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What happens when you refuse to give a breath sample?

The Calgary Police Service views impaired driving as a very serious offence. An approximate third of all accidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths in Calgary involve impaired drivers.

Trying to keep pace with another person's drinking is a recipe for disaster, as alcohol does not have the same effect on every person, and many different factors combine to contribute to or enhance alcohol's effect. Any time that a motorist's ability to drive a motor vehicle is affected by drugs or alcohol, they risk arrest, or worse, killing or maiming themselves and others.

Even a first offence carries strict penalties, including:

-- Having your license suspended for about a year

-- Paying fines that average around $1,500

-- Being forced to pay a great deal more for car insurance

-- Negative implications regarding crossing the border

Annually, an average of 2,700 charges of impaired driving are laid in and around Calgary. That total also includes individuals who are charged with having a blood alcohol content of more than .08/impaired.

The CPS has policies in place to monitor impaired driving, including the year-round CHECKSTOP program. They also maintain street enforcement in the different problem areas. In order to detect alcohol use, CPS utilizes the Alco-Sensor FST. When this screening device detects alcohol, they then employ the Intoxilyzer 5000C to determine the amount of alcohol the person has in their bloodstream.

Some drivers figure they can skirt providing a mandatory breath sample. However, if the CPS officer reads you a Criminal Code Demand and you don't comply, you still get charged with the crime of refusal to provide a breath sample. This charge carries the same penalties as an impaired driving conviction does.

You also can't provide a false sample or alter your sample by chewing gum, smoking or placing a foreign object under your tongue. Not only will these ploys not work, but the officer will check your mouth before you give your breath sample to make sure there is nothing in there.

The best approach when you face charges is to retain a criminal defence lawyer who can mount evidentiary challenges to the Crown's case.

Source: Calgary Police Service, "Impaired driving," accessed Sep. 29, 2016

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