Has this ever happened to you?

You’re heading home from your brother-in-law’s BBQ or your friend’s holiday party and up ahead you see flashing red and blue lights and multiple police cruisers. It’s a police road check – suddenly your palms get sweaty, your heart rate goes up and you’re genuinely scared.

Even if you haven’t had a drop of alcohol – your nervous reaction is exactly what this dramatic set-up is supposed to generate.

To law-abiding members of the community, getting up-close-and-personal with a police officer at a road block can be intimidating – and are set up that way on purpose. The flashing lights and the officers’ body language and speaking tone are all subtle psychological tactics to instill feelings of doubt and tension in an approaching driver.

So what do you do if you are on your way home from a restaurant and you may have had a beer or glass of wine and are now bordering on complete panic?

The short answer? Remain calm. Breathe deeply and focus on a longer exhale to help lower your heart rate. Open your car windows to allow in fresh air – don’t wait until the officer is at your window and asks you to roll it down.

Police officers can use your nervousness to establish “indication of impairment”

Look the officer directly in the eye and speak in a respectful but clear and direct manner.

Make sure you have your driver’s licence and registration ready to present to the officer.

Be informed: In order for a police officer to demand that you blow into an ASD (Approved Screen Device) they must first establish reasonable suspicion that you have consumed alcohol within the last three hours.

They do this one of two ways:

  1. The officer perceives indications of impairment in you (they hear slurred speech, see bloodshot eyes, smell an odour of alcohol)
  2. You admit to having a drink

Do not answer any questions

You do not have to answer ANY questions, such as “Where are you going?” or “Where are you coming from?” even if the officer appears friendly and is smiling.

Instead, politely respond with a question of your own – “Would you like to see my licence and registration?” and have these items ready to show the officer.

You are not obliged to answer ANY questions – in fact, you are not required to volunteer any information at all under BC law.

Staying calm, knowing your rights and being prepared are essential. If you are asked to blow into an ASD (breathalyzer) – you must do so. If you fail, do not panic. Remain calm, say nothing and immediately head to a hospital Emergency Room or Walk-In Medical Clinic to have your blood tested so you can offer the best defense. Check out Part 2 in this series.


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