Kelowna RCMP say they’re looking into whether the driver who hit two men walking on a quiet Rutland street Saturday morning was under the influence of crack cocaine.
Const. Steve Holmes says the 32-year-old driver of the Jeep SUV, which hit two men aged 25 and 53 sending them both to hospital, had a pipe in the Jeep and appeared to be under the influence of drugs, according to the RCMP drug recognition expert.
“It was a glass pipe, so that’s why it gives rise to the suspicion that it may be crack cocaine; however, final analysis is that it is yet to be determined,” said Holmes.
RCMP are in the process of getting a warrant for lab results to make that determination from bodily fluid samples extracted at the hospital.
Unlike drunk driving charges, which require both confirmation of alcohol in the blood stream and an amount to determine impairment, police simply have to secure verify that drugs were present and make a reasonable argument that the substance caused impaired judgment when drugs are involved.
However, RCMP Superintendent Bill McKinnon confirmed the case can be trickier to prove than an impaired driving charge stemming from alcohol consumption nonetheless.
“It’s not so easy in terms of being able to demand a blood sample under the criminal code,” said McKinnon, who was asked about the arrest at the regular Monday morning press briefing.
Making a drug case stick means RCMP must establish a time line to ensure the substance was taken prior to the accident, and then secure a sample of blood, urine, or saliva to confirm the appearance of impairment is in fact drug related. Unlike a breathalyzer test, blood samples must either be given voluntarily or a drug recognition expert can be called in to make a determination based on behavioural indicators as to whether a person is impaired.
The next step is for that officer to demand a sample of bodily fluid. If the suspect does not provide the sample at that point they can be charged with a criminal offense and the charge becomes another factor in the impaired driving case.
In this case officers never got to that point as the driver complained he was injured before a sample could be taken.
Charges of Impaired Driving (by Drug) Causing Bodily Harm and Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm were recommended and the suspect has been released on a promise to appear in court mid-December, indicating police feel they have enough information to make the charges stick and efforts to secure the lab work are underway.
McKinnon said he is constantly sending people for training to ensure he has enough drug recognition experts on staff and believes there are currently four in Kelowna.
The jeep struck the two men, whose relationship to one another has not been disclosed, from behind. The 53 year old was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital where he is said to be recovering from serious, though non-life threatening injuries. The 25 year old, who is originally from Revelstoke, escaped with minor injuries.
RCMP could not confirm how the victims knew each other, however neighbours in the area say the men were both from Crossroads Treatment Centre on Franklyn Road, which sits directly behind where they were struck.
Staff at the facility could not confirm whether the men are associated with the facility as it is a confidential treatment program.