Supreme Court of Canada to examine timing of roadside breath tests

Breath tests at top court

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case that hinges on the time police took to arrange a breath test for a Quebec man.

Early one afternoon in April 2017, police got word of someone allegedly driving an all-terrain vehicle while drunk, arrived at the scene and stopped Pascal Breault, who was walking away.

Asked if he had been drinking, Breault said he'd had one beer, but insisted he had not been driving the vehicle, contradicting trail patrollers who had contacted the police.

The officers did not have an approved screening device — used to take an initial breath sample in advance of a full breathalyzer test of blood alcohol levels — so they radioed other nearby officers to obtain a device.

Breault repeatedly refused to provide a breath sample and was found guilty of failing to comply with a police officer's demand, even though there was no device at the scene and one never did arrive.

Breault was acquitted when the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled the officer's demand was invalid due to a provision which, at the time, required that a breath sample be provided "forthwith."

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