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Police Powers: Stops and Searches

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What if the police stop me while I am driving?

The police can stop you while you are driving and ask to see your driver's licence, and your car registration and insurance. If you do not show them these documents, you can be charged with a provincial offence.

They have the right to stop you even if they have not seen you break the law. But they are not supposed to stop people because of their race. If this happens you might want to get legal advice.

If the police have "reasonable grounds" to believe that you have been racing on a highway or performing a "stunt", they can take your car away from you and require you to give them your driver's licence. If this happens, you will not get your car back for at least 7 days and your licence will be automatically suspended for 7 days.

If the police suspect that you have been drinking

If the police suspect that you have been drinking alcohol, they can demand that you take a roadside breath test. They can also demand that you do "physical coordination tests" at the roadside. For example, you might be asked to perform a walk‑and‑turn test or to stand on one leg or to follow an object with your eyes. These tests are meant to check whether alcohol has impaired your ability to drive.

If the police have reasonable grounds to believe that your ability to drive is impaired by alcohol, or that you have more than the legal limit for alcohol in your blood, they can demand that you go with them to a police station to do a breath test for alcohol. This kind of test is sometimes called a "breathalyzer test".

Depending on the results of the roadside breath test or the breathalyzer test, you might have to give up your driver's licence to the police. Your licence would then be automatically suspended for a certain period of time.

If the police suspect that you have been taking drugs

If the police suspect that you have been taking drugs, they can demand that you do physical coordination tests so that they can check whether drugs have impaired your ability to drive.

If the police have reasonable grounds to believe that drugs have impaired your ability to drive, they can demand that you go with them to the police station for a drug evaluation. A specially trained police officer will do a series of physical observations and tests. If the evaluation is positive, the officer can demand that you provide a sample of your saliva, urine, or blood for a drug test.

And as of October 2, 2016, depending on the results of the physical coordination tests or the drug evaluation, you might have to give up your driver’s licence to the police. Your licence will then be automatically suspended for a period of time.

If the police want to test for alcohol or drugs

You do not have the right to speak with a lawyer before taking a roadside test. But you do have the right to speak to a lawyer before doing a breath test or providing a sample for a drug test at the police station.

If you refuse a test, the police will charge you with refusing to comply with a demand that you submit to a test. Later, a court can decide whether you had a "reasonable excuse" for refusing. But it is hard to show that you had a reasonable excuse. If the court finds that you did not have a reasonable excuse, you could be given the same penalty as if the police had caught you driving while impaired or with more than the legal limit for alcohol in your blood.