Now or Never

Just after midnight in late October 2014 police came across Pociurko standing about 3 metres from his motor vehicle which had obviously just been in an accident. Mrs Pociurko and the couple’s child were also on scene and standing some 10-15meters from the car.

When police spoke with Pociurko he admitted to drinking but denied driving. Mrs Pociurko gave lots of different answers to the question of who was driving. Sometimes she said she was driving, other times her husband, sometimes she said both were driving. Finally she asserted that the accident was as a result of a mechanical failure. None of these versions had any impact on the officer’s legally authority to demand a sample of Pociurko’s breath.

The officer made just such a breath demand of Pociurko who asserted that because he was not the driver he would not blow. The officer let Pociurko know the consequence for refusing to provide a sample. Pociurko again refused and pulled out his cell phone. He told the officer he was calling his lawyer. The officer took the cell phone and placed Pociurko under arrest.

He was convicted at trial of refusing to provide a breath sample. He appealed, unsuccessfully: 2016 ONSC 6691

On appeal Pociurko argued that his refusal was equivocal because he was confused about his obligations. He further argued that his confusion and equivocation was apparent as he was trying to call his lawyer when he was so rudely interrupted by the police. The summary conviction appeal judge disagreed.

Richetti J held that the evidence did not support the defence assertion of confusion. In fact, to the contrary Richetti J found that there was “no confusion about the demand for a breath sample and there was no confusion about Mr Pociurko’s refusal to provide it promptly.” [@24]

Moreover, there is no obligation on police to explain the law. In other words, police did not have to explain to Pociurko that neither his claim of not being the driver nor his desire to speak with a lawyer were reasonable excuses for refusing . The summary conviction appeal judge gave short shrift to the defence assertion that such an obligation exists, instead finding that:

Mr. Pociurko took it upon himself to refuse to do so based on a basis which is not a reasonable excuse for the refusal. Essentially, he now blames the police officer for not explaining the law in much greater detail [@25]

In short, any version of ‘maybe I will later’ in response to a breath demand “constitutes a refusal since it is not providing a breath sample promptly” [@21]

LT

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