How does a drug recognition expert’s evaluation work?

If your conduct raises suspicion, you may be assessed by an expert police officer trained in drug recognition. Under the law, the term “drug” used in drug-impaired driving is very broad. In impaired driving cases, this term includes not only illicit drugs, but also over-the-counter and prescription medications.

As with drinking and driving cases, a peace officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person is committing, or has committed within the previous three hours, a drug-impaired driving offence, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, may require the person to perform additional tests as soon as possible to determine if their driving ability is impaired by the use of these substances.

Factors that lead a drug recognition expert to assess you

The smell of freshly burned cannabis will very often be a good starting point to raise suspicions in police officers. If, as in the case of driving under the influence of alcohol, this smell is accompanied by other common symptoms such as a pasty mouth, difficulty speaking or glassy or red eyes, their suspicions can quickly be transformed into reasonable grounds. With this in mind, they must immediately order the person they reasonably believe has been driving under the influence of the drug to submit to an assessment by a drug recognition expert.

How does a peace officer detect if you have driven under the influence of a drug?

This assessment is conducted once the arrested person arrives at the police station. It is done by a certified drug recognition expert police officer. This expert will carry out the evaluations because, having received specific training to distinguish between the different types of drugs, he or she is recognized by law to assess whether a person has driven under the influence of a drug. Without being able to specify the substance itself, the evaluator is able to indicate, following his or her assessment, which category of drug appears to have been consumed by the arrested person.

What does the police officer look for when conducting his or her evaluation?

This evaluation is composed of 7 distinct steps. During these, the evaluator will observe the driver, analyse his behaviour and some of his reflexes. If he has reasonable grounds to believe that drugs are present in a citizen’s body as a result of this assessment, he may then order the citizen to provide a saliva, urine or blood sample.

In many cases, an expert will have to testify in court to demonstrate to the judge that the effects of the substances ingested, whether combined with alcohol consumption or not, have played a role in an individual’s ability to drive. In this case, it is important for you to contact a criminal lawyer in order to defend yourself properly.

Avoid the consequences of a drug recognition evaluation

Finally, if, as a result of this assessment, the evaluating officer has reason to suspect that there may also be alcohol in the person’s body, he or she may order the person to provide a breath sample using an approved breathalyzer. You can read our article on impaired driving to learn more about it!

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