N.B. woman seeks change after failing breathalyzer due to lung condition - InfoNews

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N.B. woman seeks change after failing breathalyzer due to lung condition

Connie McLean is shown in a family handout photo. A New Brunswick woman wants police to apologize after she says a chronic lung condition caused her to fail a breathalyzer test and have her licence suspended. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Peter Lawson MANDATORY CREDIT
March 30, 2018 - 1:38 PM

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - A New Brunswick woman says police need to be more sensitive when it comes to taking breath samples after her chronic lung condition caused her to fail a breathalyzer test and have her licence suspended.

Connie McLean, 64, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and said the condition can make even ordinary tasks difficult.

"When I'm carrying in wood, I can only carry in a couple sticks at a time and I usually have to stop and get some air before I go and get some more," she said Friday. "And shovelling is even worse."

On the evening of March 2, McLean said she was pulled over by the RCMP in her hometown of Shannon, N.B.

The officer asked her if she had anything to drink that day, and when she told him she drank a beer in the afternoon, she said he produced a device used for estimating blood alcohol content from a breath sample.

But, McLean said she was unable to produce enough breath to complete the test because of her condition.

"I tried several times, but due to COPD and mucous in my airway I wasn't successful," she said. "And he just almost hollered, 'You're not trying, you're under arrest and you're going to jail.'"

She was charged under the Criminal Code for refusing to comply with completing a breathalyzer test, resulting in her car being impounded for 30 days and her driver's licence suspended for 90 days.

COPD is a lung disease that develops over time and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In up to 90 per cent of cases, it is caused by smoking but can also be brought on by genetic factors. It blocks and narrows the airways, and inflames the lungs causing obstruction, according to the Canadian Lung Association.

Henry Roberts of COPD Canada, an association that aims to educate and help people with the disease, said he wasn't surprised to hear that McLean had trouble completing the test.

"It makes perfect sense to us that if you have severe COPD that it would be impossible to exhale for any length of time," he said. "I would hope the police would show some compassion to people who have difficulty breathing."

McLean said people who are unable to complete a breath test should have the option to ask for a blood sample to be taken instead.

She has an upcoming court date on May 2 and intends to appeal the charge.

"I just can't understand why it would go that far."

Police were not available for comment.

- By Alex Cooke in Halifax

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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