Marijuana

Bill Tabled to Expunge Cannabis-Related Criminal Records

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A new bill has been introduced in the House of Commons to expunge the records of those individuals who have a criminal record for past minor, non-violent marijuana possession convictions.

New Democrat MP Murray Rankin has tabled the private member’s Bill C-415, An Act to establish a procedure for expunging certain cannabis-related convictions. Rankin estimates that more than 500,000 Canadians have a criminal record for personal possession charges for marijuana.

BILL C-415

The new bill proposes to expunge criminal records for those convicted of personal possession crimes that will no longer be considered illegal pursuant to Bill C-45, which comes into effect on October 17, 2018. This bill will also allow those applying for a pardon to not have to wait five to ten years and pay the current $631 fee. Under Rankin’s proposal, the process will be faster and entirely free.

In 2016, 58% of all charges related to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were related to cannabis, and approximately three quarters of those offences were for possession.

Supporters of Bill C-415 maintain that it is unreasonable to have individuals continue to be unable to attain jobs, volunteer in the community or coach a child’s sports team for doing something that will no longer be illegal in a weeks time.

MP Rankin notes that a disproportionate number of non-violent cannabis-related convictions belong to marginalized or racialized Canadians. He reports:

In Toronto, black people without a criminal record were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people. In Halifax, five times as likely. In Regina, it’s nine times more often for Indigenous people.

The federal government has made it clear that it will not consider marijuana pardons until after legalization. However, the possibility of doing so has not been ruled out and the government is currently evaluating the legal implications.

RECORD SUSPENSIONS (PARDONS)

A criminal record can be a barrier to attaining a job, volunteering, or going on a vacation out of the country. In order to remove your criminal record from law enforcement databases, you must be granted a Record Suspension (formerly known as a Pardon).

You do not need to apply for a Record Suspension if charges against you were dismissed, stayed or withdrawn, or did not result in a conviction.

Once you have completed your sentence and proven that you are a law-abiding citizen, you may have your record removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre database by being issued a Record Suspension.

Possession of marijuana up to 30 grams is a summary conviction offence. Those convicted of a summary conviction offence (less serious and punishable by shorter prison sentences and smaller fines, without the right to a jury trial) cannot apply for a Record Suspension until at least 5 years have passed since he/she completed his/her imprisonment, paid his/her fines, and completed his/her term of probation.

Canadians convicted of an indictable offence (more serious crimes) cannot apply for a Record Suspension under the Criminal Records Act until at least 10 years have passed since he/she completed his/her term of imprisonment, paid his/her fine, or completed his/her term of probation.

Those who have been convicted of a sexual assault or sexually-related crime or who have been convicted of more than three indictable offences cannot apply for a Record Suspension. The person applying for a Record Suspension also cannot be convicted of a subsequent offence and must prove to the Parole Board that he/she is of good character.

Clearing your criminal record involves three steps and a waiting period. These steps include data collection, data analysis, and the Canadian pardon application.

Prior to submitting your Record Suspension application to the Parole Board of Canada, it can take from 4 to 6 months to prepare the application and obtain the supporting documents.

An application for a record suspension costs $631, and with added fees for documents and records checks, it could cost in excess of $1,600.

If you are granted a Record Suspension, this means that your record is merely sealed. A member of the public cannot check online to see if you have a record, however, certain legal agencies can still access this information under specific legal circumstances.

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act will become law and in Ontario adults who are 19 or older will be permitted to buy, use, possess, and grow recreational cannabis.  However, until legalization comes into effect Canadians will continue to be charged for cannabis offences.

We will continue to provide updates in this blog regarding the proposed bill to expunge criminal records for minor cannabis possession and the legalization of cannabis in Canada as this information becomes available, and will blog about developments as they arise.

In the meantime, if you are facing drug related charges or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Canada Has Approved Roadside Saliva Tests

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Canada’s Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould has approved roadside swab tests as a new approach to attack drug use and driving. This will be the first test of its kind in Canada. Police officers will instantly be able to check saliva for traces of THS (the psychoactive component in marijuana).

