UncategorizedThe RIDE Program: How Festive is it?

19 December 20221

(a) Arbitrary Detention?


There was a time when persons operating a vehicle could expect to drive

around free from interference by the police. But that was a time long ago

before to the advent of the R.I.D.E. (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere)

program. While there is no question that drinking driving exacts a heavy

human toll every year the issue remains to what extent the police are

empowered to randomly detain motorists for the purpose of combating the

social ill of carnage on our highways caused by people who shouldn’t be

behind the wheel.


One of the earliest and most significant Charter decisions dealing with the

tension between civil liberties and our supposed constitutional guarantees to

be free from arbitrary detention and unreasonable search is the Supreme

Court of Canada decision in  R. v. Hufsky, [1988] 1 SCR 621. In that case

our highest court decided that random stopping of a motorist for the

purposes of a spot check procedure, even if of relatively brief duration,

results in a detention within the meaning of s. 9 of the Charter of Rights. The

court also concluded that such detention is arbitrary in violation of s. 9 even

though the stop is done pursuant to statutory [provincial] authority and for

lawful purposes since there are no criteria for the selection of the drivers to

be stopped and subjected to the spot check procedure. The court nevertheless

authorized such stops based on provincial legislation as being a reasonable

limit within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter, having regard to the

importance of highway safety and the role to be played in relation to it by a

random stop authority for the purpose of increasing both the detection and

the perceived risk of detection of motor vehicle offences, many of which

cannot be detected by mere observation of driving. Finally, the S.C.C.

concluded that a demand by the police officer that the motorist surrender his

driver’s licence and proof of insurance for inspection as required by the

provincial legislation does not infringe the motorist’s right to be secure

against unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed by s. 8 of the Charter.


(b) Unsanctioned Investigations:


Against that background however the courts have made it clear that the

police do not have an unfettered right to arbitrarily investigate drivers who

they stop in the course of a random check for drinking drivers. The

subsequent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Mellenthin,

[1992] 3 S.C.R. 615 makes that perfectly clear. In that case the police

directed the appellant’s vehicle into a check stop set up as part of a program

to check vehicles. One of the officers shone a flashlight in the interior of the

appellant’s vehicle, which was considered to be an appropriate action to

ensure the safety of the officers conducting the check point. The flashlight

inspection revealed an open gym bag on the front seat. The officer asked

what was inside the bag, was told food and shown a paper bag with a plastic

sandwich bag in it. When the officer noticed empty glass vials, of the type

commonly used to store cannabis resin, he asked the appellant to get out of

the car, searched the car and found vials of hash oil and some cannabis resin

cigarettes. The appellant later gave an incriminating statement at the police

detachment. At trial the judge excluded both the physical evidence of the

drugs and the statement and acquitted the accused. The Court of Appeal

overturned the acquittal and ordered a new trial. Our Supreme Court

emphatically restored the acquittal reasoning that although RIDE programs

are justified as a means aimed at reducing the terrible toll of death and injury

so often occasioned by impaired drivers or by dangerous vehicles their

primary aim must be to check for sobriety, licences, ownership, insurance

and the mechanical fitness of cars. The court authoritatively held that the

police use of check stops should not be extended beyond these aims and that

“random stop programs must not be turned into a means of conducting either

an unfounded general inquisition or an unreasonable search.”


(c) The Investigation of Passengers:

This restrictive analysis has now also been extended to the rights of

passengers questioned in the course of a RIDE check. Recently, a well

respected judge of this province had occasion to review the evolving law in

this regard and had no difficulty acquitting a passenger of a car who had

been questioned at the roadside and charged with breach of probation. In R.

  1. Dale, 2012 ONCJ 692 The arresting officers were questioned at trial how

it was that they discovered the alleged breach and they candidly testified that

“it was ‘common’ to collect identification from not only the drivers but also

passengers in vehicles stopped at a R.I.D.E. and run the names through

CPIC to see if anyone was in breach of any conditions”. The judge roundly

denounced this practice: “In the case at bar, I find the violations to be very

serious, in particular the violation of s.8. I say this because of the bad faith

of the officer. The officers were either aware of Mellenthin….or they should

have been. Mellenthin was decided in 1992….. The seizure of identification

from passengers at a R.I.D.E. program has been specifically denounced as a

violation by the highest court in this country and in this province. The OPP

must obey the law. They cannot ignore it. They are sworn to uphold it. But

they do not. This is bad faith because the violation is either deliberate or

through their ignorance. It is necessary to dissociate the Court from ‘the

fruits of this unlawful conduct’. Where the police are acting in bad faith and

continue to engage in conduct specifically denounced by the Court then the

violation is very serious.”


In conclusion although it is permissible for the police to arbitrarily detain

motorists in a RIDE program, that detention should be brief and directed

specifically to the issue of the sobriety of the driver. The police do not have

carte blanche powers to conduct any other type of criminal investigation in

relation to the driver and they have no legal authority to commence an

impromptu investigation regarding any of the passengers.


(d) Demand for Roadside Breath Sample:


Drivers who are stopped by RIDE may also face a demand to provide a

sample of their breath into a roadside screening device. The officer only

needs to entertain a “reasonable suspicion” that the driver has “alcohol in his

body”.  Generally that would be established by the detection of an odour of

alcohol on a motorist’s breath coupled with an admission of consumption.

Although the police are entitled to ask “have you been drinking” an

informed motorist should know that an incriminating reply can supply the

grounds that the officer who is looking for to make the demand. If a roadside

demand is made, the motorist normally isn’t entitled to be informed of his

right to counsel unless there is a delay in administering the test in which case

the police must read him his rights or risk having any subsequent result

excluded. During the course of the test it is also necessary for the police to

advise as to the legal consequences for refusing to provide a sample (the

same jeopardy as if the detainee had been tried and convicted for an

impaired driving offence). A person faced with a demand to provide a

sample who is either reluctant or unable to provide a breath sample must

also be cautioned that after a number of unsuccessful attempts he is facing

his “last chance.”


(e) Related Administrative Consequences:


It is not a crime to take the roadside test and fail. This investigative result

simply provides grounds for the police to arrest on suspicion of “over 80”

when you must then be given your right to counsel and afforded a reasonable

opportunity to exercise that right. Motorists need to understand however that

even if they “pass” the test in the sense that they only blow a “warn”, which

means that they are actually under the legal limit, there are now serious

administrative consequences. Paradoxically, in Ontario your licence will be

immediately suspended (even though the machine has proven your

innocence) as follows:


First Time

  • 3-day licence suspension
  • $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

Second Time (within 5 years)

Third Time (within 5 years)

Subsequent infractions (within 5 years)

To make matters worse, these suspensions cannot be appealed. The roadside

device in other words constitutes an essentially unreviewable legal regime

akin to judge, jury and executioner at the roadside. The end result of these

escalating legislative sanctions is that the present penalty imposed by the law

at the roadside, where no criminal offence has either occurred or been

charged, is far worse than the penalties drivers used to get in years gone by

after they had actually been tried and convicted of drinking and driving.






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