Summaries from: 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004

2017 Developments

2017.08.22 Search & Seizure incidental to Detention - Guns

If you have reasonable suspicion that a car contains an unlawful gun, can you search the trunk?

At 8:23:10 p.m, an anonymous tipster called 911. The dispatcher typed a summary of his information:





Attending officers drove arrived at the the liquor store at 8:24:53pm but did not see the vehicle in the parking lot. A few minutes later, they did find a matching vehicle and driver pulled over, engine running, on a nearby road. Licence plate and car, and the driver - Mr Lee, 2017 ONCA 654 - was indeed Asian, and wore a hat.

They told him that they were investigating a gun complaint. He responded "no no no". They did not tell him about his right to counsel, but nor did they question him. They patted him down, and checked the vehicle for weapons. No gun.

Another officer arrived. He stepped into the driver's seat and pulled a lever which opened the trunk.

There, indeed was a bag in the trunk. It contained 23kg of cocaine.

And no gun.

The trial judge convicted Mr Lee. He and two judges of the Court of Appeal agreed that the police searched the trunk lawfully. One judge in the Court of Appeal agreed with Mr Lee's lawyers that this search went too far.

This decision does not declare open season on the trunks of cars driven by suspicious people. The majority said:

"... this decision must not be read as condoning an unlimited search of a car for police or public safety purposes whenever there is an investigative detention."

The majority said that the details in the tip (gun, bag in trunk, possible drug dealing) raised a specific concern about public safety. When the officers searched the driver and the cabin of the car, they found no gun. Because so much about the tip was confirmed, they had real reason to fear that a gun remained unaccounted for. That justified opening the trunk.

The other judge looked at the same facts from a different angle. The pat-down and search of the cabin resolved any immediate concerns about public safety. Even if there was a gun in the trunk, it wasn't going to hurt anyone immediately.

It's the kind of case that would divide the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the mean time, don't go popping trunks just because of this decision. To go into a trunk during an investigative detention:

  • tell the suspect why you're detaining
  • tell them about the right to counsel
  • this case suggests asking questions before they talk to a lawyer may be problematic (though opinions differed)
  • don't go into the trunk unless you have specific reasons pointing at a live risk to police or the public.

2017.08.19 Identification - Security Video

A fight broke out at a bar. A guy walked up and fired a handgun several times, hitting several people. Who was the guy?

Two officers and a server at the bar testified that they watched the security video and recognized Mr M.B., 2017 ONCA 653 as the shooter. The officers knew him from watching him on the street (he was involved in drugs). The server knew him because he showed up at the bar from time to time. She did not say he was there that day.

The three witnesses were sure, but the video quality was poor.

The trial judge convicted. The appeal court threw the conviction out.

Security video always looks more convincing to the investigator than it does to the judges. If the face is hard to make out in the video, you probably want independent evidence.

In this case, other evidence could have included:

  • did Mr M.B. have a dispute with any of the people that got shot?
  • did anyone see Mr M.B. in the bar or near it that day?
  • are there any witnesses who can say Mr M.B. possessed a handgun at the time?

2017.08.12 Exhibit Destruction

In 1999, some guy broke into the home of a 75-year-old woman. He lay on top of her and covered her face with the sheets. He told her to relax. She yelled. It appears he stole some money, and moved an orange juice container from the fridge, and emptied it.

The investigating officers threw out the orange juice container. They wish they had kept it.

Twice more in the months that followed, a guy broke into the homes of old women. He took drinks from their kitchens. He stole their money. He went into their bedrooms and assaulted them in their beds. He raped one of them. DNA from the rape matched Mr Nicholas, 2017 ONCA 646. On the other one, DNA from a drink container matched Mr Nicholas. But did he do the first one?

The Crown prosecuted him for all three B&Es. Several times over. The Crown wished that the officer had kept the juice container. If it had Mr Nicholas' DNA on it, the case would have been easy. Instead, they had to use similar fact evidence to prove he did it - which is more difficult. (The jury found him guilty none-the-less.)

