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Driving home the breathalyser message
Hugh Wooding Law School
In 2007 the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act Chap. 48:50 was amended to introduce the breathalyser law to citizens of T&T. Section 70(a)(1) of the amended Act states that no person shall drive or attempt to drive, or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a oad or other public place if he has consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the proportion in his breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit.
The prescribed limit means a breath alcohol concentration of 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, or such other proportion as may be prescribed.
A police officer may require a driver or a person in charge of a motor vehicle to provide a specimen of breath for a test at or near the place where the request is made, if he has reasonable cause to believe that the person has consumed alcohol above the prescribed limit.
A police officer can have reasonable cause to administer a breath test where:
• He has smelt alcohol in the suspected person’s breath;
• The suspected person has slurred speech;
• The suspected person is swerving whilst driving on the road
• Where the suspected person has poor co-ordination
How is the breath analysis done
A person must provide two separate specimens of breath for analysis and such specimens must be provided in accordance with the directions of an authorised officer. There must be an interval of not less than two minutes and not more than ten minutes between the provision of specimens and the result. The lower of the two shall be taken to be the result of the breath analysis.
Refusal to take test
Where a person is required by a police officer to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test and fails to do so, once the police officer has reasonable cause to suspect that the person has alcohol in his breath or blood that is above the prescribed limit, the officer may arrest the suspected person without a warrant.
If a person is found to have a proportion of alcohol in his breath that has exceeded the prescribed limit after a breath test is administered he may be arrested without a warrant and would be subject to prosecution.
In the case of a first conviction, the suspected person is liable to a fine of $8,000 or to imprisonment for three years. In the case of a second conviction, the suspected person is liable to a fine of 15,000 or to imprisonment for five years and may be disqualified for a period of three years from the date of the conviction from holding or obtaining a driving permit. If convicted a third time for a like offence, the person shall be permanently disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving permit.