WATCH: It’s a controversial law that was supposed to get drunk drivers off the roads. But one family says it has gone too far and a lawyer agrees with them. Calvin To reports.
A Colwood family says a law aimed at combating drunk driving is unfair to people with disabilities.
Changes to the Criminal Code, passed in 2018, allow police officers to ask drivers for breath samples without providing any reason.
In February, Inger Forsyth, 69, was leaving a liquor store in Saanich when a police officer pulled her over and asked her to give a breath sample.
She had not been drinking but had bronchitis at the time and was not able to provide sufficient air for the machine to register a reading.
Inger was giving a ticket and her car was impounded.
She and her husband, Gary, spent more than $3,000 in legal fees successfully fighting the charge.
Gary Inger said he has COPD, (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a disease that causes shortness of breath, and is now afraid of getting behind the wheel because of the chance he might be asked for a breath sample.
“They can pull me over, they can stop me, they can have me blow. And most assuredly, I won’t be able to blow successfully,” he said.
Mike Mulligan, a criminal defence lawyer in Victoria, says the law is discriminatory towards people with disabilities.
In addition, he says the complaint process is unfair.
Mulligan says those charged with refusing to provide a breath sample are presumed guilty unless they prove themselves innocent and have to pay at least $100 to appeal their charge.
“No one likes to think that who’s really going to get captured… are people who are going to be sober, disabled and impoverished. But as we’ve seen clearly, those are some of the people, which are now being captured by this legislative scheme,” he said.
Inger wants to see the law changed to reflect accommodations for people with disabilities.
“Have an addendum that says people with a condition will produce a letter but from their doctor or respirologist… and they’ll be exempt,” he said.