Currently, there is no accurate way for police officers to assess if an individual is driving under the influence while using cannabis products. Police officers use sobriety tests to check impairments of drivers they suspect are high. In the very near future, Canadian police will have a new tool to use to accurately confirm intoxication – the cannabis roadside saliva drug test.

The roadside saliva test is part of Canada’s revamp to its impaired driving laws. This test is part of Bill C-46, legislation that we have previously blogged about, which will come into force on October 17, 2018.

Wilson-Raybould approved the saliva test device after an independent panel of traffic safety experts and toxicologists evaluated and critiqued the test’s effectiveness.

HOW DOES THE SALIVA TEST WORK?

The saliva testing device will be able to immediately detect traces of cocaine and THC use within the last six hours. Police officers will use a small and portable machine to swab a driver’s mouth and receive results in real time. This testing device will provide a more accurate and reliable upgrade to the current field sobriety tests used by police officers (i.e. walking a straight line or standing on one foot).  A failed test gives police reasonable grounds to bring a driver in for further testing, including a blood test or an examination by a drug recognition expert.

It has been reported that the government will be investing $81 million over a five-year period to buy screening devices and provide officers with comprehensive training on drug-impaired driving.

The federal government is considering using the Draeger DrugTest 5000. This is a German-made mobile drug screening system that uses oral fluid to detect seven types of commonly used drugs. This device has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom and Germany.

This particular device may require modifications in order to operate in Canada’s tough winter climate. Early tests of this device in Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan found that “there were some temperature-related issues that arose when the devices were used in extremely cold temperatures”.

LEGAL CHALLENGES TO ROADSIDE SALIVA DRUG TEST RESULTS

Although the Canadian government is confident in the validity of the roadside saliva tests, the results of these tests will likely face multiple legal challenges from defence lawyers.

Bill C-46 allows the police to charge a driver with drug-impaired driving based solely on the presence of THC. There is no requirement for officers to prove actual impairment. However, unlike alcohol, the presence of THC does not always indicate intoxication.

We can expect that in the future many court cases will shed light on how individual tolerance of THC affects a person’s motor skills and how long cannabis can stay in an individual’s body.

BILL C-46 DRUG-IMPAIRED DRIVING

At the present time, the federal government has released a draft of its planned drug concentration levels and associated offences.

Three new offences for drug-impaired driving have been created under the drafted legislation of Bill C-46:

  • Drivers who have a blood drug concentration of more than two nanograms of THC (per milliliter of blood) but less than five nanograms could be found guilty of impaired driving under the proposed summary offence, which has a maximum fine of $1,000;
  • Drivers who have a blood drug concentration of more than five nanograms of THC in their blood could be found guilty of impaired driving similar to an alcohol-impaired driving conviction, including mandatory minimum penalties of a $1,000 fine on a first offence, 30 days imprisonment on a second offence, and 120 days imprisonment on a third offence;
  • Drivers who have a mixture of a THC level above 2.5 nanograms of THC in their blood and a blood alcohol concentration above 50 mg per 100 mL would be subject to the same penalties as above.

In addition, each province has the right to implement their own drug-impaired driving rules.

TIPS TO AVOID IMPAIRED DRIVING

Here are a few simple tips to avoid driving while you are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol:

  • Always have a plan to get home safely (a designated driver, use public transportation, call a friend or family member, call a taxi or ride share, or stay overnight);
  • Ask your doctor about side effects that may occur when using prescription medication;
  • Read the information on the package of your prescription or over-the-counter medication;
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about how a prescription drug can affect you when using alcohol or drugs of any nature; and
  • Remember that fatigue and stress will also affect your ability to drive safely.

