Most people associate impaired driving charges with driving under the influence of alcohol.
However, blowing over 80 is just one of the ways in which you can be charged with impaired driving in Calgary.
The same charge can also apply to driving under the influence of marijuana or any other illicit drug.
While cannabis and marijuana usage has been legalized in Calgary, driving under its influence certainly has not.
If you are charged, the consequences are equally as harsh as for alcohol and they can lead to potentially life-altering consequences.
Speak to experienced impaired driving lawyer Alan Pearse as soon as possible if you are arrested on marijuana driving charges in Calgary.
What signs do the police look for with a marijuana DUI?
Some of the signs associated with driving under the influence of marijuana are similar to those associated with alcohol – but there are differences too.
For instance, speeding is often associated with a DUI with alcohol whereas the opposite may be true in the case of marijuana.
If your car is swerving or going too slow, for instance, the police may stop you and check for other signs of marijuana usage, such as:
- Slurred speech
- Bloodshot or “glassy” eyes
- Impaired mental abilities
- Impaired motor skills
- Marijuana odours in your car
How will police determine whether to arrest you?
Initial checks and observations alone by law enforcement officers are not sufficient to charge you with impaired driving for marijuana usage.
Section 254(2) (a) of the Criminal Code grants the police permission to demand a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) if they suspect the use of drugs or alcohol.
This includes a physical conditioning test, which allows officers to check for the signs of impairment by asking the driver to walk in a straight line, stand and turn, and/or stand on one leg.
The results of this test can be used as evidence in court and/or provide a basis for more formal tests to be conducted at the police station, including a Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) and a urine or blood test.
According to the Code, a police officer can:
“perform forthwith physical coordination tests prescribed by regulation to enable the peace officer to determine whether a demand may be made under subsection (3) or (3.1) and, if necessary, to accompany the peace officer for that purpose; and (b) to provide forthwith a sample of breath that, in the peace officer’s opinion, will enable a proper analysis to be made by means of an approved screening device and, if necessary, to accompany the peace officer for that purpose.”
What is the difference between alcohol and marijuana DUI in Calgary?
In Calgary, the legal system actually uses the term “impaired driving” for the criminal offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
While “driving under the influence” or “DUI” is widely understood, it is an American term that is not used within the Canadian system.
Impaired driving cases involving alcohol and marijuana are treated the same way by the legal system, though as you have seen there are differences in how the crime is investigated.
A breath test can be conducted to determine the Blood Alcohol Concentration level (BAC). If a driver’s BAC is at or over 0.08 percent, it will lead to an arrest and a trip to the station.
However, a breath test is not a reliable detector of THC, which is the main active ingredient in marijuana. THC presence will generally be established by the results of a urine or blood test at the police station.
The presence of any THC (regardless of the amount) in the blood or urine can lead to an impaired driving charge.
For the applicable test to be legally enforced, the police officer must have reasonable suspicion that you operated a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What are the main defences for marijuana driving charges?
Regardless of the evidence against you in a marijuana driving charge, a skilled and experienced lawyer can work to get the case dismissed or at least mitigate the consequences you face.
These cases often hinge on the actions of police officers and the accuracy of the equipment. Alan Pearse will scrutinize these in fine detail while ensuring that your constitutional rights have been upheld.
Why did the police stop you and how was the presence of marijuana detected in your body? Were the correct timescales adhered to by police officers for the tests? Was the urine or blood test conclusive?
These are just some of the key questions that Alan Pearse will examine to find potential issues with the prosecution’s case against you.
Mistakes often happen in investigations and cases can be dismissed on small technical details.
DUI marijuana charge and in need of legal advice?
Punishments for marijuana driving charges are as harsh as for alcohol-related impaired driving.
That means a heavy fine, possible jail time, and loss of your driver’s licence, as well as a lifelong criminal record that can have long-term consequences.
With such harsh penalties, it’s important to start working on your defence as soon as you are arrested.
For an assessment of your case and advice on the suggested next steps, get in touch with Alan and his team.