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Bill C-32 Drug Impaired Driving (and more) (Canada)

I testified today before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons. I appeared as Chair of the BC Civil Liberties Association Drug Policy Committee to oppose Bill C-32, legislation that if passed would do several things: a. Increased penalties for impaired driving including increased mandatory fines and mandatory minimum jail sentence; b. A new, mandatory and highly invasive drug testing process; c. The creation of a new offence of driving while in possession of drugs; d. The creation of new offences related to causing injuries while impaired and refusing to provide breath or bodily samples to police after being involved in an accident; e. Restrictions on the right of a person accused of driving with BAC (blood alcohol concentrations) over .08% to call evidence in his or her defence; My panel included representatives from MADD and the Canadian Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers. I think the presentation went well, but from the Committee's comments, this Bill appears virtually certain to pass if it gets to a vote on the floor of Parliament (though, with luck, there may be some amendments). I said, essentially, that the evidentiary restrictions related to BAC tests are based on the faulty assumption that the BAC test is infallible and that, as undue restrictions on the Charter right to full answer and defence, they will certainly be challenged and are likely found to be constitutionally invalid. Rather than reducing the amount of time required in court on BAC cases (one purported justification for the changes), this law will dramatically increase the burden on the criminal justice system. With respect to the Driving While in Possession (DWP) offence, I pointed out that it is totally unrelated to driving while impaired, constitutes an end-run around the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, should not be in this Bill at all and that the mandatory driving prohibition associated with a conviction (1 year to 3 years for a first offence and increasing thereafter) is excessive and unwarranted, given that the offence itself has nothing at all to do with one's driving ability. You could be convicted simply if you are driving a car and you know your passenger has a joint in his/her pocket. I also objected to the proposed drug testing procedures for several reasons: 1. Significant concerns exist with respect to the accuracy of the DRE evaluation process. 2. Saliva, urine and blood testing is highly invasive of personal privacy and is often a degrading and humiliating experience. 3. The process set out in the legislation is cumbersome and extremely time consuming, and the individual is detained by police the whole time. 4. Worse, the results of both the DRE evaluation and bodily sample testing are of little evidentiary value because the DRE process, while appearing to be scientific, is actually susceptible to significant error rates; one study suggests that average error rates are 21%. Put another way, of every 100 persons from whom a blood or urine sample is demanded under threat of being charged with an offence for refusing, 20 will have been falsely accused and improperly and involuntarily subjected to a very invasive process. Moreover, the invasive process - the forced taking of blood, urine or saliva - yields essentially worthless information. The legislative summary is clear that there is simply no way to link impairment to the presence of drugs in one's system. Put in legal terms, the information gleaned from the testing is irrelevant to the ultimate issue of impairment. The biggest burden will fall on marijuana users, particularly on licensed medical users, who can and will test positive hours, days or weeks after consuming cannabis despite that they may not have used cannabis immediately prior to driving. My final objection was philosophical rather than practical: laws should not be promulgated in order that government may be seen to be doing something as opposed to actually doing something about a problem. The money that will be required to implement this new law is much better spent on educational programs designed to teach people, particularly young people, about the danger of driving while impaired. We have made great positive strides when using education rather than enforcement as the primary method of achieving our shared goals and, critically, education does not unduly infringe on the civil liberties and freedoms that are the very foundation of our democracy. Kirk Tousaw www.tousawlaw.ca www.bcccla.org www.endprohibition.ca

Racial Profiling: It's Getting Worse in Missouri

Black drivers are nearly 50% more likely than whites to be stopped by Missouri police and twice as likely to be searched, even though police are less likely to find contraband than with white drivers, according to the state's annual report on racial profiling. Released May 31, the report also found that the problem is getting worse.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/njturnpike.jpg
enter at peril of profiling
The report showed that blacks were pulled over at rates 49% greater than their presence in the driving age population. The numbers were 34% in 2004 and 42% in 2005.

