Breathalyzers and DUI Charges in British Columbia

A Breathalyzer is a drunk driving detection tool used by law enforcement to test for drunk driving without taking blood or some other fluid. In other words, it’s a way for the police to test for a impaired driving with minimal intrusion – or less intrusion than taking your blood or other fluids.

The breathalyzer gives a reading based on the blood alcohol level in 100 mL of blood. In British Columbia, a result of .08 or higher is considered impaired driving and will likely result in a DUI charge. However, also in B.C., in some circumstances, a police officer may issue a 24 hour ticket instead of making an arrest on the criminal charge of DUI.

A police officer must have a reason to ask a driver to blow into a breathalyzer. Good enough reasons include (but are not limited to) smelling alcohol, slurred speech, poor performance during a roadside sobriety test, and any other signs of impairment. The reason an officer must have a reason to force you to blow into a breathalyzer is Canadian law protects the individual right against unreasonable search and seizure (section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). Note that refusing to blow into a breathalyzer is criminal offense in itself.

There are several ways to defend against a DUI charge in British Columbia.

The key point to note is that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Not only that, the evidence relied upon by the prosecution must be reliable and obtained in a way that doesn’t violate your Charter rights – such as protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The prosecution must prove the breathalyzer was reliable – that it was maintained and calibrated properly. Another potential defense is proving the identity of the driver. Sometimes the prosecution’s case is weak in proving the actual identity of the driver. And then there’s the potential defenses of having evidence not admitted because it was obtained by the police in a way that violated your individual rights set out in the Charter.

Again, the point is there are numerous defenses to impaired driving charges in British Columbia.

BOLA TANGKAS