Ottawa targets drugged drivers

Ottawa targets drugged drivers

Drivers suspected of being high on drugs could be required to provide police saliva, urine or blood samples under proposed to the Criminal Code that were reintroduced on November 1, 2004.

Under the bill, a police officer who reasonably suspects that a driver is drug impaired may require roadside sobriety tests involving physical coordination.

If the driver performs poorly, the officer could demand more extensive testing at the police station by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), a specially trained officer.

If the DRE, after completing an evaluation, has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is impaired by drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, the officer may make a demand for a urine, saliva or blood sample to determine the presence of drugs. Failure to provide a sample on demand would be a criminal offence punishable by the same penalty as refusing an alcohol breath test.

Blood samples may only be taken by a qualified medical practitioner.

The Department of Justice has set out 12 steps that comprise a DRE evaluation:

  1. a breath test;
  2. an interview of the arresting officer as to what symptoms were observed at the scene;
  3. a preliminary examination of the person;
  4. an eye examination;
  5. a series of divided-attention tasks;
  6. an examination of vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature and pulse;
  7. a dark-room examination of pupil size;
  8. a check of muscle tone;
  9. an examination of typical injection sites on the body;
  10. the giving of an opinion by the drug recognition expert;
  11. an interview with the subject;
  12. the provision of a bodily fluid sample.

Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba already use DRE testing, but the tests are voluntary. Laws similar to the proposed amendments exist in most U.S. states and in Australia, New Zealand and some European countries.