"As I have said in previous years, the disparity index for African-American and Hispanic drivers continues to be of concern," Attorney General Jay Nixon said in his written analysis of the report. "Law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely on their race or ethnicity."

White drivers were stopped at a rate slightly below their percentage of the population, while Hispanic drivers were stopped at a right slightly above it. Asians, American Indians, and people of mixed race were all stopped at rates well below what would be expected.

Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to be searched as whites, even though police were most likely to find contraband in searches of vehicles driven by white drivers. Police found contraband in 14.4% of searches of Hispanic drivers, 18.7% of black drivers, and 22.2% of white drivers.

Despite lower levels of successful searches among black and Hispanic drivers, they were still twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Five percent of white drivers pulled over ended up going to jail, while slightly more than 10% of black and Hispanic drivers did.

The report was based on an analysis of more than 1.6 million traffic stops, 128,000 searches, and 94,000 arrests made by state and local police in Missouri in 2006.

Medical marijuana patient charged with DUI

Localização: 
NV
United States
Publication/Source: 
KVBC-TV3 (NV)
URL: 
http://www.kvbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=6564484&nav=15MV

SD: Supreme Court says marijuana cannot be used as evidence

Localização: 
Pierre, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Sioux City Journal (IA)
URL: 
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/05/04/news/south_dakota/67123a26c690c28a862572d1000542db.txt

Judge questions police methods, effectiveness of drug war

Localização: 
FL
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Palm Beach Post (FL)
URL: 
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2007/05/04/m1a_DRUG_WAR_0504.html?imw=Y

Feature: Blacks, Hispanics More Likely to Be Searched at Traffic Stops -- But That Is Not Proof of Racial Profiling, Justice Department Claims

While police stop white, black, and Hispanic drivers at similar rates, members of the latter two groups are much more likely to be subjected to a roadside search, according to a new report on citizen-police encounters from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). But BJS refused to conclude that the difference in search rates is caused by racial profiling, saying other factors could be at play.

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"While the survey found that black and Hispanic drivers were more likely than whites to be searched, such racial disparities do not necessarily demonstrate that police treat people differently based on race or other demographic characteristics," BJS noted in a press release announcing the report. "This study did not take into account other factors that might explain these disparities."

Civil liberties advocates contend that the report is flawed and that BJS is pulling its shots. They point not only to missing data in the current report, but also to political interference in the Justice Department on earlier reports, including a controversial 2005 report on racial profiling that was buried after then BJS head Lawrence Greenfeld refused to remove information about racial profiling. Greenfeld was shortly after forced from his position.

The current report studied police-citizen interactions in 2005 and found that 43 million Americans, or 19% of the population, had some form of interaction with a police officer that year. Some 18 million of them were for traffic stops.

In those traffic stops, only 3.6% of white drivers pulled over were searched, compared to 8.8% of Hispanics and 9.5% of blacks. Blacks were also more than twice as likely as whites to be arrested during a traffic stop and nearly four times as likely to report being subjected to force, while Hispanics faced a 50% higher chance than whites of being arrested and were nearly twice as likely to be subjected to force.

Even when police searched motorists' vehicles, they were unlikely to find anything. Fully 88% of all vehicle searches resulted in no contraband found. In previous reports, BJS published figures on "hit rates," or successful searches, by motorists' race, but it did not include that critical information in this year's report.

"The omission of data on hit rate by race is a glaring omission," said Scott Morgan, associate director of the Fourth Amendment education group Flex Your Rights. "Racial profiling apologists will first argue that there is no such thing as racial profiling, and when you refute that, they revert to the argument that profiling is justified by higher levels of criminal activity," he told Drug War Chronicle. "Hit rate data is crucial to refuting the argument that this discriminatory treatment of minorities is justified by their behavior."

Previous versions of the BJS report have found that police were less -- not more -- likely to find drugs or other contraband in vehicles driven by minority drivers than by white drivers. The lack of such data in the current report is a serious problem, said Reginald Shuford, senior staff attorney for the ACLU's Racial Justice Program.

