A BC nurse with partial facial paralysis said that she was unable to provide a breath analyzer sample during a roadside inspection, her driver’s license was suspended, and her car was impounded-Canadian laws on alcohol breath testing make certain The disabled cannot prove their innocence.
Jaime Van Derek, 44, of Port Alberni, said that she suffered from severe Bell’s Palsy during a pregnancy-damage to the facial nerve that paralyzed one of her faces.
On Saturday, the palliative care nurse was on vacation with her husband and children in Penticton, B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, when a RCMP officer stopped her to proceed after spending a day by the lake. Side check. The officials asked van der Leek to provide breath samples to test for alcohol. She said she tried, but due to her physical condition, she failed to form a seal on the device and blow in enough air for a feasible test.
She said that she explained her physical condition to the police officer, who told her that she was in difficulty and that she would be suspended from work immediately by the roadside.
“I can’t even blow up a balloon”
“I said,’I actually did my best, but I can’t even blow up balloons for my kid’s birthday party,'” she said. “I said,’Go to the car and ask my children, they will tell your mother’s face is broken and she can’t blow up balloons.’
“I showed him my smile. I showed him my teeth. I showed him that one side of my face was paralyzed. At that time I started begging him and said,’Please take me to the hospital for a blood alcohol test [test] Because I didn’t drink. ‘”
Van der Leek’s car was impounded for 30 days and her driver’s license was revoked for 90 days, which prevented her from working as a registered nurse and unable to take care of patients in need of hospice care.
“I have never had a criminal record, and I have never had a criminal record,” she said. “At the same time, I am sitting here and being discriminated against because of facial deformities.”
The Penticton RCMP said in a statement on Thursday that it was unable to provide more details of what happened at the scene due to ongoing investigations.
“Generally speaking, if a person can breathe and speak normally, there is no reason not to provide breath samples,” it said in the statement.
“This is as laborious as blowing a straw into a glass of water. The possibility that an individual cannot provide a breath sample is extremely rare And it is usually caused by reasons other than physical disability or medical conditions. “
Supreme Court of British Columbia
Van der Leek’s situation is not unique in B.C.
In a high-profile case in 2019, Norma McLeod, 76, of Victoria, was unable to provide breath samples due to chronic lung disease and implants, so her car was towed and suspended license. Her upper jaw is the result of cancer.
“I do think Canadians should be worried about this exact issue,” said Jennifer Fetterlin, a lawyer from the province of British Columbia, who was part of the team that submitted the Macleod case to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. “There are many people who are more vulnerable, whether they are sick or injured, they cannot meet their needs.
If the driver refuses to provide a sample or is unable to provide a sample, the police officer can immediately issue a roadside prohibition (IRP)-or arrest if the person’s driving record is uneven.
Teryn works with Victoria-based Steele Law Corp., a company that focuses on roadside prohibitions and other suspected driving offences.
Before 2018, the police must reasonably suspect that the driver had drunk alcohol before requesting the test.But in December 2018, the federal government Amendments to the Canadian Criminal Law, Allowing the police to request a roadside breath test for any driver.
Call for changes in the law
Teryn said that immediate enforcement of the roadside ban could trigger a long and costly process, including automatic charging of a $250 driver’s license reinstatement fee, a $500 fine, up to $1,000 towing and storage fees, and mandatory participation in a responsible driving program. It’s about $930. She said that the review process can be used, but it is difficult to win without the help of a lawyer.
“In the system, the burden of proof lies with the applicant or the driver to prove the case,” she said. “So basically the police can say what they want about what they observe, and then the driver has the responsibility to refute what the police said or defend it. It’s really difficult.”
Van der Leek said that her experience on the roadside made her feel “totally humiliated” because she tried repeatedly but failed to provide samples.
The police officer “said’put your hands on your face and squeeze your lips’,” she said. “I tried everything he asked me to do, but I couldn’t do it.”
She believes that the law needs to be changed.
“I don’t want to see someone with a medical problem go through what I’m going through,” she said. “I want to see that if someone is unable to produce a breathalyzer for medical reasons, then the officer must immediately send you to the emergency room in order to collect our blood alcohol.
“Give us a chance to prove that we are innocent.”