The officer wished he had kept the juice container. At the last trial, the defence lawyer cross-examined the officer long and hard about why it was thrown out.

Would you keep it today?

2017.08.12 Taking DNA by Consent

When Mr Nicholas, 2017 ONCA 646 went on the rampage, police had no DNA to match against. They collected around 100 names of possible suspects, and asked each in turn to provide DNA.

They went about it the right way. They prepared a form which made sure that each fellow knew he could decline to give DNA. They offered access to counsel. They recorded most of the process with an audio-recorder. You can read the form in this earlier decision: Nicholas (2004 Ont CA).

The first time Mr Nicholas went to trial, he complained that when taking his DNA, the police detained him and coerced him. But he didn't testify about how he felt at the time. That trial judge found that the DNA was properly taken. That trial judge made other legal errors which led to a retrial.

The next time Mr Nicholas went to trial, he testified that the police detained him and coerced him into giving his DNA. Because of the form and the audio-recording the next trial judge concluded again that he gave it voluntarily. You might want to look at that form.

But the police did make a mistake. They did not accurately record on the form all of the offences that they were investigating. That breached Mr Nicholas' rights under s.8. The judge admitted the evidence anyway.

Getting DNA by consent from a hundred suspects is a boring business. You won't know which one (if any) did the crime. It's easy to slip up on the 75th suspect, and hard to remember him from all the others. But if your offender gives you DNA (and it's amazing how often they do), you can expect an enormous court battle over what happened.

In addition to audio-recording, I would suggest that you also take a picture of each suspect, so that you can identify the person from whom you got the DNA. (Is the electronic date and time correctly set on your camera?)

  I recommend that you record the process of obtaining consent on audio or video.

2017.08.08 Expert Witnesses

Some of you give expert evidence about unusual areas or topics.

Don't fudge your results.

It's not professional, and can cause untold costs and grief. In Abbey, 2017 ONCA 640, an expert claimed to have strong evidence about the meaning of teardrop tattoos among gang members. Perhaps he did have special knowledge, but he fudged the statistics he offered to support this opinion. Lawyers eventually figured it out, destroying his reputation. But not before he cost the public masses of litigation costs. Now, his evidence is worth nothing. It is possible that a murderer will walk free, or that an innocent man suffered a decade of litigation.

2017.08.07 Warrantless Search - Guns and Gangs

A member of the Hells Angels started talking to police.

Three days after a B&E and theft of 29 firearms and lots of ammo, police arrested this guy for the crime. Where did the guns go? The HA member told police that he sold the guns to Mr Strauss, 2017 ONCA 628, but he did not know where Mr Strauss stashed them. He told police where the exchange occurred. Strauss stashed the guns and returned 45 minutes later. Because this occurred in a rural area, police figured the guns could be no more than a 20-minute drive from where the informant gave the guns to Strauss.

Eight days after the B&E, the officers started searching properties in the area. Without warrants. No luck.

Thirteen days after the B&E, police discovered a property in the area belonging to Strauss' parents. Still without a warrant, they went to a barn on the property. They picked a lock, and searched. They found 17 guns, lots of ammo and drug trafficking paraphernalia.

Mr Strauss was arrested on other matters, and happened to be in custody with the Hells Angel informant. (Was it really a coincidence?) The Hells Angel informant then told police that Mr Strauss commented that the police failed to search the false wall in the barn, where more guns were hidden.

This time, police got a warrant, and found the guns, just as the informant said.

The judges were pretty annoyed by the warrantless search, and excluded all of the evidence from the first search of the barn. The trial judge liked the honesty of application for the warrant to search the barn a second time. He admitted the evidence from the second search.  The appeal judges were too outraged by the campaign of warrantless searches. They excluded all of the evidence from the searches of the barn, and Mr Strauss beat the charges.

To search private property, in the absence of exigent circumstances, you need consent from an authorized person, or a warrant.

