Montreal

Man charged for refusing breathalyzer test, claims Montreal police racially profiled him

A 31-year-old man is facing a criminal charge for refusing a breathalyzer test which he said he couldn't understand police were asking him to take because of a language barrier.

Jason Withrow, originally from the U.S., said police couldn't communicate in English what they wanted

Jason Withrow said police were asking him to use a breathalyzer in broken English and he couldn't understand. (CBC)

A Lachine man is facing a criminal charge for refusing a breathalyzer test, which he said he couldn't understand police were asking him to take because of a language barrier.

Jason Withrow, originally from Charlotte, N.C., said he was unfairly targeted by Montreal police on January 26 when he was pulled over after leaving a bar in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, located at the western tip of the island of Montreal.

He said officers were not able to communicate with him in clear English, and didn't understand police insisted he take a breathalyzer test even though he told them he hadn't been drinking.

He told CBC he was at the bar playing pool with a friend.

"I just didn't get what he was saying, or what he was trying to convey at all. And I repeatedly asked for someone that could actually speak the language clearly, so I could understand," Withrow said.

Withrow said he didn't understand as officers repeatedly asked him to "blow into the machine."

He believes race played a part in his being stopped by police.

He said police impounded his grey 2011 Audi and called him a cab, which Withrow said he didn't have enough cash to pay for, and he resorted to asking a stranger for a lift to his home in Lachine.

"What is most disturbing is not only how he was stopped, but also how he was treated with reckless disregard for black lives and safety," said Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR, the Center on Research-Action on Race Relations.

His car was impounded for 30 days and his licence has been suspended for 90 days.

Police would not comment to CBC about the case.

With files from Matt D'Amours

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