HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html New Law Passes First Test In Saint John Courtroom
Pubdate: Thu, 07 Aug 2008
Source: Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, CN NK)
Copyright: 2008 Brunswick News Inc.
Author: Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


SAINT JOHN - A 33-year-old Saint John man is the first in New
Brunswick to be convicted for drug-impaired driving based on new
investigative tools provided by federal legislation.

Ralph Daniel Craig, a Dilaudid addict, was subjected to new drug
detection tests by police after rear-ending another vehicle and
"failed miserably," Crown prosecutor Chris Titus told provincial
court. Craig was "clearly impaired by drugs," Titus said.

Craig, of no fixed address, was sentenced to 35 days in jail after
pleading guilty to impaired driving, failing to remain at the scene of
an accident and violating a probation order to keep the peace and be
of good behaviour.

He was also prohibited from driving for one year, placed on probation
for six months and ordered to make all reasonable efforts to attend
substance abuse counselling.

"The roads will be safer" for all motorists under the new legislation,
which took effect July 2, said Const. Trevor Jones of the Saint John
Police Force's traffic division.

"It enables us to better investigate drug-impaired drivers because
they kill people too. I mean, impaired is impaired," said Jones, who
is one of three certified drug recognition experts (DRE) on the force
and provincial co-ordinator for the DRE program.

Under the new legislation, drivers suspected of driving while high on
drugs can be forced to undergo mandatory roadside sobriety tests,
similar to those currently used to detect alcohol impairment. Drivers
who refuse the roadside tests will be subject to a $1,000 fine - the
same penalty imposed for refusing the breathalyser.

Police also have the power to take suspected drug-impaired drivers to
the police station to get a blood or urine sample. Reasonable and
probable grounds could include erratic driving, no smell of alcohol,
but the smell of marijuana, or drug paraphernalia being in the
vehicle, said Jones.

Marijuana is probably the most common illegal drug people use before
getting behind the wheel to drive, said Jones. But illegal drugs
aren't the only problem, he stressed. Even drivers taking prescription
medications can be dangerous - "especially if they mix it with a glass
of wine."

Craig was the first person arrested in Saint John using the new tools,
said Jones. "He was one of the worst cases of impaired drivers I've
ever seen - and he had no alcohol in him."

On Aug. 4, about 8 p.m., police were called to Ashburn Lake Road about
a hit-and-run and possible impaired driver, Titus told the court.

Witnesses said Craig had been travelling at a high rate of speed on
Highway 1, passed one vehicle, then smashed into the rear end of
another vehicle being driven by a woman from Quebec, who had a female
passenger. He lost control of his vehicle, spun around and was facing
the wrong direction on the highway before he finally got turned back
around and continued on, said Titus.

Police found Craig pulled over with a flat tire. He didn't remember
hitting any vehicles; he thought he had hit a guardrail, the court

"He can't remember much of what happened," said duty counsel Margaret
Gallagher. He has a "severe addiction" to Dilaudid.

Craig, a carpenter, told the court he started using the powerful
prescription painkiller a couple of years ago and his "addiction just
started getting worse and worse."

Up until age 32, he had no criminal record. But since 2007, he has
racked up eight convictions for uttering forged documents, possession
of stolen property, failing to attend court and probation violation.
He is also scheduled to be sentenced for four probation violations in
Hampton court in October.

Although Craig was scheduled to go to detox at Ridgewood Addiction
Services on Wednesday, Judge Alfred Brien decided to send him to jail.
"There has to be a consequence for your actions," the judge said. But
he urged Craig to attend Ridgewood at the end of his sentence.

"Good Lord, man. If you had run that car off the road and killed those
two ladies, I don't think you'd be able to live with yourself. ...
You'd better be aware just how serious your (drug) problem is."

The new legislation, which is being lauded by Mothers Against Drunk
Driving (MADD), also imposes tougher penalties for all impaired
drivers. Those caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
now face at least a $1,000 fine for a first offence, a minimum of 30
days in jail for a second offence and 120 days in jail if they are
caught a third time.

The new law, part of the Conservatives' omnibus crime bill, also makes
it harder for drivers to challenge breathalyser tests in court.
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