April 5, 2019 6:13 pm

Trial begins for N.B. woman who claims lung disease impacted ability to perform breathalyzer test

A trial is underway involving a New Brunswick woman who claims her lung disease impacted her ability to perform a breathalyzer test. Andrew Cromwell has more.


A trial is underway in Saint John for a 65-year-old woman from Shannon, N.B., who claims her medical condition impacted her ability to complete a breathalyzer test.

Connie McLean says she suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an illness that diminishes lung capacity

She was charged March 2, 2018 with refusing a breathalyzer test. She lost her driver’s licence for 90 days and had her vehicle impounded.

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McLean had her day in court. RCMP Const. Mathieu Vachon told the court he pulled a vehicle over in the Wickham area after noticing its headlights moving from side to side across a rural road. Conditions were dark and stormy.

READ MORE: N.B. woman has car impounded after failing breathalyzer due to chronic lung condition

Vachon testified he could smell beer on McLean’s breath. She said she had one beer at supper, hours earlier: a can of Alpine.

The court heard nine different attempts were made to obtain a breath sample and none were successful. Vachon said during some attempts he could hear no air moving at all, very little during others. He said McLean said “she couldn’t do it” while on the device.

WATCH: N.B. woman fails breathalyzer test

Vachon said has saw no indication McLean was having difficulty breathing, adding she didn’t mention COPD until after her arrest.

Vachon told the court he was convinced McLean was capable and would have had no problem providing a breath sample.

“She simply chose not to,” he went on to say, adding she spoke of being worried about losing her license.

McLean’s version was quite different when she took the stand. She said she told the officer of her COPD more than once before being arrested, saying she wasn’t sure she could do the breath test. McLean testified Constable Vachon said to her “You’re not trying. You’re under arrest and going to jail”. She did not end up in jail

READ MORE: St. Paul’s Hospital pilot project aims to help patients with COPD while reducing costs

McLean told the court she was trying her best to do the test.

McLean’s Doctor Diane Stackhouse was scheduled to testify but had a previous commitment in Moncton.

The trial will resume May 31.

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