If you or a loved one have been charged with an impaired driving offence or any other driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Big Changes Coming to Canada’s Impaired Driving Laws

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We are all aware that a significant piece of legislation, the Cannabis Act, has become law. This bill will come into force on October 17, 2018 and it will encompass all the rules regarding the control and regulation of how cannabis is grown, distributed and sold.

There is another piece of legislation, Bill C-46, related to the legalization of marijuana that also received royal assent last week. Bill C-46, also known as the Impaired Driving Act, is an overhaul of Canada’s impaired driving laws.

WHAT IS BILL C-46?

Bill C-46 will reform alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving and police have been given new tools to detect and prosecute drivers.

The bill is comprised of two parts. Part 1 creates three new offences for driving under the influence of various amounts of drugs and stipulates legal limits of such drugs.  This part also requires drivers not to drive within two hours of being over the legal limits and allows police to conduct tests to screen for drugs using “approved drug screening equipment”.

Part 2 of the bill raises the maximum penalty for impaired driving, reclassifies impaired-driving as a “serious criminality” offence and gives police the power to perform mandatory alcohol screening without reasonable grounds to suspect impairment.

The following are the four major changes to Canada’s impaired driving laws as set out in Bill C-46.

Random Roadside Breath Testing

The new legislation will allow police to request a roadside breath test from any driver. They will not need reasonable suspicion that the person has been drinking (i.e. smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath or slurred speech). Those who refuse the roadside breath test will face a criminal conviction with similar penalties to an impaired driving conviction.

Lawyers and civil liberties groups argue that this change in the law violates the Charter protection against unreasonable search. Furthermore, there is concern that this type of practice will disproportionately affect minorities due to racial profiling.

However, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is certain that this directive will survive a court challenge. She referred to mandatory alcohol screening as “minimally intrusive, but the benefits in lives saved will be immeasurable”.

The government equated a mandatory breath sample to the requirement to show a driver’s licence.

Roadside Saliva Testing

The new law would allow police to use roadside screening devices that test saliva for the presence of drugs, including THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis). However, unlike alcohol breath tests, police will need to have a reasonable suspicion before requiring this test.

It is unclear when this type of testing will be used by the police as there are a number of steps that still need to take place. The government has yet to approve the devices to be used by the police. Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould will then have to make a ministerial order to approve the devices after a 30-day public consultation. Finally, the devices will need to be purchased and officers will need to be trained on how to use them.

THC Blood Levels

The new legislation will allow police to lay an impaired driving charge based solely on blood test results for THC in blood without needing to further prove impairment.

The government has proposed “per se levels” based on nanograms per millimeter of blood as follows:

  • A THC level between 2 and 5 ng would be a lower-level offence with a fine of up to $1,000;
  • A THC level above 5 ng would result in the same penalties as an alcohol-impaired driving conviction, including mandatory minimum penalties of a $1,000 fine on a first offence, 30 days imprisonment on a second offence and 120 days imprisonment on a third offence;
  • A mixture of a THC level above 2.5 ng and a blood alcohol concentration above 50 mg per 100 mL would have the same penalties as above.

10 Years Maximum Sentence for Impaired Driving

Under Bill C-46, impaired driving convictions will be considered “serious criminality” offences and the maximum sentence will be raised from 5 years to 10 years. This change in the law will greater affect those that could potentially lose permanent residence status and face deportation (i.e. foreign students, workers, visitors and permanent residents).

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF BILL-46?

Part 1 of the Impaired Driving Act will roll out this summer; however, Part 2 of the bill will not come into force for another 180 days. In the meantime, as the bill comes into force we will report on any developments through this blog.

If you have been charged with a driving offence of any kind or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Fatal Accidents Increase Significantly after 4/20 Celebrations

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

April 20 has become an international holiday where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. These mass marijuana festivities usually begin at 4:20 p.m. and continue well into the night.

A recent study has revealed that there was a slight increase in fatal U.S. car accidents on April 20 following an analysis of 25 years worth of data. Studies such as this one provide important information to the Federal and Provincial governments in deterring marijuana impaired driving in anticipation of the legalization of marijuana this summer in Canada.

