Drunk Driving Defense in Canada

The issue of access to source codes with the devices that were used to test persons suspected of drunk driving plagued Minnesota courts for several years.  The Supreme Court of Canada recently held that the maintenance logs for breathalyzers used in drunk-driving stops and charges are only disclosable in court if a defendant can show such records are relevant to the defendant’s case.

The defendant, Ms. Awashish, was charged with impaired driving and driving “over 80” and requested documents related to her charges, called disclosure, specifically those related to a breathalyzer used to test her. A lower court judge ordered Canada to give her the documents.

The Supreme Court of Canada held that Ms. Awashish’s records were not material to how a breathalyzer works on any given day nor did Ms. Awashish “establish a basis for the records’ existence or relevance. [Canada] was therefore under no obligation to inquire into the matter.”

In addition, in a procedural matter, the issue was whether Ms. Awashish or the government was able to appeal on an evidence disclosure question in the first place when it was not the question of the trial, but a side matter. In response, the Supreme Court essentially confirmed a general rule that trials should not be interrupted to deal with side issues, according to a “Case in Brief” Report published on the Supreme Court’s website.

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