Australia: First "Drugged Driver" to Sue Police for Defamation 6/3/05

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In December, a motorist from the Australian state of Victoria became the first person to be identified as a "drugged driver" under the state's brand-new roadside drug test program. As TV camera crews filmed it all, John de Jong, 40, was pulled over, forced to submit to drug tests, and then accused of testing positive for methamphetamines and marijuana. Only one problem: The roadside tests were wrong, and a police laboratory later cleared de Jong of any wrongdoing.

Now de Jong is suing the government of Victoria for defamation. While the professional courier told the Advertiser newspaper Tuesday that he mainly wants an apology from Victoria police, he is also seeking unspecified damages for harm to his reputation after being falsely identified as a doped-up driver. Police told him his face would not be shown on TV by media they had invited to witness the new policy in action, but it was anyway.

The program, which is still underway, allows police to stop passing motorists at random and force them to submit to a saliva test for cannabis and methamphetamines. Those found to have drugs in their systems are punished by fines similar to those for drunk driving. But unlike Australia's drunk driving laws, which specify a blood alcohol level beyond which impairment is assumed, the drugged driving laws punish drivers for any detectable amount of the drugs, regardless of whether that amount is linked to actual impairment.

Police plan to randomly test some 9,000 drivers this year, they said when the plan was announced in December. Among the targeted locations are areas with heavy truck traffic and "areas known for rave parties," police said.

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Issue #389 -- 6/3/05

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Feature: US Congressman Criticizes Drug War at John W. Perry Fund Reception in Seattle | Feature: British Courts Reject Medical Marijuana Necessity Defense | Feature: High School Drug Bust and Hard-Line Prosecutor Prove Volatile Mix in Western Massachusetts County | Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Medical Marijuana: Lawmakers Raid Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Surplus | Sentencing: 9th Circuit Says Prisoners with Appeals Pending Can Challenge Sentences | Sentencing: Connecticut Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Eliminated Crack and Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparities | Marijuana: Alaska Governor Plotting Against Marijuana Again, Eyes 2006 Session | Marijuana: Milton Friedman and 500 Economists Call for Debate on Prohibition as New Study Suggests Regulation Could Save Billions | Asia: China Says Drug War is Failing | Australia: First "Drugged Driver" to Sue Police for Defamation | Asia: Philippines Farmers Say No Road, No End to Marijuana Growing | Job Listing: National Field Organizer, ACLU Drug Law Reform Project | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar


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