WHAT DID THE STUDY ESTABLISH REGARDING THE USE OF MARIJUANA AND DRIVING ON APRIL 20?

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto compared driver deaths on April 20 with deaths occurring on a day of the week before and the week after during the 25 year study of U.S. data. The study confirmed that fatal car crashes were increased by 12% (142 driver deaths) on the evening of April 20. The study also found that the risk of fatal accidents among young drivers (under the age of 21) increased by 38% in the evening of April 20.

Dr. John Staples, lead author and an internist and researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, stated,

The simplest explanation is that some drivers are impaired by cannabis use, and these drivers are contributing to fatal crashes. There should be very clear messaging to the public: don’t drive high.

Although the study lacks evidence on whether marijuana was involved in any of the April 20th fatalities (as there was no police data on drug testing to confirm that marijuana was involved), researchers believe that the drug was responsible for some of the crashes.

DOES MARIJUANA USE AFFECT DRIVING?

Although marijuana has the reputation of being a relatively harmless drug, it can have short-term affects on reaction time, motor co-ordination, divided attention, short-term memory and decision-making skills.

Marijuana affects each individual differently based upon factors such as the person’s tolerance, and the strain and potency of the marijuana being used. Some who use marijuana experience a sense of relaxation, while others may experience panic, fear, anxiety or psychosis.

Following alcohol, cannabis is the substance most commonly associated with “driving under the influence”.

In Colorado (one of the first states to legalize marijuana in the U.S.), the number of deaths caused by auto-related accidents involving marijuana increased by 145% from 2013 to 2016. By 2016, 20% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involved marijuana (in comparison to 10% in 2013).

ONTARIO’S PLAN TO KEEP OUR ROADS SAFE FOLLOWING LEGALIZATION

As we have previously blogged about, Ontario has implemented new measures to keep our roads safe by implementing tougher drug-impaired driving laws.

Ontario has enacted zero tolerance rules prohibiting young (age 21 and under) and novice (G1, G2, M1, M2) drivers from having the presence of a drug in their system. For a first offence, young and novice drivers will face a three-day suspension and a $250 fine. A second offence will result in a seven-day suspension and a $350 fine and all subsequent transgressions will result in a thirty-day suspension and a $450 fine.

Commercial drivers will also be subject to zero tolerance rules prohibiting them from having any alcohol and drugs in their system. For any offence, a commercial driver will face a three-day suspension and a $250 to $450 fine.

Ontario has also introduced escalating monetary penalties to all impaired driving offences starting at $250 for a first offence and increasing up to $450 for third and subsequent occurrences.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As we prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada this summer, we should consider ways to avoid driving while impaired and being a passenger with an impaired driver.

We should all be reminded to:

  • Always have a designated driver; or
  • Call a friend or loved one to pick you up; or
  • Call a cab or a ridesharing service; or
  • Stay overnight and sleep it off.

It is also strongly recommended that we have an open dialogue with our children and reinforce the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is also recommended that parents model safe driving behaviour by never driving any vehicle while impaired.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Ontario’s Framework for Marijuana Regulation: An Update

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As provinces across the country continue to debate the timing of cannabis (i.e. marijuana) legislation in their respective jurisdictions, lawmakers have begun to turn their minds to how the drug will be regulated once it is legalized.

CURRENT STATE OF MARIJUANA LEGISLATION

Marijuana is currently illegal in Canada and is listed under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Current exceptions exist only for those individuals who have been authorized to use cannabis for medicinal purposes by their health care provider. These individuals can purchase quality-controlled cannabis from a producer who is licensed by Health Canada, or produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medicinal purposes.

LEGALIZING AND REGULATING CANNABIS IN CANADA

In April 2017, the federal government announced legislation to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis by July 2018. The proposed Cannabis Act, if passed, will establish rules for producing, using, and selling cannabis across Canada. The federal government left the design and implementation of sales and distribution to each province and territory.

