New federal legislation that took effect in December allows police to demand a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

A 76-year-old Victoria woman is challenging Canada’s mandatory alcohol-screening laws after she was unable to provide a roadside breath sample.

Norma McLeod left a liquor store on Feb. 14 near Hillside Mall when she was stopped by an officer on the sidewalk and asked to provide a breath sample, according to her lawyer, Jerry Steele.

After her ninth failed attempt to provide one, Steele said the officer impounded her car and suspended her licence for three months, costing her $2,800 in fees.

McLeod suffers from lung disease and previously had mouth cancer, which prevented her from blowing into the screening device long enough to register a reading.

On April 18, her lawyers filed a petition trying to clear her name, arguing the mandatory alcohol-screening laws are unconstitutional.

“We’re not attacking the police’s right to ask for people to provide a breath sample,” Steele told Black Press Media. “What we’re doing is we’re attacking the right for the police to do that with no grounds or suspicion whatsoever.”

The laws, which came into effect in December, allow police officers to demand a breath sample “without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body.”

READ MORE: Stricter drunk driving laws to take effect across Canada today

Previously, officers needed a “reasonable suspicion” to ask for a breath sample, which Steele said can mean admission by the driver, or the odor of liquor from the car or the driver’s breath.

“It was so low to begin with. This is just excessive,” he said, referring to the threshold an officer can demand a sample.

Since McLeod’s case has gone public, Steele said several other people have come forward with similar experiences.

No response to the petition has been filed in court.



joti.grewal@bpdigital.ca

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