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Breath test refusal can land you behind bars

In Alberta, police have the right to stop motorists whom they believe may be impaired. If they then have reason to suspect the driver of consuming alcohol or using drugs within three hours of taking control of a vehicle, they can order the suspect to submit to a breath test. Furthermore, if for any reason a breath test cannot be executed, a urine or blood test done by suitably qualified individuals may be ordered. Breath test refusal can have severe consequences.

If a roadside breath test is ordered, the motorist must comply. However, if a formal breath, urine or blood test is ordered or done at the police station, the driver is entitled to first consult with his or her lawyer, but not when a roadside breathalyzer is ordered. By refusing to comply, a driver may face criminal charges for noncompliance with an official order.

The penalties for refusal will depend on whether this is a first offence, in which case a fine of at least $1,000 will apply. If it is a second offence, the driver may be sent to prison for at least 30 days, and subsequent offences will bring imprisonment of 120 days or more. Depending on the laws of the province, driving prohibitions may come into play.

As with all legal matters, exceptions invariably exist. Any Alberta driver who is accused of breath test refusal or noncompliance with an order to provide blood or urine samples has the right to consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. He or she can examine the charges and scrutinize the methods and procedures used during the whole process from where the driver was ordered to stop through to the filing of the charges. Any deviation from proper standards can be addressed in court.

Source: FindLaw Canada, "Refusing to provide breath, blood or urine samples", Miriam Yosowich, March 30, 2017

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