In these situations, I can see why police might view the warrantless search as necessary in the public interest. They likely had reason to believe that these firearms posed a general danger to the public, even if the guns did not pose a specific imminent danger at the time of the search. By proceeding with a warrantless search, they would get the guns off the street, whether or not there was a conviction.

Great policy. Lousy law. The trouble is, I know of no lawful authority to proceed in that fashion. And unless you get lawful justification under s.25.1 of the Criminal Code to do an act which violates s.348 of the Criminal Code, you're exposing yourself to criminal prosecution.

What can you do to pursue such a policy? In the past, police have been secretive or euphemistic about "no case seizures" to remove guns or drugs from circulation. I think the transparency of s.25.1 of the Criminal Code provides a better model. Or perhaps you need legislation which - in cases of high public risk - permits you to search suspicious places with less than probable cause. That legislation might prevent you from using evidence so discovered from being used to incriminate people whose privacy you violate.

2017.08.07 Arrest - Reasonable Grounds - Eyewitness Descriptions

Eyewitnesses make mistakes. They mis-remember or fail to see crucial detail, even moments later. There are abundant psychological experiments which prove this: Gorilla. Murder mystery. Card trick. Person switch

All these tricks show that what we focus on affects how much we notice of the rest of our surroundings.

When a victim of a violent attack describes it, or the people involved, they may make mistakes. That affects how you should assess their evidence.

Police attended an assault complaint at Dundas & Wellington in Toronto. They spoke to the complainant inside a Mac's convenience store. He told the officers that two men and a woman assaulted him. He knew one man and named him. He said that the other man had dark skin and was dressed in baggy hip-hop style clothing.

The complainant was missing a shoe. An officer found the missing shoe in the alley where he said the assault occurred. They officers had good reason to believe he was assaulted.

But whodunnit?

As the officers spoke in the store with the complainant, two men and a woman walked by outside. The complainant pointed through the window: there they are now. Police stopped the group. The man that the victim named was one of the three, but the other man did not wear baggy hip-hop clothing. The other man did have dark skin, but he wore a black pea coat, black jogging pants, brown boots and a black baseball cap.

Police arrested all three people. When searching the "other man", Mr Aviles, 2017 ONCA 629, police found drugs and a scale. He was charged with PPT.

Mr Aviles complained that the officers lacked grounds to arrest: he wore different clothing than what the victim described.

The court found that his presence with the man and the woman shortly after the incident, the victim's purported recognition, and the dark skin sufficed to make this arrest reasonable.

The misdescription of the clothing did not make the arrest unreasonable. People can make mistakes.

This case was about the drugs in Mr Aviles' possession, and reasonable arrest. Would a court have convicted Mr Aviles of the assault based on this evidence? No way.

A victim of an assault may make some mistakes when describing the assailant. It was reasonable for the arresting officer to believe that the victim mistook the second guy's clothing. But beware. Those same frailties undermine proof of identification at trial. After an eyewitness identifies a stranger as "that's the guy who attacked me", look for other evidence linking your suspect to the crime.

2017.07.31 Entrapment - Reasonable Suspicion

Those of you undercover officers who ask people whether they would like to commit a crime need to make sure you can explain to the judge why you picked a particular target or location.  All you need is a "reasonable suspicion".

A tipster told police that Mr Seymour 2016 MBCA 118 trafficked illegally in firearms. Mr Seymour ran a hunting supply business in Fort Alexander, Manitoba. The police assessed the tip and concluded it was reliable. An officer pretended to be a hunter who broke his rifle. The officer asked Mr Seymour if he could borrow a firearm to finish his hunting. The officer claimed to have no firearms licence. Mr Seymour obliged. The officer asked if he could buy a firearm for parts to fix his broken gun. Mr Seymour obliged.

At trial, Mr Seymour complained of entrapment.

The trial judge and the court of appeal judges agreed.

The problem, they explained, was that the police assessed the quality of the tip, but the evidence led at trial did not let the judge assess the quality of the tip. The judge could not determine whether the police had a "reasonable" suspicion that Mr Seymour would commit the crime.

