Police spark debate after demanding breathalyzer at Barrie, Ont. man's home after traffic complaint
Police in Barrie sparked controversy after a video posted to social media showed officers arriving at a man's door to administer a breathalyzer test following a complaint about suspected impaired driving.
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Micah Colbert, a content creator, quickly grabbed his phone to record the interaction when an officer knocked on his door.
"We received a traffic complaint from the OPP, advised about possible impairment. You were swerving in and out of lanes," the officer tells Colbert in the video. "So now I'm here to administer an alcohol screening device. Right now, I demand that you provide a sample of your breath."
Despite being admittedly nervous, the 20-year-old Barrie man said he was confident he would pass the breath test.
"I knew I wasn't drinking. I know my thing would have been zero anyways, so I just embraced the moment and had a good time," Colbert said.
The video now has 1.7 million views on TikTok, with hundreds of thousands of comments debating the legality of officers showing up at someone's house to demand a breathalyzer based on a traffic complaint.
"Seeing the comments and seeing how it might be illegal or unlawful, or whatever it may be, I kind of see that now. So okay, if I had been drinking after I got home, what would have happened then?" Colbert said.
CTV Public Safety Analyst and former OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis confirmed the officer's actions were entirely legal.
"It is within the right of the police to knock on the door of somebody suspected of impaired driving and find out whether or not they had been impaired," Lewis said. "But, they have to know the person was driving. So the individual will either have to admit it, or they've got a witness."
Lewis said the law surrounding this was fairly new.
"This came with changes to the Criminal Code of Canada a few years back that I wasn't even aware of when this video surfaced online. I saw the video, and I wondered myself, actually, when did this become the norm," the former OPP commissioner said.
Lewis noted police only needed grounds to believe someone was driving impaired to demand a breathalyzer.
"I think the police handled this well. They were very professional, and cordial, they were smiling, laughing. The young man was exceptionally polite," Lewis noted.
After passing the breathalyzer test, Colbert and the officer are seen giving each other a fist pump.
Still, despite the legality of the action, questions remain about the possibility of false accusations or a situation where someone drives erratically but is not impaired and drinks after arriving home.
"If it's within the two hours of driving, perhaps you could be charged and then let the courts make the decisions from there," Lewis said.
"It's going to be interesting to test it within the Supreme Court and the decision-making around the legality of it," he added.
In an email to CTV News about the incident, Barrie police communications coordinator Peter Leon stated the service takes impaired driving reports very seriously.
"Our investigations utilize various investigative techniques, which can include attending a residence for the necessary follow-up," Leon stated.
"Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of death," Lewis concluded. "Just don't drink and drive, and there won't be an issue."
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