What Is “Refusal to Blow” in BC and How Is It Punishable?

June 21st, 2022 in Driving Offences
What Is “Refusal to Blow” in BC and How Is It Punishable?

Impaired driving is a crime and is taken very seriously in British Columbia with harsh punishments. However, before someone is charged with impaired driving, that person may be asked to “blow” or use a device that measures the level of alcohol in your bloodstream based on the level that is in your exhaled breath. 

“Refusal to Blow” is a term that refers to an individual being asked by police to give a breath sample to determine alcohol level, and refusing to do so. This is a complicated area of the law, and a full treatment of the subject is beyond the scope of this blog. We will, however, give you a brief rundown. 

Under Canadian law, if you are stopped by police while driving, or even if you’re not driving but are stopped or parked and seated in the driver’s seat with access to the keys to the vehicle, the police are within their rights to ask you to give a breath sample in a roadside breath screening device called an ASD or Approved Screening Device. You do not have the right to say no to that request, and if you do so, you can be charged with a crime. You also do not have right to speak to lawyer before making up your mind. The police can give you an immediate 90-day driving prohibition and impound the vehicle. 

If the police take you back to the police station, and you are asked to give another breath sample in a larger, more sophisticated breathalyzer piece of equipment, and you say no, then you will get a 90-day driving prohibition, and a criminal charge of refusing to blow. If you are found guilty of that charge, then there is a minimum fine of $2000, a driving prohibition for a year, and you will have a criminal record. 

However, back at the police station, you are being detained, and the police are obligated to inform you of your rights. In addition, you have the right to speak to a lawyer before you do anything, either a lawyer that you hire privately, or one that is on-call through the court system and that you can access for free. 

If you are too intoxicated (unconscious) to comply with the request to “blow” then police can get a warrant to take a blood sample and check your level of alcohol. 

Our advice is if you find yourself in this position and are asked to blow, then blow, because refusing to blow has almost the same penalty as blowing and being found to have a level of alcohol over the legal limit. Refusal to blow just gets you additional charges. Then hire a lawyer as soon as possible to defend your case. There is a long list of potential defences for being charged with impaired driving, but refusing to comply with the police is not nearly as hard for them to prove.


If you find yourself charged with refusal to blow, please hire an experienced defence lawyer as soon as possible. You have that right. If you need an experienced criminal lawyer in Vancouver, call Michael Bloom at (604) 603-5513.


Michael Bloom is a very experienced criminal defence lawyer, who started his career as a Crown Prosecutor. 

If you have any questions about this article or would like to schedule a free consultation with Mr. Bloom, please call his office at (604) 603-5513 or Toll-Free at (877) 603-5513.

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