Ontario was the first province or territory in Canada to publicly outline a comprehensive plan to sanction federally legalized cannabis. On September 8, 2017, Ontario announced a comprehensive framework outlining the province’s approach to the retail distribution of recreational cannabis.

MINIMUM AGE LIMIT

Ontario proposes to make it illegal for individuals under the age of 19 to buy, sell, possess, share, and grow cannabis. This is comparable to the age limit for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario.

Police officers will be authorized to confiscate small amounts of marijuana from individuals under the age of 19, but the seizure will not result in a criminal record. The person in possession of the marijuana may be subject to provincial fines.

The province of Ontario is intent on protecting its youth and will focus on “prevention, diversion, and harm reduction without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.”

The Ontario government also plans on creating a public education campaign focused on informing young people about potential dangers of marijuana usage.

RETAIL LOCATIONS SELLING MARIJUANA

Ontario is planning for the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana to be overseen by the LCBO. However, marijuana will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol, and edibles or cannabis-infused foods will not be sold online or in retail stores.

The government of Ontario will proceed to work with municipalities, local police services, the OPP, and the federal government to help shut down any marijuana dispensaries that operate outside of the new parameters, once they are in place.

ONLINE MARIJUANA SALES

It has been suggested that online distribution will be available across the Ontario by July 2018 and 150 stand-alone cannabis stores open by the end of 2020 (80 stores to be opened by July 1, 2019).

Ontario will comply with federal requirements that limit advertising and require behind-the-counter sales similar to the way in which tobacco is currently sold. Staff will be required to follow strict requirements for age verification. Staff will also undergo mandatory training and have knowledge of products and how to use cannabis.

Delivery of online sales would require ID checks, signatures upon delivery, and no packages would be left unattended at the door.

PROHIBITED USE IN PUBLIC

Ontario proposes to restrict the places where marijuana can be consumed. It is suggested that cannabis not be used in public, in workplaces, or in motorized vehicles. Individuals will only be permitted to use recreational cannabis in private residences. These restrictions will be similar to those used to control the consumption of alcohol in public spaces and workplaces.

The Ontario government has advised that it will explore the possibility of allowing specific establishments where cannabis could be consumed legally.

LEGAL POSSESSION OF CANNABIS

Under the federal government’s proposal, adults would be allowed to have up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis and people under 18 years old could have up to five grams. The government of Ontario appears to be in agreement with these possession limits.

We will continue to provide updates regarding the legalization of cannabis in Canada as this information becomes available, and will blog about updates as they arise.

In the meantime, if you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Provinces Discuss Delaying Marijuana Legalization

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Premiers from across Canada are meeting in Edmonton this week to promote interprovincial-territorial cooperation and address issues, challenges, and needs of Canadians. One of the topics at issue is the planned legalization of marijuana, which is currently scheduled for July 1, 2018.

A Potential One Year Delay

Manitoba’s Premier, Brian Pallister, is attempting to persuade his fellow Premiers to ask the Prime Minister to delay marijuana legalization by one year (making it effective July 1, 2019). Pallister raised several concerns that he hopes can be addressed through delaying any official legal changes to marijuana’s status in Canada.

Firstly, Pallister wants to learn from the regulation of beer, wine, and spirits and believes that the delay would avoid the problems associated what he has called a “hodge-podge” of the different ages of majority across the country. Both the age of majority and regulations around things like where pot could be sold are the responsibility of each province.

Secondly, Pallister wants more information and additional research into the health impacts of marijuana, including ways of measuring cannabis impairment for drivers. He believes that:

“There are too many unanswered questions, too many issues that have not been addressed for us to rush into what is an historic change.”

Pallister also hopes that extending the deadline will allow for the creation of stronger and more effective campaigns to ensure that driving under the influence becomes as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving currently is. He believes that this has not yet been properly or fully addressed.

