A man and a machine were both on trial on this day before magistrate F.W. Barclay.

For the first time in Alberta, a person was convicted of impaired driving with the findings of a breathalyzer test being admitted as corroborative evidence.

Barclay found Marshall Miskiw, 22, of Two Hills, guilty and levied a fine of $150 and costs, with an automatic six-month suspension of his driver’s licence.

The Miskiw trial, recognized as a test case on the admissibility of breathalyzer evidence, stemmed from an incident on Nov. 9, 1963.

Police officers began following Miskiw after they noticed his erratic driving. He was stopped. The usual physical tests to detect impaired driving were carried out, followed by his arrest.

After he was booked, Miskiw took a voluntary breathalyzer test that showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.36 per cent.

Expert witness Dr. J.D. Taylor, who had conducted more than 4,000 breathalyzer tests, was present at the Miskiw test and said police followed procedure.

Dr. M.M. Cantor, a defence witness, testified he examined Miskiw on Jan. 28, and found some of the same conditions present as those found by police officers in November. He attributed part of the man’s halting walk to arthritis in the ankles and feet.

Cantor said he felt 0.36 per cent was high, but argued no firm rule could be established. He explained he had seen a person intoxicated at 0.04 per cent alcohol content. He also had evidence of a woman who walked home from a hotel with a percentage of 0.81. Cantor added the woman fell and broke her neck, but she had walked home first.

In his decision, Barclay cited several rulings in Saskatchewan and B.C. where the breathalyzer had been used.

It established the breathalyzer as an instrument of scientific investigation for police forces.

Today, the legal blood-alcohol content in Alberta is 0.08. On first offence, a driver’s licence is immediately suspended until the charge is dealt with and his/her vehicle is seized for three days.

Since 2012, anyone found with a blood-alcohol content of 0.05-0.08 is given a licence suspension of three to 30 days, depending on previous offences.

Failing to provide an inadequate breath sample when asked by the police is a criminal offence.

Source: Edmonton Journal

Last updated on: 2015-03-07 | Link to this post