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771 Breath screening tests: Roadside & breathalyzer
- The roadside test and the breathalyzer test comparedTo test a driver's alcohol consumption, the police have the legal right to administer two kinds of breath tests, the roadside breath screening test and the breathalyzer test. The roadside breath screening test usually takes place at the side of the road after you have been pulled over. This test, which is sometimes called an A.L.E.R.T. test, provides the police with an approximate reading of the amount of alcohol in your body. The second test is called the breathalyzer or the intoxicazer test. Unlike the roadside breath test, the breathalyzer is conducted at the police station. The breathalyzer test is more sophisticated and provides an exact reading of your blood alcohol level. Refusing to provide a breath sample for either test can result in a serious charge under the Canadian Criminal Code. If you have an injury or illness that prevents you from being able to blow enough air into the screening machine, you may have a valid excuse for refusing.
- When can the police request a roadside breath test and a breathalyzer?Before asking a driver to perform a roadside breath test, the police must generally have a good reason to suspect that alcohol has been consumed. This may arise from a number of observations by the police, such as your appearance, your physical movement, whether you or your car smell of alcohol, and your answers to questions. Although you are not required to respond to questions by the police, failing to do so may lead the police to suspect you have consumed alcohol, and they will likely require you to provide a roadside breath screening sample. You do not have the right to consult a lawyer before performing the roadside test. However, you do have the legal right to consult a lawyer before performing the breathalyzer test at the police station.
- PenaltiesAlthough you cannot be charged with an offence for failing a roadside breath test, you can be charged with driving while exceeding the legal blood/alcohol limit for failing a formal breathalyzer test. Other related charges may also arise depending on the facts, such as impaired driving, dangerous driving, and criminal negligence. Your driver's licence will also be automatically suspended for 90 days. If you were at fault for an accident and you were impaired, your automobile insurance policy may not cover damage to your vehicle and you may not be eligible to receive certain other benefits, such as income replacement benefits.
If the police ask you to perform a formal breathalyzer test, it is your right to consult a lawyer and you should consider doing so.