The simple answer is no. Though you won’t be physically forced to submit a breath sample if you refuse to give one, it is an offence under Canada’s Criminal Code to refuse to comply with a police officer’s demand that you blow into the breathalyzer, either at the roadside or at the police station.
When can an officer demand a breath test?
Police can’t just ask for a test whenever they feel like it. For instance, if you’re stopped for another violation, and the officer takes a dislike to you for some reason, he or she can’t pull out the breathalyzer on the off chance that you’ve been drinking, just to get you arrested.
To be allowed to request a breath test, a police officer must have reason to suspect that you’ve been drinking while driving. This could be the smell of alcohol on your breath, your speech, your driving pattern, or an admission that you make. In court the prosecution will have to prove that the officer had probable cause.
Consequences of refusing a breath test
If you refuse a breath test, the penalties are the same as if you took the test and blew over the limit. These penalties include:
- Loss of driver’s licence for at least one year
- Fine of $1000 to $2000
- Mandatory alcohol and DUI counseling
Once you resume driving, your insurance will be much more expensive, and you will have to pay licence reinstatement fees in excess of $3,000.
Why refuse a test?
So, if refusing a breath test is an offence with such stiff penalties, why do some people refuse? If you’re not clear on the penalties involved, you might be tempted to refuse if:
- You only drank a small amount and you feel you’re not impaired
- You have not drunk anything and consider the test an insult
- You have drunk a great deal and you fear the results will be worse than the consequences of refusal
In Canada, you are allowed to consult a lawyer, who can advise and defend you if you find yourself in this tough situation.
Of course, the best advice you can take is not to get in this situation. Never drink and drive.