Impaired driving cases are highly complex and technical. Understanding the issues that arise in these cases requires a strong level of knowledge in the law, Charter rights and litigation, and the scientific underpinning of impaired driving charges. My goal as a driving lawyer with a focus in impaired driving cases is to have the best level of knowledge possible about all of these issues.
Many lawyers do not take steps to appreciate or understand the complex science that goes into impaired driving cases. Faced with an instrument like the one depicted above, they would struggle to identify what it is. It's a liquid chromatography mass spectrometry instrument, for the record. And when it comes to operating the instrument and interpreting and understanding the results, many lawyers would similarly be at a loss.
I try to go the extra mile for my clients so that I can easily spot the important issues.
Back in 1975, the Supreme Court of Canada made a groundbreaking decision on drunk driving. The decision was about the admissibility of breathalyzer test results presented in court. In this decision, the Court held that breathalyzer results, even absent evidence the breath sample was lawfully obtained, could still be used in court to convict a driver for being over the blood alcohol limit, with this caveat: as long as the driver did in fact provide a breath sample, and a certificate of analysis was admitted into evidence.
In plain English, what the court was saying is that if you provided a breath sample, even if the demand for the breath sample was unlawful, the results of that breath test could be used against you in court.
Since then, courts across the country have gone back and forth about whether that decision remains good law or whether it's absolutely bonkers that unlawfully obtained evidence is somehow still admissible in court.
Canada’s so-called legalization of marijuana comes with several consequences, including the new framework for mandatory random breath testing roadside. But there are other significant consequences that still need to be unpacked in this legislation.
Today’s blog post is going to outline a few of the other problematic changes to the alcohol-impaired driving legislation, and particularly those that have received less attention. In this post, I am going to deal with one of the other significant changes: reducing the number of defences available to drivers. This will be part one of a two-part blog post on reducing the defences, as there is a lot to discuss here.
As reported on the Acumen Law Blog recently, the breathalyzer doesn't always work correctly. And key to defending any Immediate Roadside Prohibition case is understanding how these devices work.
But sometimes, errors occur that cannot be explained. As you can see in the above video, the Alco-Sensor IV DWF device simply would not accept my breath sample. I have blown into this and other breathalyzer and approved screening devices probably thousands of times. I have experimented with blowing hard, blowing soft, blowing for a short time, and blowing for a long time. I know how to provide a suitable sample. And in the video above, I was doing exactly what the device required to meet the sampling parameters. Yet for some reason, the device simply did not detect my airflow.
This was an approved screening device that had been checked for calibration using a wet bath standard and had received recent annual servicing. On paper, there was no reason why the device should not have accepted my breath sample. Nonetheless, despite my best and most legitimate attempts to blow, the machine did not work.
I deal with many Immediate Roadside Prohibition, Administrative Driving Prohibition, and criminal refusal to blow charges every year. Every once in a while I have a client who tells me they were making an earnest and honest attempt to provide a sample, but the police disclosure reveals information that would indicate no air was going into the device. Having experienced this issue myself, I can relate to my clients' bafflement at their circumstances and I understand my clients' innocence.
One of the most important factors in defending impaired driving, DUI, and/or Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) cases is understanding the equipment used by the police. Until you have had hands-on experience with the devices and instruments, you cannot fully understand the intricacies of how these machines work. I am fortunate to have a small collection of breath testing equipment, including a BAC Datamaster C approved instrument, an Alco Meter SL-2 approved screening device, a Draeger AlcoTest 7410 approved screening device, and a Breathalyzer 900, which was formerly an approved instrument. In our office, we have an Alco-Sensor FST, Alco-Sensor IV, Intoxylizer 400, and an Intoxlyzer 5000. I have personally operated and used each of these pieces of equipment, so I know and understand how they work and why they fail.
But sometimes, (like in the above video) even with plenty of experience using a device, it simply does not work. And the reason why cannot be explained.
Vancouver Criminal Lawyer with a focus on impaired driving, cannabis legalization and related issues, and immediate roadside prohibition defence.