Impaired driving charges against Calgary Cop thrown out.

Many people believe that impaired driving cases are open and shut. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Take the case of Travis Dunkle, a 42-year-old 17 year veteran detective with the Calgary Police Service.

In January 2009, Dunkle was stopped in a “check stop” by a fellow officer. If you don’t know, a check stop is essentially a randomly placed police roadblock designed to detect impaired drivers. In most cases there is no evidence of “impaired driving” (e.g. bad driving caused by impairment) since the person simply pulls into the check stop and talks to a police officer. So in Dunkle’s case, there was likely no evidence of impaired driving. So why was he charged?

According to media reports in the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Sun, the evidence against Dunkle was:

He admitted to drinking alcohol, first saying he had one drink and later saying it was two;

The investigating officer noticed a strong odour of alcohol coming from Dunkle (which is consistent with recent alcohol consumption, but it doesn’t mean that Dunkle was impaired);

Dunkle was unable to pull his wallet out of his pocket on request, had problems walking, was unsteady on his feet, “swaying from side to side.”

Based on those observations, the investigator demanded that Dunkle provide a breath sample.

He complied with the demand. He failed the breath test.

You might be thinking, based on what you’ve just read, that the charge of impaired driving and/or driving over .08 had been proved. Not so fast.

According to media reports, Judge Gerry LeGrandeur didn’t accept the investigators testimony that he saw signs of impairment including glassy eyes, slurred speech and swaying while standing.

The judge then tossed out results of a breathalyzer test, ruling the demand for the test was not reasonable, and therefore illegal.

He went on to say that allowing the evidence could “undermine the fundamental importance of the most crucial aspect of the breathalyzer legislation.”

“In the long term this could lead to police being less diligent and less mindful of the legislative and Charter needs of having reasonable and probable grounds,” he said.

In other words, the judge found that the police didn’t follow the rules (they need to have reasonable and probably grounds to make a breath demand – in this case, they didn’t have them) .

Dunkle’s rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure were violated. That violation was so serious that to admit evidence (the breath test results) in this case could allow other police officers to be more careless with another persons fundamental rights.

What do we take away from the Dunkle case? For me, there are a couple of things.

That impaired driving cases (just like every other criminal case) are not open and shut.

That the courts are willing to exclude evidence which has been improperly obtained in order to protect our fundamental rights.

What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Impaired driving charges against Calgary Cop thrown out.”

  1. Brian Smith says:

    I believe that once again there are two standards to our legal system. Those within the legal system; lawyers, police officers etc…) are aided by the process. Those outside the system are crushed by it. I have seen more cops drink and drive with complete disregard to the law, and at the same time appear in court the next morning, giving testimony to have somebody elses’s life turned upside down. Welcome to Canada.

  2. Human Rights says:

    Hello, it helps that the judge, dirty cop and lawyers are part of the same MASONIC Lodge.
    Their freaken masons people!! Wake up!!

  3. mike in ontario says:

    What do the lawyers think now that some federal and provincial ministers are talking about the possibility of forcing drivers to give breath samples without any reasonable grounds whatsoever?Arbitrarily,like in a police state.Court challenges would loom.

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