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What are my rights if the police think I’ve been taking drugs and driving?

Question
What are my rights if the police think I’ve been taking drugs and driving?

Glossary

Clear language definitions to common legal terms. 

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Reviewed: 
October, 2016
Answer

If the police think you’ve been taking drugs and driving, they can demand that you do a roadside Standardized Field Sobriety Test. For example, you may be asked to stand on one leg or walk in a straight line. This test checks whether your ability to drive has been impaired by drug use.

You don’t have the right to talk to a lawyer before taking the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. You don’t have the right to refuse a Standardized Field Sobriety Test.

Drug evaluation tests

If you fail the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, the police can demand that you go to the police station for drug evaluation tests.

If you refuse any of the tests, you can be charged with a criminal offence for failure to comply with a police demand.

1. Do the roadside Standardized Field Sobriety Test

You must do a roadside Standardized Field Sobriety Test when the police demand one. You don’t have the right to talk to a lawyer before taking the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. You don’t have the right to refuse a Standardized Field Sobriety Test.

Refusing to do a roadside Standardized Field Sobriety Test is a criminal offence. If you refuse to do the test, the police will charge you with failure to comply with a demand. A court will decide whether you had a reasonable excuse for refusing. It’s hard to show a reasonable excuse. If the police ask for a Standardized Field Sobriety Test, it's best to do the test.

If you fail the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, the police can demand that you go to the police station for drug evaluation tests.

Reviewed: 
November, 2016

2. Go to the police station for drug evaluation tests

At the police station, a certified drug recognition expert will do some more tests. This includes physical co-ordination exercises similar to the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. This also includes things like your:

  • blood pressure
  • oral body temperature
  • pulse
  • pupil size in different lighting conditions

The expert will look at all of the test results. If the expert finds that you’re impaired by a specific drug, the expert will identify the type of drug and you’ll be charged with impaired driving. The expert can order you to give a blood, urine, or saliva sample to confirm the presence of that drug.

Refusing to do drug evaluation tests is a criminal offence. If you refuse to do the test, the police will charge you with failure to comply with a demand. A court will decide whether you had a reasonable excuse for refusing. It’s hard to show a reasonable excuse. If the police ask for a drug evaluation tests, it's best to do the test.

You have the right to talk to a lawyer before doing drug evaluation tests at the police station. And you have the right to remain silent if the police ask you questions.

Reviewed: 
January, 2017

3. Talk to a lawyer

You have the right to talk to a lawyer before taking a drug evaluation test at the police station. Always ask to talk to a lawyer before you take a drug evaluation test.

What to say

Just say, "I want to talk to a lawyer." You don’t have to say anything else.

Your rights

The police must tell you that you have the right to talk to a lawyer. If you tell the police you want to talk to a lawyer, the police must allow you to contact a lawyer. You must be allowed to talk to the lawyer in private.

If you don’t know a lawyer or can’t afford one, you can contact Legal Aid Ontario. Legal Aid Ontario pays lawyers known as duty counsel to give free legal advice to people who can’t afford a lawyer. This advice is available 24 hours a day. If they don’t tell you, ask the police for the toll-free phone number for duty counsel.  

The rights related to talking to a lawyer are called the right to counsel.

Reviewed: 
November, 2016
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4. Remain silent

You have the right to remain silent if the police ask you questions.

What to say

If the police are questioning you and you don’t want to answer, tell them. Politely say, “I do not wish to give a statement or answer any questions.” Repeat this statement as often as necessary. By saying this, you make it clear that you have chosen to use your right to remain silent.

Your rights

You have the right to remain silent.   In most situations, you don’t have to answer any questions the police ask you. Anything you say to the police may be used as evidence.

It’s usually in your best interest to remain silent. It's always in your best interest to wait until you've talked to a lawyer before you decide whether to answer questions from the police.

Exception for a motor vehicle accident

If you’re in a motor vehicle accident you may be required by law to give a statement to the police. This statement is called an accident report. You are required by law to give police the information necessary to complete the report.

Your accident report cannot be used against you as self-incriminating evidence, but making an untrue statement is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act. Also, if you lie to the police, you can be charged with obstructing justice.

Reviewed: 
November, 2016
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Learn more about this topic
Ontario Ministry of Transportation
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

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