It’s been a little over a month since the legalization of cannabis. Despite the concerns there has been no spike in cannabis-impaired driving. Drug impaired driving was a criminal offence before legalization and that hasn’t changed since legalization. However in anticipation of legalization the government passed some new laws to help the police investigate cannabis-impaired driving. New criminal offences were created for driving with a blood drug concentration over the limit. Here is what you need to know about cannabis-impaired driving.
When the police stop a vehicle, they may form suspicion that the driver has drugs in their system. The police can then make a demand that the driver perform a standard field sobriety test (SFST). It is a three part test: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. If the driver fails the test, the police will then have reasonable grounds to arrest them for drug impaired driving.
One of the new laws now allow the police to demand that the driver provide a sample of a bodily substance to be analyzed by drug screening equipment. Currently the Drager DrugTest is the only approved drug screening device. The police are just beginning to acquire them and it is unknown how often it has been used in the field if at all. So for now the SFST is the most common roadside test.
Drug Recognition Evaluation
A failed SFST only gives the police grounds to arrest the driver for cannabis-impaired driving. They still need to gather more evidence to ensure a conviction. After arrest the police will take the driver to the police station to conduct a drug recognition evaluation. This is a 12 step test conducted by a drug recognition expert.
The first 10 steps consists of a variety of interviews, examinations (eyes, vitals, muscle tone), and tests. After that the drug recognition expert will give an opinion whether the driver is impaired by drugs. The expert will need to identify which drugs he or she believes the driver is impaired by. After giving their opinion, the police will then demand a sample of blood, urine, or saliva for analysis. The results are not evidence of impairment but are used to strengthen the opinion of the expert. The expert’s opinion is necessary at trial to prove impairment by drugs.
Another new change in the law now allows the police to demand a blood sample immediately after arrest. Before they could only demand blood at the end of the drug recognition evaluation. The results of blood samples will not assist in proving impairment by drugs. They can however be used to prove the new criminal offence of driving with a blood drug concentration above the limit.
Blood Drug Concentration Above the Limit
There are now criminal offences for driving with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in your system. If you are found within two hours of driving to have at least 2 nanograms (ng) but less than 5 ng of THC per millilitre of blood you will be charged with an offence that carries a maximum fine of $1000. More than 5 ng of THC will trigger a minimum $1000 fine for a first offence and mandatory jail on subsequent offences. At least 2.5 ng of THC combined with alcohol carries the same penalties as over 5 ng of THC.
Cannabis-Impaired Driving Lawyer
Although the government has given the police more tools to investigate cannabis-impaired driving and created new offences, there are still many ways to defend a cannabis-impaired driving charge. A lawyer can challenge the opinion of the drug recognition expert, identify breaches of the Charter, and ensure that all tests and samples were taken within the required time frames. If you have cannabis or drug related impaired driving charges, give Drexler Law a call at (519) 804-1799 or inquire by email for a free consultation.