Blue Line

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

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — 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.

April 2, 2018  By The Canadian Press

Connie McLean, 64, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and said she often has difficulty breathing.

McLean was pulled over by the RCMP on the evening of March 2 in Shannon, N.B., and said she was unable to give enough breath to complete a breathalyzer test for the officer after several attempts.

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

“I didn’t really know what to think,” McLean told Global News. “I was just almost to the point of tears because I didn’t do anything wrong. […] It’s being punished for being sick.”


She told police she had a beer earlier in the day when asked if she had been drinking.

“She wasn’t intoxicated or anything like that and she made it clear that she had COPD, she tried several times to take the breathalyzer and for some reason that wasn’t good enough for the officer,” her nephew, Peter Lawson, told Global.

Barbara Walls, director of health initiatives for the New Brunswick Lung Association, said this case makes her wonder how many other people with respiratory problems didn’t appeal a similar charge.

She said it can be challenging for people with the condition to breathe in and out but for some, breathing out can be even more difficult.

“When a person has COPD they already feel like they’re trying to breathe through a pillow,” she said.

McLean said she would like to see a change in the way people with respiratory problems are treated when they’re unable to use a breathalyzer.

Police said they were not able to comment because the matter is before the courts.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018

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