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Understanding the breathalyser test

Published: Wednesday | December 17, 2008

The Intoxilyzer 8000, or evidence breathalyser machine, which is used to verify alcohol levels after initial screening. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

What is the legal alcohol limit?

The legal alcohol limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, or a blood alcohol level of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Control the amount of alcohol in your blood by controlling the amount of alcohol you drink. Do not drink any alcohol shortly before driving.

What is the breath test?

A breath test is the means by which the amount of alcohol in the body is determined. It is a safe and reliable method for ensuring that motorists who drink alcohol and drive do not put others' lives in danger.

When is the test done?

If police personnel have reasonable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be asked to undergo a breath test.

How is it done?

After asking you to exit the car, the police will ask you to breathe into a hand-held instrument that will indicate whether alcohol levels in your body exceed the legal limit.

Important: The mouthpiece for the machines should be sealed; they are used once and then discarded.

If your alcohol level is above the legal limit:

You will be accompanied to a police station and asked to exhale into a breath alcohol evidence machine, better known as a breathalyser. The machine will show your breath alcohol level and immediately print the results on an evidence card. This card is admissible in court. The motorist will be given a copy.

The evidence card shows:

- Your name.

- Licence number.

- Date and time at which the test was done.

- Location of the crash.

- Amount of alcohol in your body.

- Name of officer who administered the test,

Penalties for failing breath test:

You can, upon conviction, be fined up to $3,000 or sentenced to a term of up to six months in prison.

You can also gain 14 demerit points on your driver's licence.

If you are caught a second time, you can be fined up to $5,000 or sentenced to a term of up to 12 months in prison.

Refusal to do the breath test is an offence. You can be fined up to $3,000 or sentenced to a prison term of up to six months.

Know your rights:

Only one mouthpiece must be used at each test.

You may ask to see the reading on the screening device.

You may ask to open the package containing the mouthpiece.

You must be given a copy of the results of the evidence test.


It is dangerous to drink and drive.

Alcohol affects the motorist's coordination, reaction time and the ability to perform tasks required to drive a vehicle safely.


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