For the very first case heard in its history in Quebec, the Supreme Court will have to rule on the obligation for the police to have at their disposal an alcohol detection device when ordering a suspect to provide a breath sample.
It was in front of a crowd of just over a hundred people that the nine judges of the highest court in the country heard the arguments of the opposing parties in Pascal Breault's case.
Arrested in 2017 on suspicion that he had driven an ATV while impaired, the man repeatedly refused to submit to a breathalyzer. However, when the police ordered him to do so, they were not even in possession of the device, which the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled to be an invalid order. The decision led to the individual's acquittal, a verdict that the crown is now appealing to the Supreme Court.
Time limit acceptable or not?
< p>Representing the accused, Me Félix-Antoine T. Doyon believes that the Criminal Code's use of the expression “immediately provide a breath sample” implies that this order must be put into effect “without delay”, which could not be the case in the Brault case.
“The caller says, 'Please give us a notional timeframe' until the device can be delivered. […] Let us look at the basis of the reason why we are asking for a delay. […] Allowing such a delay for administrative convenience has no laudable basis. This is not the idea that I have of Canadian values,” insisted the lawyer.
Conversely, Crown prosecutor Nicolas Abran pointed out that some specific cases already lead to delays before the breath sample is taken and that these are recognized as being constitutional. He cited in particular the time prescribed by the manufacturer to warm up the device in cold weather to ensure the quality of the sample or the 15-minute wait if the suspect has alcohol in his mouth in order not to falsify a result.
“We do not see the difference between these acceptable delays and that because there is no detection device,” said the lawyer.
“The difference is that this delay is the cause of the state,” Judge Russell Brown pointed out to him.
Decision to come
< p>The nine magistrates took the case under advisement, not without extensively questioning the lawyers who filed briefs on Wednesday morning.
In addition to the Crown and the defence, the Attorney General of Canada, the Attorney General of Ontario, the Quebec Association of Defense Lawyers and the Montreal-Laval-Longueuil Defense Lawyers Association also filed briefs. They were invited to do so since the Supreme Court's decision could have an impact on the maintenance of law and order across the country.
A hundred onlookers, mostly lawyers and law students, but also some onlookers, were also present in the room for this historic session, the first of the Supreme Court in Quebec.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner also made a point of emphasizing in his opening remarks that all the members of the court were “delighted to find themselves in the finest heritage life in North America”, welcoming in passing the ” warm hospitality” of the community.
A unique experience for a lawyer from Quebec
Me Félix-Antoine T. Doyon
For a lawyer from Quebec like Félix-Antoine T. Doyon, the chance to plead before the Supreme Court is already quite special, but to be able to do so at home is truly unique.
“It's not often that we go to the Supreme Court, we are even told that it is often only once in a career and I had the privilege of going there”, underlines t he, confident that he walked to the Quebec City courthouse from his residence in Limoilou to fully experience this special moment.
“It was the first time in 150 years [that the Supreme Court came to sit in Quebec], so I imagine that it will be the one and only time for me.”
Partner at Labrecque Doyon Avocats, Me Doyon admitted to having felt a little stress when he appeared before the nine judges of the highest court in the country. But once launched, the call of duty takes precedence over the “spectacle” aspect of this visit which attracted a hundred people to room 4.01 of the courthouse.
“I approached the situation as if I were approaching the Court of Appeal, but telling myself that there were six more judges. […] It's intimidating, but once we get our momentum we forget the rest and we do our job, “explains the defense lawyer who nevertheless admitted to having been destabilized by the intervention of the judge Nicholas Kasirer. “It's fair game, it's the role of the court to challenge us to make the fairest possible decisions.”
Moreover, Me Doyon welcomes this initiative of the court which, according to him, will make the administration of justice in the country more accessible, especially in somewhat more troubled times.
“It is important that people understand the role of the courts in a law society and how it works. It was an approach to promote access to justice and we are lucky in Quebec to have been able to take advantage of it, ”says the lawyer.
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Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7128