Quebec rulings declare rules on impaired driving unconstitutional

Days before Canada’s toughest impaired driving laws came into effect in British Columbia, two partially-conflicting Court of Quebec judgments have thrown into doubt the fate of changes introduced two years ago by the federal government that strengthened drug-impaired driving rules.

In a 160-page comprehensive ruling that provides a broad overview of impaired driving litigation in Canada, Court of Quebec Justice Pierre Lortie ruled that the new amendments dealing with impaired driving offenses introduced by Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, were unconstitutional as it infringed the presumption of innocence as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter). Judge Lortie also concluded that the provisions did not constitute reasonable limits as per s.1 of the Charter, and declared s. 258 c, d.01 and d.1 of the Criminal Code null and void.

But in a separate recent ruling, another Court of Quebec judge ruled that the amendments were only partly unconstitutional. In a 51-page ruling, Justice Conrad Chapdelaine concluded that the presumptions of identity set out by s.258 (1)c) and s. 258 (1)d.1) of the Criminal Code infringe s.11(d) of the Charter. But unlike Judge Lortie, Justice Chapdelaine found that the presumption of accuracy foreseen in s.258 (1)c) of the Criminal Code did not violate the Charter. Nor did he find that the restrictions imposed by the legislator that precludes the use of evidence — such as the amount of alcohol the accused consumed and the rate at which the alcohol that the accused consumed would have been absorbed and eliminated by the accused’s body —  to demonstrate that an approved breathalyzer instrument malfunctioned violated the Charter.

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