ASAP: Constitutional or Evidentiary Requirement, it depends

Shady Mawad was convicted of over 80. Mawad had argued that the police, in making a demand for his breath and taking the samples violated section 8. The trial judge found that there was a section 8 violation in relation to the making of the demand but admitted the evidence under section 24(2) and convicted Mawad who appealed. That appeal was dismissed: R v Mawad, 2016 ONSC 7589.

Shady Mawad was driving his car. Someone thought he was impaired. They called the police. Officer Guthrie received a radio call at 4:34 am. Guthrie located Mawad at 4:41. After speaking with Mawad and forming a reasonable suspicion, Guthrie made a ASD demand at 4:47 am Mawad produced a fail at 4:53 am. At 4:57 Guthrie arrested Mawad and read his rights to counsel (a minute later) – leaving the scene at 5:29. The arresting officer failed to make a breath demand. At 6:20 the breath technician took custody of Mawad and made the breath demand at 6:26.

Given that the first sample was obtained beyond two hours of the time of driving, at trial the Crown called a forensic toxicologist to “read back” the samples and provide direct evidence regarding Mawad’s BAC at the time of the offence.

Mawad argued that his s8 rights were violated – by the failure to make the demand as soon as practicable and by the failure to take the samples as soon as practicable. The trial judge concluded that the breath demand was not made by the officer as soon as practicable but admitted the evidence under s24(2). The trial judge did not find that the failure to obtain the samples as soon as practicable violated s8. Mawad was convicted. He appealed.

On appeal Mawad argued, inter alia, that the trial judge erred in not finding that the delay in taking the samples violated s8.

With respect to the taking of the samples, Mawad asserted that the failure to take the samples as soon as practicable amounted to a violation of s8. The summary conviction appeal court rejected that notion. The requirement that samples be taken as soon as practicable in section 258(1)(c) is an evidentiary requirement that permits the Crown to take advantage of the presumption of identity. Where the samples are not taken as soon as practicable the Crown loses that presumption. The results are still admissible however. The summary conviction appeal court, citing R v Deruelle, [1992] 2 SCR 663 and R v Newton, 2013 ONSC 644 in support, held:

With great respect, I fail to see how a statutory short cut given to the Crown to prove a charge of “Over 80” against an accused can be elevated to a violation of his or her constitutional rights. [@26]

Mawad is a helpful decision that clarifies the impact and scope of provisions that are sometimes misconstrued. In short, three points summarize the principles elucidated by this decision. First, s254(3) requires that an officer makes a breath demand as soon as practicable upon forming grounds. This provision is the statutory authority that permits the obtainment of breath samples. Failure to comply with that requirement undermines that authority and thus has constitutional implications – a section 8 violation.

Second, s258(1)(c) requires that samples be taken as soon as practicable. This provision is merely an evidentiary assist, however. Failure to comply with this requirement has no constitutional implications – merely evidentiary ones (the loss of the presumption of identity).

Third, the requirement that samples be “provide[d]” as soon as practicable in s254(3) is not one that is imposed on the state. It follows that the failure to obtain samples as soon as practicable has no constitutional implications.