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Penalties expected to increase for drug-impaired driving in Ontario

The Ontario government is expected to approve a number of new traffic law amendments, one of which will increase penalties for driving while under the influence of drugs. Specifically, the penalties for driving while high will be raised to match the penalties for driving while impaired by alcohol. However, it remains to be seen exactly how police officers will obtain evidence that proves without doubt that a driver is impaired by drugs.

Currently, drivers in Ontario are subject to an immediate, three-day licence suspension if their blood-alcohol concentration is found to be more than 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. The suspension is lengthier for each subsequent offence and if the driver's BAC is found to be over 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

Under the new law, a police officer could take away a person's driver's license if the officer believes "that the person's ability to operate a motor vehicle or vessel is impaired by a drug or by a combination of a drug and alcohol." The determination of whether or not a driver is impaired by a drug is largely left up to the officer's discretion.

Currently, police in Ontario use drug recognition evaluations and standardized field sobriety tests to detect possible drug impairment, but those means of determining impairment can be very subjective. Ontario doesn't yet have a breath or blood test to immediately indicate impairment by marijuana.

That may change, however, as law enforcement agencies in the province explore various testing methods, such as the oral tests being used in Australia and Norway. You can read more about those methods here.

If you have been accused of a driving-related offence, then it is important that you speak with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. There are defence strategies for challenging the prosecution's claims, and a lawyer with experience in this area of law can investigate your case and seek a favourable outcome.