An Ontario man was recently acquitted of impaired driving after a judge found that his Charter rights had been violated when police permitted a TV camera to film him giving breath samples and speaking to a lawyer on the phone at a RIDE check.
In May 2016, York Regional Police set up a RIDE stop in Richmond Hill using a mobile testing truck. Members of the media were invited to be present as a “ride-along”. The ostensible purpose of this arrangement was to demonstrate that, despite recent high-profile incidents involving impaired drivers, drunk driving continues to be an issue in York Region.
When the man in question was pulled over, a Global News crew was present on site and filmed the man being taken into the RIDE truck, providing breath samples, and telling officers that he had only had one drink. The man also spoke briefly to a reporter after he gave his breath samples and called counsel. The segment later aired on television.
The man’s breath samples showed results of 152 and 146 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood- almost twice the legal limit. He was charged with Driving Over 80.
The Camera Crew
At trial, the man testified that the Global News crew filmed him the entire time he was in the breath room in the RIDE truck, and while he was calling duty counsel in a small phone booth located inside the truck.
The man claimed that he had asked the police officer administering the breath test whether the cameraman could leave, but was told that the police had given him permission to be there. He claimed that he found this intimidating.
The man further testified that when he called counsel he told the lawyer that he was being filmed. The lawyer was surprised. The man said that the camera was so close that even if he turned around inside the small phone booth the camera was still about an inch away. The man testified that he wanted to ask the lawyer questions but could not because he was being recorded. He asked the cameraman to turn the camera off, but the cameraman refused, telling the man that the crew had permission to be there. The man was told that neither his face nor his name would be shown on TV. He was later clearly shown on the news segment.
Charter Violations: Blood Samples Inadmissible
Justice David Rose concluded that the man’s Charter rights to counsel and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had both been infringed, making the breath samples inadmissible. The man was acquitted.
The judge noted that the rights violations were “particularly serious” since the order to permit the news crew to film had come from an unknown police official, stating:
What aggravates the seriousness of the charter violations in this case is that there appears to have been no input from the actual officers on scene about what might happen if a TV news crew were allowed inside the RIDE truck…no witness personally took responsibility in the evidence to explain the rationale for Global TV being in the RIDE truck.
Justice Rose also commented on the irony of the situation, stating:
What is regrettable in this case is that otherwise reliable evidence of blood alcohol content of a motorist is excluded because York Regional Police saw apparent wisdom in giving Global News access to the RIDE truck (where the breath samples were taken).
An effort to publicize a fairly routine police alcohol driving interdiction program will result in an acquittal. The irony is not lost on me.
After the decision was issued, a spokesman for York Regional Police told the Toronto Star that corporate communications for the police service has made changes to its policies to ensure that media is more closely supervised while on ride-alongs.
A Global News executive told the Star that their journalists are trained to “balance the rights of accused persons with the public’s right to know”, further explaining that the crew “operated in plain sight with police authorization, keeping as low a profile as the environment allowed.”
If you have been charged with impaired driving, driving over 80, or any other driving offence, contact one the experienced Oshawa drunk driving lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP for a free consultation. We have 24-hour phone service for your convenience. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.