Book Review: Drug-Impaired Driving in Canada

Several times each month, we are pleased to republish a recent book review from the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its reviews cover both practice-oriented and academic publications related to the law.

Drug-Impaired Driving in Canada. By Nathan Baker. Toronto: Irwin Law, 2018. 243 p. Includes references. ISBN: 978-1-55221-492-3 (paperback) $60.00; ISBN 978-1-55221-493-0 (eBook) $60.00.

Reviewed by Bobbie A. Walker
Certified by the Law Society as a Specialist in Criminal Law
St. Catharines, ON
In CLLR 44:4

Drug-Impaired Driving in Canada tackles a complex and relatively new form of criminal litigation. The number of drug-impaired cases is only likely to increase with the more liberal cannabis laws enacted in recent years, making this text very timely. The book’s substantial research foundation is obvious; however, it is, at its heart, a practical handbook. It is evident that the book was written with criminal litigators in mind.

After an introduction, the second chapter provides a comprehensive review of the Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) and Drug Recognition Evaluations (DRE) testing used by various North American agencies. The chapter contains many useful tidbits that can be used to question the testimony of police officers and medical professionals. The next three chapters delve into the actual testing of a number of drugs and their effects.

Chapter 7, “Charter Considerations,” is a great resource for the criminal litigator, as many impaired cases turn on Charter issues. This chapter was extremely practical, as it walks one through the steps of the investigation to the “nuts and bolts” of a trial, beginning with the “Call in the Middle of the Night.” Case summaries are arranged under oft-raised Charter issues, allowing for a quick scan as needed. While reading this chapter, I kept referring back to the Drug Influence Evaluation form from Chapter 1.

After discussing Bill C-46 and the drug-impaired amendments to the Criminal Code in Chapter 8, Baker scanned how the provinces and territories have amended their legislation in response to the new Federal laws in the following chapter. Relevant provincial laws are Traffic Safety Acts and cannabis management, control, or education statutes. It was interesting to observe the variation of legislation across the country, which may provide additional arguments for the defence counsel, especially on parity.

Baker effectively communicates common concerns with drug-impaired driving cases in Chapter 10, giving the litigator the ammunition to defend these types of cases. While he intersperses discussions of legislation and cases throughout the book, he devotes Chapter 12 to “Useful Cases,” in which he has arranged summaries of cases in a topical manner. This chapter is a great starting point in researching this area of law.

Baker included a few illustrations, charts, and checklists in the text but more would have been welcomed. The Drug Influence Evaluation (p. 3) chart and Drug Symptomatology Matrix (p. 54), for example, will be very helpful to litigators. Perhaps Baker could include useful charts and illustrations relating to a particular drug and the ng/100ml of blood, the rate of elimination, and the amounts of the particular drug to cause impairment in the next edition.

The book contained expected and unexpected research tools. It has a detailed table of contents, comprehensive index, and table of cases. The appendix provides an extremely useful list of possible disclosure materials that the defence counsel could request for review or examination. The glossary is another great resource, especially for abbreviations and medical terms. A practical suggestion would be to have page numbers included in the appendix and glossary to allow litigators to quickly find where a term is discussed in greater detail.

To date, there are very few publications in this specialty area of criminal law. I applaud Mr. Baker in tackling this medically driven, developing area of criminal litigation. I would recommend this book to any criminal litigator, whether new to or experienced with drug-impairment trials.

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