Drivers with drugs in car face driving ban

Drivers with drugs in car face driving ban

Drivers caught with drugs in their car could be prohibited from driving for a year or longer under legislation proposed recently by the federal government. The driving ban is part of Bill C-32 which is designed to crack down on drivers under the influence of drugs.

The legislation, introduced on November 21, 2006, would also amend the Criminal Code to make it harder to defend charges of driving with excess alcohol. Further, it would increase the penalties for impaired driving.

Under the bill, if police suspect on reasonable grounds that you have been driving a motor vehicle with drugs in your body they can demand you to perform forthwith roadside physical coordination tests, on videotape, to substantiate those suspicions. If the suspicions are confirmed, police can demand additional testing at the station by a specially trained evaluating officer.

Bodily samples can be required

If the evaluating officer is satisfied that your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by a drug, he can require you to provide a blood, urine or saliva sample to test for the presence of drugs.

If you fail or refuse to provide a bodily sample, or fail or refuse to comply with a demand for the roadside physical coordination tests or the tests conducted by an evaluating officer you are liable to the same penalties that apply to drunk driving.

Thus, under the proposed amendments you could lose your driver’s licence for failing to perform coordination tests even if the symptoms that made police suspicious were unwittingly caused by a legal drug such as Viagra.

More jail and higher fines

Bill C-32 will raise the minimum fine for a first impaired driving offence from $600 to $1,000. It will increase the minimum jail sentence for a second offence from 14 days to 30 days, and for a third or subsequent offence from 90 days to 120 days. An intermittent or weekend sentence is not available for a sentence that exceeds 90 days. For an impaired driving charge that is prosecuted by summary conviction, the maximum jail sentence will increase from six months to 18 months.

A driver found guilty of knowingly having illicit drugs in his possession or anywhere in the car will face a minimum one year driving prohibition for a first offence, and if prosecuted by summary conviction, a fine of up to $2,000 and six months jail. Thus, a roach in your ashtray or joint in your glove-box or wallet could lead to loss of your driving privileges and a fine or incarceration. By comparison, in Ontario, you are permitted to have liquor in your car if it’s in an unopened container or not readily accessible.

New offences

The bill also creates other new offences:

  • driving with excess alcohol and causing bodily harm or death to another person
  • failing or refusing to provide a breath sample when you know or ought to know that your operation of a motor vehicle caused an accident resulting in bodily harm to another person or death

Harder to defend excess alcohol charges

The proposed amendments would make it harder to defend charges of driving with excess alcohol. Currently, you can successfully defend such a charge by providing evidence of alcohol consumption that shows your readings at the time of driving were below the legal limit of 80 mgs. of alcohol in 100 ml. of blood. Such evidence, if not rejected, raises a reasonable doubt about your guilt.

Under the amendments, evidence of your alcohol consumption will no longer suffice. You also will have to show that the breath instrument was malfunctioning or that it was operated improperly.

Drugged driving prevalent

Legislation that provides police with tools to catch drugged drivers appears needed. Recent research showed that young people are as likely to drive while stoned as to drive while drunk. One in five did so over the past year, according to a study done by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse that polled 4,639 people.

The study, reported in the Globe and Mail, found that 4.8 per cent of Canada’s 20 million drivers have operated a motor vehicle in the past year while high on marijuana or hashish. By comparison, 18 per cent said they have driven after drinking alcohol, including 5.6 per cent who said they were driving with excess alcohol.