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Drug-impaired Ontario drivers will be subject to more suspensions

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According to the Toronto Sun, beginning on October 2, Ontario law enforcement will have broader power in roadside stops. A police officer will then be allowed to issue “escalating roadside driving suspensions of three, seven or 30 days” if the officer has a reasonable belief that the driver in question was driving while impaired by the use of drugs.

The article cites Bob Nichols of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for a description of what Ontario police do when they stop drivers whom they suspect may be driving while high. A Standard Field Sobriety Test or SFST is performed at the side of the road. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police website describes an SFST as consisting of a “series of standardized sobriety tests.” Several websites describe the SFST battery as including three tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand.


According to Nichols, if the officer feels the driver performed poorly on the SFST tests, a “more complete testing protocol” may be arranged called the Drug Recognition Expert Evaluation, including blood or urine testing for the presence of various drugs.

The RCMP may charge a driver criminally for driving under the influence of drugs with or without an SFST test battery or with or without a DRE evaluation, or for refusing to comply with a test request.

The Vancouver Sun article cites a June 30 discussion paper by the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation as recommending the use of an “oral fluid test” or “saliva swab” during a vehicle stop that would identify marijuana, opioids, ecstasy, amphetamine and cocaine in the driver’s system. The saliva test is being actively researched in Canada and internationally.

The president of MADD Canada says in the article that the Canadian Criminal Code would need to be amended to allow such a roadside saliva test.

In the meantime, penalties are severe for drugged driving and anyone stopped for or charged with driving under the influence of drugs should seek the advice and advocacy of a defence lawyer as soon as possible.

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