The breathalyzer has had a long and interesting history. From its initial origins as the Drunk-O-Meter way back in the 1930’s, the breathalyzer has been upgraded over the years into the highly accurate and sensitive fuel cell breathalyzers police use today.
But after a Brampton, Ontario judge recently tossed out an impaired driving case, the accuracy of police grade breathalyzers has come under fire. A scientist testified during the trial that the breathalyzers police use could be unreliable. Why? He felt there was no way to know if the device was giving accurate readings because it wasn’t clear whether or not the breathalyzer was maintained.
The judge in this case agreed with the expert, and the drunk driving charge was dropped. Although its just one case, it could have bigger implications for drunk driving in Ontario. It calls into question the accuracy of all breathalyzer tests and this could give a lot of people a loophole when they were legitimately stopped and arrested for drunk driving.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has commented on the case, and they said that police who fail to maintain detachment breathalyzers are undoing all of their own hard work. Director of Legal Policy for MADD Canada, Bob Solomon, was quoted on City News as saying, “Unless the proper procedures for maintaining the machines are carried out, then individuals should not be convicted on the basis of machines that are not kept pursuant to the requirements of the Criminal Code.”
Time will tell if this case creates a tidal wave of drunk driving appeals in Ontario, but the good news is that the awareness raised because of this case will cause police to be more vigilant about their detachment’s breathalyzers. When properly maintained a breathalyzer, just like an ignition interlock, is a highly accurate device. Ignition interlocks are calibrated at regular intervals by law, but are breathalyzers? Police need to take those steps, and if they do, drunk drivers won’t have an out.
This page is also available in: French