RCMP set to begin mandatory breathalyzers for drivers pulled over in Saskatchewan

Herald file photo

Bryn Levy, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Saskatchewan RCMP are going to start using their breathalyzers every time they pull someone over.

The police service announced this week that effective April 1, officers will begin checking all drivers for alcohol during traffic stops. The policy builds on changes introduced to the federal Criminal Code in 2018, which gave police the authority to require breath samples from drivers without having to first prove a reasonable suspicion of impairment.

“It goes without saying that someone’s ability to mask their impairment should not be the determining factor if someone gets home safely to their family each night,” RCMP Supt. Grant St. Germaine said in a news release.

RCMP said officers will not be pulling drivers over for the sole purpose of checking them for impairment. Rather, the policy would see drivers asked to provide a breath sample when pulled over for other potential violations such as speeding, careless driving or malfunctioning brake lights.

The policy is reportedly meant to help address Saskatchewan’s high rates of impaired driving. RCMP in the province laid over 1,700 impaired driving charges in 2023, and alcohol was involved in over one-third of all fatal collisions.

A breathalyzer test generally takes about 90 seconds. Drivers who refuse to provide a breath sample can face a criminal charge, with potential penalties including suspension of their driver’s licence, vehicle impoundment, demerit points on their driving record and fines. RCMP have announced that the policy of demanding roadside breath tests in the course of all traffic stops will continue on “an on-going basis.” The Regina Police Service previously announced its officers would be checking for alcohol during all routine traffic stops for the month of March.

Saskatchewan courts have previously ruled mandatory alcohol screening is permissible under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.