A Burnfoot man who tested positive for cocaine and cannabis at a Garda checkpoint has been banned from driving for one year.
Martin Quinn, 21 from Annaslee, Burnfoot, was charged with drug driving at Shore Road, Buncrana, on Sunday, Ocotber 14, 2018, when he appeared before Buncrana District Court.
Mr. Quinn contested the charge against him at the court, which was sitting at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel.
Garda Thomas Duggan told the court that he was conducting a checkpoint at Shore Road, Buncrana, along with Garda Shaun McLaughlin.
He said at 4.43pm he stopped a grey VW Golf being driven by Mr. Quinn.
“He passed a roadside breath test but because this was a MIT [mandatory intoxication testing] checkpoint I asked him to sample for the oral fluid test,” Gda. Duggan said.
“I noted that his pupils were dilated as I brought him around the back of the patrol car.”
Garda Shaun McLaughlin said he made a demand of Mr. Quinn to provide a specimen of oral fluid, informing him that failure or refusal to do so was an offence.
“He admitted he had cocaine last night so I cautioned him but as I went to process his sample on the machine it switched off,” explained Gda. McLaughlin.
The Garda told Mr. Quinn he had to complete the testing at the Garda Station.
“I explained to him he was not under arrest and he agreed to come with us. We arrived at the station within three minutes and at 5.04pm Mr. Quinn’s sample tested positive for the presence of cocaine and cannabis.”
Defence solicitor Frank Dorrian argued that his client was brought to the Garda Station under threat of arrest, saying at no point was he told that he was free to leave.
Gda. McLaughlin said the word ‘threat’ was very strong and at no point did Mr. Quinn ask if he was ‘free to go’.
“He was either free to go or he wasn’t, but crucially he wasn’t told this,” said solicitor Dorrian.
“He couldn’t make an informed decision if he wasn’t told everything. Also there is no evidence of any kind that Garda Duggan formed an opinion about my client’s driving – there is no evidence of his demeanour or a compliant about his driving – so I would submit that he was in unlawful custody.”
Garda Inspector David Durkan said Mr. Quinn came to the Garda Station voluntarily and the process was carried out lawfully.
Mr. Dorrian also contended that to comply with the law the test must be carried out ‘in the vicinity’ of the MIT checkpoint.
“Buncrana Garda Station is not in the vicinity of the Shore Road,” said Mr. Dorrian.
“The act says it must be conducted in the vicinity of the public place where the test was started – the Garda Station is also not a public place – you can’t get into the area where the test was carried out without a code.”
Gda. McLaughlin the Garda Station is three minutes away from their location on the Shore Road.
“The demand was made at the Shore Road and the sample was provided at the Shore Road, the testing was then carried out at the Garda Station,” he added.
Insp. Durkan added that the journey is acceptable to be classed as being in the vicinity.
Judge Paul Kelly said Quinn was not in custody when the swab was taken and nothing else was obtained from him at the Garda Station, other than the reading of the test.
He added that Garda Duggan was not required to form an opinion under the act and found that the 21-year-old had a case to meet.
Judge Kelly fined Quinn €250 for drug driving and banned him from driving for one year as it was his first offence. He postponed the driving ban until January 1, 2020.