Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jul 2008
Source: Langley Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Langley Times
Author: Monique Tamminga
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Marijuana and Driving)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


If you are suspected of driving while high on drugs, a police officer
now has the right to demand a bodily fluid sample.

New federal law gives police more power to investigate and charge a
driver impaired by drugs.

"We're giving police better tools to detect and investigate drug and
alcohol impaired driving, and we're increasing penalties," said
Langley MP Mark Warawa.

Prior to the new laws, which took effect July 2, drivers suspected of
being high could refuse sobriety tests that include first roadside
physiological and psychological test followed up by either a saliva or
urine sample. Now, just with breathalyzers, drug testing is mandatory.

Should a driver refuse, the person could face a charge of refusing to
provide a saliva or urine sample, which carries the same penalties as
a driver failing to provide a breathalyzer sample.

Sgt. Gerard Sokolowski of Langley RCMP traffic section has handed out
numerous 24-hour driving suspensions to drivers suspected of being

"A lot of the times it's dual impairment, with alcohol and drugs like
cocaine or marijuana. It's quite the cocktail," he said. "I've done
traffic initiatives where I've stopped three or four drivers in a row
who were high."

But Langley Mounties won't be bringing anyone in to their detachment
for a saliva or urine test just yet.

Just as officers have to be specially trained to handle the
breathalyzer machine, Mounties will need to be trained to conduct drug
tests, said Sokolowski.

"No one is totally certified yet but they could be shortly," he

But the debate continues about the test results. Marijuana stays in a
person for around 30 to 40 days, while traces of some drugs dissipate

In 2004, a Langley teen was acquitted of drug-impaired driving
(involving marijuana) in a fatal car accident that killed two
16-year-old boys and permanently brain damaged another boy in
Aldergrove in 2002.

The driver's blood was taken at the hospital and an analysis showed he
had high amounts of THC (the drug component of marijuana) in his system.

While the sample was allowed as evidence, the integrity of the sample
was in doubt by the judge and therefore dismissed.

Parents of one of the victims had hoped their son's death would result
in drug impairment being treated the same as drunk driving. The
Conservative government has been working on this legislation and
change to the Criminal Code since that time, said Warawa.

"We had been doing drug recognition for about 10 years but it was
voluntary up until now," said RCMP Cpl. Daryl Dalby, the provincial
co-ordinator for drug recognition experts and field sobriety testers.

The trained officer will look at things like blood pressure, pulse and
changes in eye movement and dilation, he said. Then a mandatory body
fluid test can determine what of seven categories of drugs the person
has taken and the level of impairment.

"Marijuana may stay in the body for up to six weeks, but a person is
only impaired for a few hours and we are testing level of impairment,"
he noted.

He's hoping to have a drug recognition expert officer at each
detachment in the province.

Along with these new laws, which are part of the federal government's
Tackling Violent Crime Act, amendments to Canada's Criminal Code will
ensure there is more effective sentencing and monitoring to prevent
dangerous, high-risk offenders from offending again, he said.

The Conservative government has raised the age of consent from 14 to
16, increased sentences for serious gun crime, ended conditional
sentences (house arrest) for serious personal injury and violent
offences, including sexual assault, made dangerous offender status
more accessible, increase penalties to convicted street racers and
created mandatory jail time for serious drug crimes along with changes
to an offender getting bail.

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