In just a few months, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta are already seeing results from the passage of the new law intended to deter drunk driving. The law, passed in December allows police to demand breath samples using a portable device even when they stop drivers for unrelated driving offences. A driver does not have to show any signs of being intoxicated or impaired for an officer to request the test.

Since the implementation of the new legislation, RCMP has arrested 18 drivers and charged them with impaired driving. Three of those drivers were criminally charged, and 12 received Immediate Roadside Sanctions, which results in the seizure of their vehicles and 72-hour licence suspensions. Three other drivers received 30-day licence suspensions under the zero-tolerance law because they were still carrying graduated driver’s licences.

Refusing to consent to a breath test at an officer’s request can lead to additional charges. Nevertheless, the validity of test results from a portable breath device have long been questionable. It is not easy to keep portable devices properly calibrated, and not all officers are adequately trained to use them.

While the point of the new law is to reduce the number of accidents, injuries and deaths caused by impaired drivers, those charged with driving offences related to alcohol have a great deal to be concerned about. In addition to licence suspension, drunk driving convictions can severely affect one’s future. Alberta drivers charged under these new laws would be wise to seek the advice of a criminal defence attorney.