Judge incorrect to dismiss drink-driving charge, rules High Court

Court says breathalyser manufacturer’s instructions do not form part of drink-drive offence

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said he agreed with the findings of a similar previous legal challenge where it was found that the operating instructions for the breathalyser clearly did not form any part of the offence. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said he agreed with the findings of a similar previous legal challenge where it was found that the operating instructions for the breathalyser clearly did not form any part of the offence. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The High Court has ruled it was wrong for a District Court judge to have acquitted a motorist of a drink-driving charge because the arresting garda had failed to wait 20 minutes before carrying out a roadside breath test.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said it had not been correct in law that the case had been dismissed.

The ruling was reviewed by the High Court at the request of the DPP.

The accused, Ion Feghiu, was charged with driving a vehicle at Forester Way, Swords, Co Dublin on December 2nd, 2017 when he had a blood alcohol level of 147mg of blood per 100ml of blood – almost three times the legal limit.

At Swords District Court on February 18th, 2018, Garda Éimhin Matthews said he had observed Feghiu’s vehicle being driven in an erratic manner as it was weaving in and out between parked cars before turning sharply and coming to an abrupt stop.

He said he detected a strong smell of alcohol from the vehicle after speaking to the driver.

Garda Matthews said he was unaware that the manufacturer of a roadside breathalyser recommended a 20-minute observation period before testing a suspect but knew there was no statutory requirement to wait such a period.

The case was dismissed after a District Court judge ruled the 20-minute observation period should have been observed in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said he agreed with the findings of a similar previous legal challenge where it was found that the operating instructions for the breathalyser clearly did not form any part of the offence.

The judge said Garda Matthews had formed his opinion about Feghiu’s driving from the result of the roadside breath test among other factors.