Current Positions of Various Premiers

Other Premiers, including Saskachewan’s Brad Wall and Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil, have indicated that their provinces are working towards the original July 1, 2018 deadline. However, Wall has stated that he likewise wouldn’t mind an extension, as there are a “lot of moving parts” to making such a big change, and McNeil has noted that it is important for all Premiers to be on the same page.

Ontario is not counting on any extension, and is currently conducting public consultations on marijuana in advance of the original deadline; however, Kathleen Wynne has noted that work is still being undertaken to develop policies on public and traffic safety, on protecting youth, and on determining where pot will be sold.

Quebec’s Premier, Philippe Couillard says that he is likewise not expecting a delay and the province is also working under the assumption that the date of any legislative change will continue to be July 1, 2018.

The Federal Government Plans to Stick to Their Original Deadline

Earlier this summer, the federal government stated that it would stay “firm” on its plan to legalize marijuana by next year, even if it has to “backstop” any provinces that are not ready to tax or distribute the drug by that time. Prime Minister Trudeau noted that the federal government had given provinces and municipalities “lots of time” to comply with pending changes and that it was “time to move on”.

That announcement came in the wake of concerns from federal and provincial finance ministers about whether Canada was ready for legalization after a meeting between the ministers ended with no consensus on a coordinated strategy to tax cannabis.

The Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, stated that tax rates on marijuana should be kept low to prevent marijuana users from potentially seeking out cheaper, illicit sources for pot. He noted that his department had begun to do research into possible tax rates, and what price levels could deter a black market for weed, but that no conclusion had been reached.

However, Ontario’s Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, noted that the provinces will want to ensure that any tax revenue from marijuana will cover what he calls the “substantive costs” that provinces will have to face to prepare for legalization (including law enforcement, public health, education, and distribution).

Morneau was firm that marijuana will be legal by the original deadline, even if Ottawa has to “backstop” provinces that will not be ready with distribution networks, by providing alternate options, such as delivery of marijuana via mail. He noted that he intends to meet with his provincial counterparts again in December and hopes to make significant progress.

We will continue to monitor developments in this area, and will provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, if you have any questions about drug offences,  including possession or trafficking, or any other criminal defence matter, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Refuses to Consider Pending Changes to Marijuana Legislation when Sentencing

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

 

The conversation around pending changes to marijuana legislation and how it relates to those tied up in the criminal justice system today continues to provide us with judicial decisions.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently overturned a trial judge’s decision to issue a suspended sentence to a man, who was convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking and trafficking over 20 pounds of marijuana.

A Lenient Trial Judge

At the man’s first trial, the judge considered existing sentencing guidelines and whether ordering jail time would violate the man’s rights under Section 12 of the Charter (which protects individuals from cruel and unusual punishment).

The judge stated, “I understand that my task is to approach the debate in a common‑sense way with a view to determining if the sentencing regime created by Parliament manifests itself in a grossly disproportionate punishment.”

The trial judge went on to consider a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision, which had found that “[Courts] should be careful not to stigmatize every disproportionate or excessive sentence as being a constitutional violation, and should leave to the usual sentencing appeal process the task of reviewing the fitness of a sentence. Section 12 will only be infringed where the sentence is so unfit having regard to the offence and the offender as to be grossly disproportionate.”

This left the trial judge to summarize “’Merely excessive’ is tolerable. It is only when the sentencing result reaches the frontier of “cruel and unusual” or “grossly disproportional” that the Charter remedy is triggered.”

The trial judge then examined the man’s history, which did not include any previous criminal activity. In fact, he played an active role in community involvement and was involved in both academic and business pursuits. The trial judge concluded “No larger good is served sentencing [this man] to jail. He poses no danger to the community. He has conducted himself well as a citizen but for this single unfortunate foray in the mire of the drug world. To be certain, as he attempted to engage in a criminal enterprise, his crimes are deserving of denunciation and deterrence. However, facing the reality that the product in which he dealt is to become legal, it should be said that the decibel level of such denunciation and deterrence may be less than it otherwise would be.” The man was ultimately issued a suspended sentence.

