In Canada, studies indicate that drugs, either alone or in combination with alcohol, are found in up to 30 per cent of fatally injured drivers. In response the this problem the Government of Canada drafted legislation, Bill C-2 which passed into law on 2 July 2008 which provids police officers better tools to detect and investigate drug impaired driving. The law adopts the program endorsed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police which has been in effect in several states in America for many years. The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program was developed in Los Angeles during the 1970s in response to drug-impaired driving and the problems associated with evaluating, arresting and prosecuting these drivers. The Los Angeles Police Department, with the assistance of scientists, physicians, and other experts, developed a rigorous program to train police officers to recognize and evaluate behaviours and physiological indicators associated with legal and illegal drugs. The DEC program trains police (referred to as Drug Recognition Experts or DREs) with the necessary skills to determine whether a suspect is impaired, whether the observed impairment is due to drugs, and which category (or categories) of drugs might be responsible. The results of the 12-step protocol, when corroborated by toxicological evidence of drug use, provide sufficient evidence to proceed with drug-impaired driving charges. South Simcoe Police has been very proactive in the area of Drug Recognition and currently has 5 Drug Recognition Experts who have received several weeks of training and have participated in at least 12 certification evaluations before being recommended as experts by two senior instructors. As well, several more officers have been trained to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests at the roadside.


The new legislation amends the Criminal Code and gives police the authority to demand:

1.   Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)

Where there is reasonable suspicion that a driver has a drug or alcohol in the body. SFSTs are divided-attention tests that evaluate a subject’s coordination and look for nystagmus in the eyes, a involutary jerking caused by alcohol and some drugs. These tests include checking of the eyes, a walk and turn test and a one leg stand test. They are administered at the roadside to determine if an officer has the grounds to arrest. A driver can be charged with Refusing a Field Sobriety Test if he or she fails to comply with the lawful demand of a peace officer.

2.   Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)

Evaluations where the officer reasonably believes a drug-impaired driving offence was committed and has placed a driver under arrest. These tests are administered at the police station by a Drug Recognition Expert and include such tests as Divided Attention Tests, Eye Tests and Clinical Tests including body temperature, pulse and blood pressure. The results of the test allows the DRE to determine whether or not the driver is at medical risk or is under the influence of one or more of seven different drug categories. Failure to comply with a lawful demand for a DRE evaluation can result in a charge for refusal.

3.   A saliva, urine or blood sample

Should the DRE officer identify that impairment is caused by one or more of seven different categories of drugs, a sample is then tested for the presence of drugs by the Centre of Forensic Science. Failure to comply with the demand can result in a refusal charge.

Changes to the law also mean that drivers caught under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs will now:

Face a maximum life sentence if they cause death and a maximum 10-year sentence if they cause bodily harm, when their blood alcohol concentration is over 80.

Face tougher mandatory penalties such as:

  • The five-year maximum, where the prosecution proceeds by indictment, remains.
  • $1000 for a first offence;
  • a sentence of 30 days in jail for a second offence;
  • a sentence of 120 days in jail for a third offence.

Face a higher maximum penalty on summary conviction of 18 months compared to 6 months previously.