Supreme Court rul­ing paves way for speed­ier drugged-driv­ing tri­als

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JIM BRONSKILL

OT­TAWA — Ex­pert tes­ti­mony can be ad­mit­ted in drugged-driv­ing tri­als with­out a pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion of the ev­i­dence, the Supreme Court said Thurs­day in a de­ci­sion that could help ex­pe­dite the ju­di­cial process in the le­gal­ized-mar­i­juana era.

The 5-2 court de­ci­sion on the case of an Ot­tawa mo­torist comes as the fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment pre­pares to in­tro­duce long-promised leg­is­la­tion to le­gal­ize the recre­ational use of pot — a plan that has vast im­pli­ca­tions for polic­ing the roads.

“Driv­ing while im­paired by drugs is a dan­ger­ous and, sadly, com­mon ac­tiv­ity, pro­hib­ited by the Crim­i­nal Code,” Chief Jus­tice Bev­er­ley McLach­lin wrote in her rea­sons for the ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion.

“Par­lia­ment long ago es­tab­lished a regime to en­force the law against al­co­hol-im­paired driv­ing, with breath­a­lyzer test­ing and an­a­lyst cer­ti­fi­ca­tion at its cen­tre. En­forc­ing the of­fence of drug-im­paired driv­ing was more elu­sive.”

In May 2009, Car­son Bin­g­ley cut off a driver, crossed the cen­tre line and drove into the op­po­site lane, nearly strik­ing on­com­ing traf­fic be­fore bump­ing into a car in a nearby park­ing lot. He failed so­bri­ety tests ad­min­is­tered by a drug recog­ni­tion ex­pert and ad­mit­ted to smok­ing mar­i­juana.

Bin­g­ley was ac­quit­ted of driv­ing while drug-im­paired de­spite the ex­pert’s ev­i­dence, which the judge found could be ad­mit­ted with­out a voir dire, or pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion of the ev­i­dence.

An ap­peal led to a sec­ond trial, where a judge found that the ev­i­dence must be vet­ted in a voir dire.

The sub­se­quent pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion led the judge to rule the ex­pert ev­i­dence in­ad­mis­si­ble, re­sult­ing in a sec­ond ac­quit­tal.

The Crown suc­cess­fully ap­pealed and a third trial was or­dered; Thurs­day’s Supreme Court rul­ing means that trial will go ahead.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.