Your Rights: Separating Fact from Fiction

Every day, people are subject to legal information, mostly from the news. This can come from various sources, such as television, newspapers, or the internet. The source of this information is invariably Government agencies and organizations, such as the police. However, this information is sometimes incomplete or one-sided, and does not fully inform of legal rights and obligations. This section is designed to examine everyday legal issues, and attempt to inform the public of their rights.

Every day, people are subject to legal information, mostly from the news. This can come from various sources, such as television, newspapers, or the internet. The source of this information is invariably Government agencies and organizations, such as the police. However, this information is sometimes incomplete or one-sided, and does not fully inform of legal rights and obligations. This section is designed to examine everyday legal issues, and attempt to inform the public of their rights.

Impaired Driving and Refusing to Provide a Sample "absent a reasonable excuse"

A recent newspaper article has informed the public that Alberta’s RCMP have deemed August Impaired Driving Month. Given the summer atmosphere with camping and partying, the police have warned that they will be focusing on catching Alberta’s impaired drivers.

In this recent article, the RCMP wanted to advise the public that, while impaired driving is an offence, so is refusing to provide a breath sample. However, this is only partly true. More precisely, the Criminal Code details that refusing to provide a breath sample is an offence, absent a reasonable excuse.

For example, a reasonably held belief that providing a breath sample would be hazardous to your health is a reasonable excuse. This is the case where an individual has believed that they might have an asthma attack from expelling all of the air from their lungs, and where an injury to the neck created a reasonably held belief that a breath sample should not be provided. A breach of the right to counsel can also, in unique situations, provide a reasonable excuse to refuse to provide a breath sample.

Also, it is only an offence to refuse to provide a breath sample if the demand for that sample is a lawful one. The police need to have the requisite grounds before demanding a sample of a person’s breath or blood, and themselves have to follow the prerequisites contained within the authorizing statute (the Criminal Code) when demanding and taking the sample. If these requirements are not met, then the demand and taking of breath samples is unlawful, and an individual does not commit an offence in refusing to provide a sample.

Information Is Power

Remember that each case is fact specific, and an individual cannot use a vague or undetermined medical concern as a reasonable excuse. However, a person only commits an offence if they refuse to provide a breath sample, absent a reasonable excuse. Simply refusing to follow the demands of a peace officer is not, in itself, a crime.

Know your rights and obligations. Knowledge is your best protection.

If you have questions about your legal rights or the limits of police authority, please feel free to contact us with your questions. Your issue can become the subject of our next commentary, and be certain of this: if it is important to you, it is important to others as well!

Click here to download a PDF version of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

0 0
Feed