Failure to properly maintain breathalyzers helping people beat impaired convictions: MADD

By News Staff

Police in Ontario are vigilant when it comes to drinking and driving, with numerous R.I.D.E. spot-checks and countless awareness campaigns aimed at reducing carnage on our roads. But are they inadvertently helping the very people they arrest avoid conviction?

Director of Legal Policy for MADD Canada, Bob Solomon, says that could be the case when police fail to properly maintain their breathalyzers, creating legal loopholes that crafty lawyers are all too quick to exploit.

Solomon says police forces that don’t diligently calibrate the sensitive equipment are undoing their own hard work.

“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,” Solomon said. “It seems to me that it is absolutely essential that the police maintain the machines properly and that they are calibrated properly.”

A Brampton judge recently tossed an impaired case after a scientist testified that the breathalyzers used by police forces in Ontario, Intoxilyzer 8000C, are unreliable.

Solomon wouldn’t comment specifically on that case, but said problems arise when police drop the ball on maintaining the machines.

“It seems to me that if the standards set out are followed, then the evidence should be admitted and people should be convicted accordingly…These kinds of problems have happened from time to time in other jurisdictions where the police have failed to maintain the machines as required.”

Solomon says MADD continues to push for a reduction in legally permissible blood alcohol levels, from the current .08 to .05.

He says the change has saved countless lives in other countries that have adopted the .05 limit.

“We know that if you lower permissible blood alcohol levels, that impaired driving deaths, crashes and injuries, go down,” he maintained. “Our blood alcohol level is way out of line with comparable developed democracies.”

He notes that impaired driving is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada, and that you’re almost twice as likely to be killed in an impaired driving crash than murdered.

Despite those grim stats, Solomon says the push to change blood alcohol laws have been met with staunch resistance.

“The alcohol industry is a very powerful lobby, they have fought us every time we have proposed .05,” he said. “They’ve argued that if you do that you’ll destroy social drinking and you’ll prevent someone from having a beer. It’s completely and utterly wrong.

“This is not a research question, this a question of political will,” he adds. “Our law doesn’t prohibit drinking and driving, our law prohibits you from driving if you’ve consumed a lot of alcohol.”

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