"Many studies have concluded that despite being more likely to be searched by police, African American and Hispanic drivers are actually less likely to be carrying contraband," Shuford told the Chronicle. "This report is silent on that issue, but this is data that absolutely must be recorded and analyzed."

Shuford also scoffed at BJS's refusal to qualify its findings as evidence of racial profiling. "The numbers speak for themselves," he said. "Most people would look at these numbers and conclude that racial bias and profiling are alive and well. BJS's contention that they are unable to conclude that this is racial profiling is not particularly compelling," he said.

But BJS statistican Matthew Durose, one of the report's authors, defended the report's lack of hit rate data and limited conclusions. "The study was based on a sample size that is too small to form reliable estimates," he told the Chronicle. "In our sample of 64,000 respondents, 189 were stopped and searched by police, and only 30 cases involved African American drivers stopped and searched. We don't really have the numbers to form reliable estimates," he said.

As for calling it racial profiling, Durose said there was insufficient information. "There are countless circumstances that could explain these searches, and we don't have the officers' reasons for conducting them, so we are not going to say we have proven racial profiling. We don't take that leap. What we have done is to alert the public that this is the survey data."

But the critics were not mollified. "We think that the report demonstrates clear and significant racial disparities in what happens to motorists after they are stopped by law enforcement," said the ACLU's Shuford. "If BJS doesn't have a big enough sample size, they need to get one. This is really critical information, and it is likely it would be consistent with earlier studies, which found that African Americans and Hispanics are no more likely to be carrying contraband than whites."

"BJS released a report that shows that racial profiling exists, and then they deny it," said Flex Your Rights' Morgan. "And then they omit the hit rates. And they released this on a Sunday. The absence of critical data, the decision to go for a Sunday release, the burying of the last report on racial profiling -- all this paints a picture of a Justice Department not any more interested in talking about racial profiling than Congress forces it to be. These reports are congressionally mandated, and I get the sense that we wouldn't have them at all -- even in flawed form -- if Congress didn't make them do it."

BJS says it cannot produce evidence of racial profiling. The critics say it's because it doesn't want to. Meanwhile, another black guy is probably getting pulled over and searched on the New Jersey Turnpike right now.

Op-Ed: Common sense goes up in smoke

Localização: 
Ottawa, ON
Canada
Publication/Source: 
The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/opinion/story.html?id=7565d44f-851a-45a8-9ff2-671d5e4616d4

