Impaired Driving

Breath Test Differences

What is the Difference Between a Roadside Breath Test and One Done at the Police Station?

A screening device is the machine the police sometimes use at the roadside if they reasonably suspect you to have alcohol in your body.

The Alcotest 7410 GLC is the most commonly used approved screening device in Ontario. This machine is used by the police as an investigative tool in situations where they may not have enough evidence to arrest you for Impaired Driving or Over 80. This tool would often be used, for example, in circumstances where you have been stopped at a R.I.D.E spot check or for a Highway Traffic Offence like speeding, and the officer detects an odour of alcohol coming from your breath or you admit to having recently consumed alcohol.

There are three possible results that you could register when blowing into a roadside screening device. These are a “pass”, a “warn” and a “fail”. The screening device is supposed to be calibrated to register a pass if you blow between 0 and 50 mgs of alcohol per 100 mLs of blood (0.05 and 0.08). A warning should register if you blow between 0.05 and 0.08. Although you should not be arrested for Over 80 if you blow a warn, an individual caught with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 to 0.08 now faces a three-day licence suspension and a $150 fine. Motorists caught a second time (within five years) face a one-week suspension and will have to attend an alcohol education program (Back on Track) and pay a $150 fine. Penalties for those caught a third time include a loss of their licence for a month and the installation of an ignition interlock device for six-months. Anything over 100 (0.1) should register a “Fail”, giving the officer grounds to arrest you for driving over the legal limit.

The result of the screening device test cannot be used in and of itself to prove the over 80 charge. For the purpose of a criminal charge, the result can only be used to give the officer sufficient grounds to make an arrest for Over 80 and to demand that you provide breath samples into an approved instrument. The result can also be used for the purpose of penalizing by fine and license suspension under the Highway Traffic Act (H.T.A.)

The machines used at the police station/detachment to determine your precise Blood Alcohol Concentration are the “Intoxilyzer 5000C” or the “Breathalyzer”. The “Breathalyzer” is an older instrument that is still used in some rural areas of the province. These machines are called approved instruments because Parliament has designated them as such in the Criminal Code. Only approved instruments that are operated by a qualified breath technician can be used to determine your Blood Alcohol Conentration (B.A.C.) if the results are to be used to convict you of the Over 80 offence. Although typically found in police stations, these machines are occasionally located on mobile units that the police sometimes use at R.I.D.E. Spot Checks.