Supreme Court Ruling Paves Way For Speedier Drugged-Driving Trials

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As Ottawa prepares to legalize marijuana, Supreme Court says testimony can be admitted in drugged-driving trials without preliminary examination of evidence

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 2008, Parliament sought to confront that challenge with a new regime that includes a 12-part evaluation for drug impairment, established through regulations, to be administered by police officers who receive special training and certification — so-called “drug recognition experts.”

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