Mark Kleiman gives drug reformers something to chew on

Mark Kleiman is one of a relatively small number of US academics who thinks and writes about drug policy. I don't always agree with him—especially his proposals for licensing drug users, higher alcohol taxes, and "coerced abstinence"—but his work is thoughtful, and, after listening to what passes for drug policy discourse among the political class, a veritable breath of fresh air. Kleiman is at it again this week, with a lengthy article, "Dopey, Boozy, Smoky—And Stupid," in the magazine The American Interest. After noting that 35 years into the war on drugs, the country still has a massive drug problem, as well as a massive police and prison apparatus aimed at drug users and sellers, Kleiman observes that no policy is going to eradicate drug use and what is needed is "radical reform." But real reform requires a better understanding of drugs and drug use, and that is where reality confronts mythology. As Kleiman notes, "most drug use is harmless," but drug abuse is not. That's quite different from "just say no." Similarly, he goes up against another drug policy mantra, this one popular with some reformers, that "drug abuse is a chronic, relapsing condition." That is true for only a minority of a minority of drug users, he correctly notes. After discussing some of the basics, Kleiman gets to the fun and thought-provoking part of his article—general policy recommendations:
These facts having now been set out, five principles might reasonably guide our policy choices. First, the overarching goal of policy should be to minimize the damage done to drug users and to others from the risks of the drugs themselves (toxicity, intoxicated behavior and addiction) and from control measures and efforts to evade them. That implies a second principle: No harm, no foul. Mere use of an abusable drug does not constitute a problem demanding public intervention. “Drug users” are not the enemy, and a achieving a “drug-free society” is not only impossible but unnecessary to achieve the purposes for which the drug laws were enacted. Third, one size does not fit all: Drugs, users, markets and dealers all differ, and policies need to be as differentiated as the situations they address. Fourth, all drug control policies, including enforcement, should be subjected to cost-benefit tests: We should act only when we can do more good than harm, not merely to express our righteousness. Since lawbreakers and their families are human beings, their suffering counts, too: Arrests and prison terms are costs, not benefits, of policy. Policymakers should learn from their mistakes and abandon unsuccessful efforts, which means that organizational learning must be built into organizational design. In drug policy as in most other policy arenas, feedback is the breakfast of champions. Fifth, in discussing programmatic innovations we should focus on programs that can be scaled up sufficiently to put a substantial dent in major problems. With drug abusers numbered in the millions, programs that affect only thousands are barely worth thinking about unless they show growth potential.
Hmmm, sounds pretty reasonable. Now, here is where Kleiman gets creative. Below are his general policy recommendations. I will leave the comments for others, but there is plenty to chew on here:
A PRACTICAL AGENDA What would actual policies based on the forgoing facts and principles look like? Here is a “to do” list to get us started: Don’t fill prisons with ordinary dealers. While prohibition clearly reduces drug abuse (otherwise there wouldn’t be several times as many abusers of alcohol as of all illicit drugs combined), and some level of enforcement is necessary to make prohibition a reality, increasing enforcement efforts against mass-marketed drugs cannot significantly raise the prices of those drugs or make them much harder to acquire. If we had only 200,000 dealers behind bars rather than 500,000, the drug markets would not be noticeably larger, and they might be less violent. Given the fiscal and human costs of incarceration, and the opportunity cost of locking up a drug dealer in a cell that might otherwise hold a burglar or a rapist, the current level of drug-related incarceration is hard to justify. We can reduce that level with arrest-minimizing enforcement strategies and by a discriminating moderation in drug sentencing. Lock up dealers based on nastiness, not on volume. All drug dealers supply drugs; only some use violence, or operate flagrantly, or employ juveniles as apprentice dealers. The current system of enforcement, which bases targeting and sentencing primarily on drug volume, should be replaced with a system focused on conduct. If we target and severely sentence the nastiest dealers rather than the biggest ones, we can greatly reduce the amount of gunfire, the damage drug dealing does to the neighborhoods around it, and the attractive nuisance the drug trade offers to teenagers. As a practical matter, too, we cannot create adequate differential disincentives for the most destructive forms of dealing solely by ramping up sanctions for those who engage in them. If we’re already locking up ordinary drug dealers forever, locking up the nastier ones forever and a day won’t create much competitive disadvantage for violence-prone or juvenile-employing organizations. The base level of sanctions needs to be reduced to make differentiated sentencing effective. Pressure drug-using offenders to stop. The relatively small number of offenders (no more than three million all together) who are frequent, high-dose users of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine accounts for a large proportion both of theft and of the money spent on illicit drugs. Getting a handle on their behavior is inseparable from getting a handle on street crime and the drug markets.
There is much, much more in the recommendations, from more frequent drug testing of offenders to breaking up drug markets without mass arrests to raising the tax on beer and eliminating the minimum drinking age (!) to letting pot-smokers grow their own but not completely legalizing the weed. And that's not all. Read it and come back and tell me, whaddya think?
Localização: 
United States

Ex-Cop Plans Video on How to Hide Drugs

Localização: 
Tyler, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Fox News
URL: 
http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2006Dec22/0,4670,ExCopapossDrugTips,00.html

Proposal would expand DWI to include drugs

Localização: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Southeast Missourian
URL: 
http://www.semissourian.com/story/1181292.html

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