Drug-impaired driving will pose challenges for courts: Dostaler
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
With marijuana set to become legal this fall, a shortfall of police officers trained to tackle drug-impaired driving may lead to testing delays, making it more difficult to prove someone was impaired while driving, Ottawa criminal lawyer Céline Dostaler tells CBC.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) says 2,000 officers need to be trained as “drug recognition experts” across Canada to adequately test for drug-impaired driving, but as of May, only 733 had undergone training, reports CBC.
Drug recognition experts, know as officer-evaluators by police, are the only ones able to gather necessary evidence to lay charges related to drug-impaired driving, it says, adding that in order to obtain certification, officers must practice on intoxicated volunteers.
Dostaler says the number of drug-impaired cases she’s seen in the courts in the past several years has been much lower than alcohol-related impaired driving cases.
"[Drugs are] more subjective so there might be more of a difficulty getting the charge in front of the court versus alcohol [which] is very scientific, it's very known to the courts and it's just an easier conviction to get," she says.
In her practice, Dostaler says she has only handled two drug-impaired cases in recent years versus significantly more alcohol-related charges.
"I think we see sometimes combinations, people who might take drugs and alcohol at the same time, and if they do then it might be easier for the police just to charge with an impaired by alcohol instead of the drugs," Dostaler says.
Ottawa police now have 16 drug recognition experts and expect to train another 10 in the fall as they predict the number of drug-impaired drivers will increase, along with collisions and fatalities once marijuana is legal, CBC reports.