Therefore, when you get a tip that inspires you to test whether someone wants to commit a crime, you should:

  • assess the quality of the tip to make sure that it's reasonable to think that the target mght commit a crime if given the opportunity; and
  • determine how much of that assessment you can disclose to the defence and judge.

I didn't notice this decision when it first came out. Even 7 months later, I think it may be useful to some of you even now.

2017.07.27 Holdback & Sympathy

When you don't know who did the crime, keep what you do know to yourself.

Mr Kelly, 2017 ONCA 621 reported that his wife went missing. Four years later, a land surveyor found her body in a wooded area. Police investigated:

  • An autopsy showed that someone shot her in the head with a .22 rifle.
  • Someone wrapped her body in a carpet, and
  • hid it at a specific location in the woods.

This is the kind of information that a bereaved husband might want to know. Six years after the murder, an investigator told him all three of these details.

Eight years after the murder, Mr Kelly told an undercover police officer that he killed his wife. Mr Kelly told the officer those same details he learned from the investigator.

The undercover operation made Mr Kelly believe that he would get $400,000 if he could persuade the undercover officer that he did the murder. That incentive meant that the jury would not convict Mr Kelly if all he did was repeat the facts that the investigator told him two years earlier.

But he mentioned other details which the investigators had carefully kept back from public knowledge: three loops of yellow rope bound the carpet around the body; the killer fired a single bullet to the back of the victim's head; the carpet was blue (actually black and blue).

Those details convicted him.

There could have been more holdback to match against Mr Kelly's confession. Mr Kelly mentioned other details which matched what the police knew about the killing. Unfortunately, at trial, some of the investigators contradicted each other about which of those details were holdback, and which ones were disclosed.

Holdback ain't holdback if you tell family members, other witnesses, or the press.

Bereaved family members often want to know exactly how their loved one died. But they also want justice. If you tell them too much about the investigation, you may prevent them from getting justice.

Junior officers, beware of your enthusiasm. Everyone likes to know a secret. But holdback is dangerous. Avoid learning the holdback information if you can. If you do learn it, disclose it to nobody without first obtaining permission from a senior investigator tasked with tracking the holdback. If you do accidentally leak holdback to someone (your spouse, your brother, your secretary), report it, and ask the person not to mention the details to anyone. You just turned that person into a witness in the case.

Tracking holdback is hard. Senior officers: keep the circle small. You want to avoid the problem which arose in the Kelly trial. You want to be sure exactly what information was held back. Set rules: who decides when to release holdback? what documentation do you want from people in the circle about disclosure? Don't just track what your people told he suspect. Make sure everyone in the circle knows the rules. Make sure you know the name of everyone who knows the secret.

2017.07.27 Undercover - Some of Mr Big's Relatives have big Harts

In R. v. Hart, 2014 SCC 52, the court set special rules for the admissibility of evidence obtained in Mr Big operations. They said those rules apply to operations in which officers pretend to be a criminal organization which can and does use violence, they engage the suspect in simulated crime, they demand loyalty and honesty, and a powerful leader in the organization interrogates the target to ascertain the truth, and dismissing his denials as untrue.

The new rules told investigators what many already knew - don't intimidate or control your target too much.

The undercover operation in the case of Mr Kelly, 2017 ONCA 621 (see above) didn't look much like the traditional Mr Big operation.  An insurance agent contacted him about about life insurance on his wife: a $3,000 payout. Did he want the money? Oh, yes, Mr Kelly wanted the money. The agent alerted him to a weird provision in the release form: it included a requirement that Mr Kelly waive any claims he might have under any other insurance policies. The agent thought that was weird, and he'd check into it. The agent got back in touch with Mr Kelly: yes, there was more insurance  on his wife worth $570,000. But the insurance company wanted proof that Mr Kelly didn't murder his wife.

Luckily for Mr Kelly, the agent had a dying friend who wanted money for his daughter to go to university. If Mr Kelly told the dying friend exactly how he killed his wife, then the agent and the friend would take $150,000, and Mr Kelly could keep the rest. But the plan would only work if Mr Kelly told them exactly what he did.

