’s the Holiday Season, and with it comes increased police presence in Ontario of R.I.D.E. (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) initiatives by police.  If you are driving about in the coming weeks, it likely you will encounter one of these roadside checkpoints that randomly test drivers’ sobriety while operating motor vehicles.

So why did I get asked to blow at a R.I.D.E. stop and others were waived through?

A question that many wonder is: “Why are some people asked to conduct the tests, and others are waived through?”  Rather than provide a detailed legal analysis on the law of impaired driving, here is the short version of what happens at a R.I.D.E. stop and why (or why not) you may be asked to blow into a device:

The Police Checklist for Impaired Driving Screening:

impaired driving lawyer dui1) In Canada, police are permitted in law to randomly test the sobriety drivers; R.I.D.E. programs are a manifestation of this power.

2) Once the driver engages police at the R.I.D.E. stop, an officer will attempt to determine if they have “reasonable grounds to suspect” that a driver has  alcohol and/or a drug “in their body” or is impaired by drug or alcohol.

3) Once reasonable suspicion is established, the officer is permitted to require the driver to blow into an “approved roadside device” (or ASD), or participate in “sobriety field testing” (drugs).

NOTEA roadside device (ASD) is not a breathalyzer machine.  That test will come should you fail an ASD screen, or if the officer establishes reasonable grounds through other means the person is driving impaired.

4) This reasonable suspicion required for an ASD demand can be established in a number of ways:

  • The driver admits they have had something to drink (or consumed drugs) prior to driving.
  • NOTE: this is the most common reason why people will be asked to blow into an ASD.  Most people will answer this question honestly and admit they consumed alcohol earlier in the evening.  Even if that amount was very small and much earlier in the day/evening, as soon as the driver admits to consuming any alcohol, that will form the basis for “reasonable suspicion” of “alcohol in the body” and that person will be asked to blow into an ASD.  So, rest assured, once a driver admits to consuming alcohol, they will be asked to participate in an ASD sample.
  • They present “indicia of consumption” that would be consistent with someone having alcohol/drug in their body: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, smelling of alcohol, open alcohol present in the vehicle, their passenger says they consumed alcohol, smelling of marijuana inside the vehicle, etc.

What Happens After the Screening:

5) The next step is to then have the driver participate in more enhanced testing.  In the case of alcohol, they may be required to provide a sample into a breathalyzer machine; in the case of drugs, they may be required to participate in a Drug Recognition Evaluation.  Typically, this sort of testing is done back at the police station.

6) However, before this more enhanced testing may take place, police must first have “reasonable grounds to believe” that the driver has committed an offence of impaired driving (by drug or alcohol), or, has a blood alcohol level greater than concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.  “Reasonable grounds” can also be established in a number of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Failing a roadside ASD (approved screening device);
  • Failing SFT (sobriety field testing);
  • The driver admitting they are impaired;
  • Indicia of impairment which may include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, smelling of alcohol, smelling or marijuana, erratic driving, sleepiness, erratic behaviour, inability to focus, dilated pupils, etc.

7) Once people have established “reasonable grounds” to believe the driver has committed an offence by driving while impaired or exceeding the legal limit of alcohol in their body, that person will:

  • Be placed under arrest for the appropriate offence(s);
  • Read a demand to accompany the police officer to provide a suitable sample into a breathalyzer machine; or, in the case of drugs, to accompany the police officer to be subjected to a Drug Recognition Evaluation
  • Read their rights to counsel and right to silence.

R.I.D.E. Programs: What Should Someone Do? 

First and foremost, don’t drink and drive.  The costs of drinking and driving and impaired driving are profound.  You can take someone’s life, have your licence suspended, be stigmatized with a criminal record, and pay significant legal fees.  It is never worth it: take a taxi, have a sober driver, or just don’t drink.  Too many people have tried and failed to guess when they are “ok to drive” and self-assess blood alcohol levels.   The same can be said for drug impairment and driving.

However, should you find yourself placed under arrest for impaired driving, call a lawyer at the earliest opportunity.  The advice you receive is invaluable and it cannot be overemphasized how important it is to insist to speak to a lawyer of your choosing.  You are not obligated to speak to duty counsel and have every right to have the police to take all reasonable efforts to obtain the specific lawyer you wish.

Be safe and  Happy Holidays from everyone at Robichaud’s.