Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 770
Police powers to stop vehicles and question driversRegion: Ontario Answer # 770
When can the police stop your vehicle?
The police have the legal right to stop a car at any time for the purpose of checking certain things, such as whether the:
- driver has consumed alcohol or drugs,
- driver has a valid driver’s licence,
- driver has valid car insurance,
- car is mechanically fit to be driven, etc.
The police do not have to suspect that a driver is impaired before they stop a vehicle. In fact, the police have the legal right to conduct random spot checks for impaired drivers, and they have the right to pull any car over at a RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program check point.
Responding to police questions
Once the police have stopped you, they have the right to ask you a number of questions, including whether you have consumed any alcohol or drugs. Although you do not have to answer these questions, it is advisable to co-operate with the police.
Refusing to respond to police questioning may lead them to suspect that you may be impaired and they may then demand that you provide the following tests or sample:
- perform a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST),
- take a roadside breath-screening test, or
- provide an oral fluid sample.
It is a criminal offence to refuse to provide a roadside breath test or oral fluid sample, or perform a SFST, and you do not have the right to consult with a lawyer first.
Failing a roadside test
Failing one or more of the roadside tests —SFST, breath test, or oral fluid test— can result in being charged under the Criminal Code. If the driver fails any of these roadside tests, they may be arrested and taken to a police station or medical facility for further testing. However, before taking further tests and or providing samples at the police station, you do have the right to consult with a lawyer.
For information on cannabis-impaired driving, refer to our Cannabis Law and Driving section.
It is important to note that you can be charged for more than one criminal impaired driving offence at the same time, such as:
- impaired driving,
- dangerous driving,
- criminal negligence, and
- exceeding the legal blood-alcohol, or blood-drug concentration limit.
The Crown prosecutor will decide which offence to prosecute (take to trial), based on the evidence and particular circumstances of the individual situation.
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