This was an innovative operation. Not Mr Big, but it got results like Mr Big.

Did the restrictive new rules for Mr Big operations apply to this one?

The judges said "yes". The officers offered a powerful inducement: $400,000. And they involved Mr Kelly in a conspiracy to commit fraud, which would make him look bad to a jury.

But applying those new rules, they found that this operation fit the guidelines easily:

  • No threats of violence.
  • No pattern of simulated criminal acts.
  • No control over Kelly's life.

And Mr Kelly's confession matched the holdback.

The jury convicted him, and Mr Kelly lost his appeal.

But because the court said Hart applies, you must test your future operational plans against Hart even when you plan something different from the traditional Mr Big.

2017.07.26 Deceived by the Obvious - Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Too much experience in the field can sometimes blind you to the burden of proof in the court room.

Over two days, some officers watched known drug addicts visit a hotel room for short periods of time. The officers got a warrant, kicked in the door, and found two beds. The officers arrested the three men lying on them. All three men had bundles of cash in their pockets. Two of the three men also possessed cocaine -- but not the third man, Mr Douglas, 2017 ONCA 609.

The room contained several bags of larger quantities of what looked like crack cocaine. The lead investigator had abundant experience busting cocaine dealers, and easily concluded that the other bags also contained drugs. I suspect for that reason, he did not send the other bags off for testing.

The trial judge relied on the investigator's experience and knowledge, and came to the conclusion that the other bags contained drugs. That helped lead him to believe that Mr Douglas participated in the drug transactions. Their locations, and the presence of scales probably added to the inference the trial judge could draw.

On appeal, Mr Douglas's lawyer complained: the officer was not a qualified expert. (I observe that even if he sufficiently qualified, he might be seen as biased by reason of his involvement in the investigation, and therefore disqualified from giving expert opinions.)

In the absence of admissible evidence that the other bags contained cocaine, the court only had proof that the other two men possessed cocaine in their pockets. All Mr Douglas did was occupy a room which contained two men with cocaine in their pockets. Even if the others were dealing cocaine, all this showed was that Mr Douglas might have been present, but not that he participated.

The appeal court upheld the trial judge's conviction because there was lots of other circumstantial evidence. But I draw this case to your attention because because it illustrates a trap that's easy to fall into.

At the time of arrest, the defendant's guilt often looks so obvious that investigators are tempted to take short-cuts investigating guilt. In this case, the other (larger) bags "obviously" contained drugs, and so nobody asked the lab to test their contents. In another case, it will be the defendant's obvious sobriety, or intoxication, or lack of injuries. At trial, judges need clear evidence of the obvious facts before they can rely on them.

Sometimes, it really is a waste of time proving the obvious. You don't need to ask the forensic lab to test the red stuff oozing out of a cut in the victim's hand to determine whether it's blood. On the other hand, when the drunk driver threatened to punch the breath technician, you really should preserve the security video in the police station from the time that he or she arrived to the time he or she departed. And you should get every eyewitness to write a statement.

How much time and money you should spend to investigate the obvious depends upon the seriousness of the case and the strength of the other evidence. Guilt usually appears more obvious to the investigators at the time of arrest than at trial. Slow down. When deciding what short-cuts to take, remember that in court everything gets challenged, and when challenged, most witnesses sound only half as impressive as they did at the time of the investigation. Many cops included.

2017.07.20 Undercover Officers on the Internet - Screenshots

A great way to catch internet predators is to pretend to be internet prey. Can you make screenshots of the communications a suspect sends you?

An officer created a fake profile of a 14-year-old girl. Mr Mills, 2017 NLCA 12, aged 32 started communicating with her about sex, and invited her to meet him in a park. He claimed to be 23.

To record the communications, police captured images of the screen using a program called "Snagit".

Defence complained that this constituted "interception" of private communications. It required a 1-party consent authorization under s.184.1 of the Criminal Code.