On Appeal

Prosecutors appealed the trial judge’s decision to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal., which reached a much different conclusion.

The Court of Appeal specifically noted the trial judge’s consideration of pending changes to Canada’s marijuana legislation, writing “After observing that the federal government was taking steps to legalize marijuana, he proceeded to sentence [the man]. The trial judge suspended the passing of sentence for two years subject to certain conditions.”

The Court of Appeal went on to state “Judges are bound to apply the law as it exists not as it might be in the future especially when, as here, it is unknown when the law will be changed, what the terms of it will be and how it will affect the offences of trafficking drugs or possession for the purpose.

The Court added “The possible future legalization of possession of marijuana can have no legal effect on the sentencing regime,” and, “it is an irrelevant extraneous factor that could, in this case, play no part in sentencing considerations. The trial judge’s reliance on this factor was an error of law.”

The man was ultimately given a sentence of 15 months.

To speak with an experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyer about drug trafficking or possession of drug charges, call Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7. Trust our experienced lawyers to handle your defence with diligence and expertise.

 

New Penalties for Drug-Impaired Driving in Ontario

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On October 2, new penalties came into effect for drug-impaired driving in Ontario. These new sanctions are part of the province’s Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, passed in 2015, and introduce immediate consequences for drug-impaired drivers that are similar to those that are already in place for drivers impaired by alcohol.

New Sanctions for Drug-Impaired Driving

Under the new changes, drivers impaired by drug use face the following consequences:

  • A $180 fine;
  • An immediate 3-day license suspension for the first occurrence; 7-day license suspension for the second occurrence; 30-day suspension for third and subsequent occurrences;
  • A possible 90-day license suspension and 7-day vehicle impoundment depending on drug testing at police station;
  • Mandatory education or treatment programs;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on vehicles for drivers with two or more license suspensions related to alcohol or drug in a 10-year period.

This is in addition to existing impaired-related criminal charges, which can result in jail time, loss of a driver’s license, and additional fines.

The intention of these new penalties is twofold. First and foremost, the penalties are intended to deter drivers impaired by drugs from going on the road. Secondly, the penalties are also intended to immediately take away an impaired person’s right to drive if they do go on the road and are caught.

What Does this Mean in Practice?

As Canada prepares to legalize marijuana, driving high has emerged as one of the biggest hurdles confronting the federal government’s task force on marijuana legalization.

At the same time, charging drivers who are high will be challenging. Unlike a Breathalyzer test for alcohol, there currently is no comparable cheap and reliable test for measuring THC or other drug content in blood. For instance, existing tests can reveal the presence of THC, but they do not establish how recently it was smoked as it may linger up to 12 hours after the person who smoked it felt any effect. The other option is using costly, invasive, and legally questionable blood tests. However, even if a blood sample comes back positive, there is currently no legally established limit for THC content as there is for alcohol.

Some clarity may be coming with respect to what will be needed to successfully convict someone of drug-impaired driving. The Supreme Court of Canada will soon be hearing the appeal of Carson Bingley. While driving in 2009, Bingley’s car crossed the centre line of a busy Ottawa street barely missing oncoming traffic and forcing other drivers out of the way. He then pulled into a parking lot and hit another car. Two separate drivers contacted police, suspecting Bingley of impaired driving. At the police station, Bingley admitted to smoking marijuana. The SCC’s decision will provide much-needed guidance on what kind of testimony will be admissible in a drug-impaired trial. The outcome of this decision will have an impact on criminal charges for drug-impaired driving.

Until further clarity is established, Ontario drivers should be aware of the new penalties that are already in place in the province.

If you are facing impaired driving charges, contact our office online or at 905-404-1947 to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Oshawa lawyers. We have 24-hour phone service for your convenience. Trust our experienced lawyers to handle your defence with diligence and expertise.