A Good Deed…?

The Sun newspaper in Edmonton recently published an article titled “Snitches do good,” applauding the efforts of individuals calling the police to report suspected impaired drivers. This program in Edmonton is called “Curb the Danger” and is similar to other programs across the country, such as the R.I.D.E. (Report Impaired Drivers Enforcement) program. Whatever the name, the goal of the program is to have concerned citizens report suspected impaired driver’s for the police to investigate. A laudable goal, yes?

The Sun newspaper article cited that in October 2011, 690 calls to the “Curb the Danger” program resulted in 80 people charged with impaired driving. While 80 people charged sounds like an impressive number, the statistic that stood out to me was the 610 people that weren’t charged. Individuals need to realize the potential consequences of their actions, and be aware of the violation of individual liberties that can result…

What the public has to be aware of is the potential result of a hasty call to the police on a suspected impaired driver. What people don’t understand is the potential harm that can be caused to an individual detained by the police for an impaired investigation. Many of these individuals are subject to roadside breath samples before being given their right to counsel, and many refuse these breath samples because they believe they have done nothing wrong. However, it is an offence to refuse these demands, an offence that contains the exact same repercussions as a full impaired driving charged. What does this mean? An individual can be charged and convicted of an offence simply because someone decided to call the police and report them as a suspected impaired driver, whether they were guilty of actually being impaired or not. Individuals can also be charged with failing to provide a breath sample. When detained in the back of a police car, having a police officer read them a complicated demand while shoving a roadside device at them through a small window, demanding that they blow into the device, often with incomplete instruction on how to provide a sample properly, while nervous, scared, having never been in the situation before, sometimes cold and uncomfortable, it is no wonder that individuals don’t provide a sample properly in the brief few minutes that many police officers give a person to provide a sample. What is the result? A criminal charge, and the necessity of having to defend yourself in court.

Even if a person properly provides a sample, roadside devices are not infallible. In fact, they can be affected by something as simple as recently smoking. If a device gives a false fail, the police will not know this because they are not required to make sure that the factors that can cause a false fail are not present before proceeding with a roadside breath test. They rely on the fail, and then arrest the individual, who is then subject to handcuffing, searches, being taken to a police station, provincial administrative suspensions, trying to contact a lawyer often late at night, further breath samples, all to learn that they are not over the legal limit and finally released.

This does not include the people that are simply arrested, rather than subject to roadside breath samples. These people are subject to the full force of an impaired driving investigation, potentially when they have done nothing wrong. The effect can be, at the least, humiliating, and subjects innocent people to potential criminal charges and the need to defend themselves in court.

Why is this a concern? Is this not reasonable when 80 impaired drivers were charged with an offence? First, don’t be fooled by this statistic, when we don’t know how many of these charges will result in actual convictions. Second, the police never release statistics about those that are wrongfully arrested and accused of an offence, but then subsequently released because they blew under the legal limit. Every citizen has the right to be free from arbitrary detention, unreasonable search and seizure, and has a right to counsel, but you never see the statistics about when these rights are violated.

80 people charged? That is less than 12% of those accused by their fellow citizens of driving while impaired. For those that were correct, their diligence should be applauded. For those that were wrong, they might want to think about what their rash actions could mean to those suddenly finding themselves arrested, and those finding themselves improperly charged. You could be destroying an innocent persons life, so make sure your call to the police is bona fide and your not one of the 88% who were wrong…

Edmonton Impaired Lawyer

Posted on November 8th, 2011