Drug-Impaired Driving: Consultation Document

Theory of Drug Evaluation by Trained Officers

In British Columbia and some other Canadian jurisdictions, officers that do have specific drug assessment training and certification will seek voluntary tests from drug-impaired driving suspects in their investigations. They use a protocol that has been long used by a number of U.S. states, sometimes under highway traffic legislation and sometimes under penal legislation. Legislation in the United States deems the driver to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her blood, breath or urine if that individual is lawfully arrested for driving while impaired by alcohol or drug. This provision known as the "implied consent law" is extremely helpful to law enforcement agencies in the United States. Failure to submit to such chemical tests will result in penal sanctions. Such legislation not only requires the suspect to provide a sample, it also provides the officer with the means to detain and/or arrest the individual in order to secure evidence.

In order to understand the legislative options that follow, it is necessary to be familiar with the nature of the protocol for drug-impaired driving investigations. If conducted properly, the investigation by trained officers will result in an accurate assessment of the suspect's drug impairment, if any, for paragraph 253(a) purposes.

The evaluation of a suspect conducted by a trained peace officer has been developed in California and successfully implemented in many jurisdictions to combat drug impaired driving and is known as the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Program. Under this program, officers go through extensive training to enable the officers to conduct various tests and to assess the suspect and determine if there is drug impairment and the nature of the drug causing it. If the officer, after conducting the various tests, concludes that there is drug impairment, she or he then requests a blood or urine sample for analysis. After a blood or urine sample is obtained, it is then analyzed to determine the presence of a drug (not concentration). If the officer has properly conducted the test and accurately assessed the suspect, his or her conclusions on the nature of the drug causing the impairment should match the analysis conducted by the laboratory technician on the blood or urine sample. Where there is such a match, a prosecution will proceed.

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