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Random Roadside Breath Tests Considered in Canada

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Officials in Canada are considering changing the law to allow police to conduct random roadside Breathalyzer tests for drunk driving, rather than only for-cause tests, the Montreal Gazette reported Oct. 24.

A number of other countries — but not the U.S. — allow random DWI testing of drivers, but Canada has banned the practice for 40 years. Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson wants to change the law, but said he needs to discuss the proposal with provincial officials first.

A report from a nonpartisan justice committee concluded that “current methods of enforcing the law lead police officers to apprehend only a small percentage of impaired drivers, even at roadside traffic stops,” and noted sharp declines in drunk-driving fatalities in nations where random testing was adopted, such as Australia and Ireland.

Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits unreasonable search and seizures, but government officials could seek to carve out an exception for roadside testing.

The proposal is supported by the Canadian chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving but opposed by civil-liberties advocates.

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