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RCMP internal audit on breathalyzers shows “massive problems”: lawyer

In 2010 B.C. introduced a new impaired driving law, which included immediate roadside penalties, license suspensions, and the impounding of cars; making the province’s drunk driving laws among the toughest in the country.

But lawyers for alleged drunk drivers challenged the penalties saying they violated the Charter of Rights and today, the Supreme Court struck down the challenge stating the revised laws are now constitutional.

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On the heels of this decision by the Supreme Court comes more scrutiny over the accuracy of the breathalyzer, which is the handheld roadside screening device police are currently using.

According to RCMP documentation obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Acumen Law Corporation defense lawyer Paul Doroshenko, it also suggests the Mounties are concerned about the roadside scanners.

“So they did an audit and what they found was massive, massive problems and they never told anybody,” Doroshenko says.

Most of those problems were in the paperwork; which was put in place to ensure the devices are properly calibrated.

For instance, in the Central Okanagan eight of 19 roadside breathalyzers examined were pulled from service immediately because the paperwork that supported their accuracy was not present. The RCMP said the Alcohol Screen Device (ASD) calibrator program was operating at an unacceptable level.

In Kamloops, RCMP concluded that it “requires more accountability” and there “have been procedural and clerical errors made by most calibrators.”

While in Burnaby it was found there were “multiple months where the ASD calibration” was not checked, and in Kelowna there were eight of its 29 devices pulled from service immediately. In that case, the RCMP concluded “the errors made were resulting in bringing the Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) process and Criminal Code impaired driving investigations into question.”

Doroshenko explains, “these devices that were only intended to be screeners, and now they’ve elevated them to the purpose of punishing people.”

“Here you’ve got a situation where you can’t get the records during the course of your 90-day driving prohibition. You might be able to get the records six months or a year down the road after you’ve already served and things have gone through. Most people are not going to dig that much.”

By law every portable screening device has to be calibrated and property documented every 28 days; which according to the documentation was not happening in many cases. 

~ with files from Ted Chernecki

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