The trial judge agreed.

The appeal court didn't. Without mentioning the seminal case of Duarte, [1990] 1 SCR 30, they overturned the trial judge's finding that police breached Mr Mills rights.

Mr Mills didn't like the appeal court's conclusion, and applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

At present, it appears that you do not need authorization to capture screenshots of undercover internet chats. I think it's a logical conclusion.  But if the Supreme Court grants leave, I do not think the judges of that court will find this case as simple as the Newfoundland Court of Appeal did.

2017.07.17 Destruction of Exhibits - Live Long and Prosper

How long after the conviction should you keep the exhibits?

In 1983, part way through his first degree murder trial, Mr Tallio, 2017 BCCA 259, pleaded guilty to second degree murder. In 2016, he filed an appeal, based upon DNA testing of a few of the exhibits that remain. One contained DNA that doesn't match him, but there is evidence to suggest that it was contaminated by a hospital employee.

Most appeals start within 30 days of the final decision. 33 years is unusual. The decision makes it clear that finding those exhibits took considerable effort. Many exhibits are gone.

Your exhibit storage systems are expensive, and contain masses of stuff that nobody wants. You want to clear them out. Avoid destroying evidence without first checking with people who could be affected. Mr Tallio asserted his innocence ever after his conviction. He would have wanted that stuff kept. Other convicts might not care so much.

2017.07.17 Right to Counsel s.10(b) - Wait Long or Prosper

Section 10(b) of the Charter assures Canadians who are arrested or detained that they will be able to "retain and instruct counsel without delay". How long can the suspect spend contacting his or her lawyer? When can you override the suspect's delay?

At 1:30pm, police officers arrested Mr Fountain, 2017 ONCA 596 for a home-invasion robbery. They told him about his right to counsel. He told them he wanted legal advice. He asked that his girlfriend contact his lawyer for him. When he arrived at the police station, at 2:10pm, he gave the name and phone number of his lawyer. It wasn't until 2:35pm that the police first called the phone number he gave. Someone at the lawyer's office said he was out, but would call back. The lawyer didn't call back. Police called again at 6:15pm, and left a message. At 7:00pm, Mr Fountain's girlfriend told police that a lawyer would be at the lawyer's office in the morning. At 8:15pm, the arresting officer told Mr Fountain about the two calls, and what the girlfriend reported. The officer offered Mr Fountain a call to Legal Aid.

Mr Fountain turned down Legal Aid because he wanted to talk to his lawyer in the morning.

The arresting officer then interviewed Mr Fountain. Twice, Mr Fountain objected to the questioning because he had not yet spoken with his lawyer. The arresting officer pointed out that he turned down Legal Aid. The second time, Mr Fountain spoke to Legal Aid. During the interview, Mr Fountain said the essential things necessary to get him convicted.

The trial judge admitted the confession. The appeal judges threw it out. They said that Mr Fountain did not waive his right to counsel. The officer should have:

  • waited until the morning before questioning Mr Fountain, or
  • read him the Prosper warning (the Supplemental Charter warning) before forging ahead with the interview.

Mr Fountain beat the charge.

What went wrong?

The arresting officer gave Mr Fountain the choice to wait until the next morning to talk to his own lawyer, and Fountain accepted that choice. That was fair. The officer then questioned Mr Fountain before he spoke with his lawyer. That approach prevented Fountain from getting the legal advice he wanted.

Why did the officer change the time-line?

Maybe the officer's shift ended that night. Maybe interviewing the suspect next morning would have required the officer to return to work on his day off.

How fast the suspect must get legal advice depends upon the urgency of the investigation. If other culprits are currently at large, posing a danger to the public or destroying evidence, then you may push the suspect to get legal advice quickly, so that you can question him sooner, and try to solve the evolving situation. If the situation is under control, then you should let the suspect wait until morning to speak to the lawyer of choice. An impaired driver doesn't get till the next morning to contact counsel because his body metabolizes the evidence with each passing minute. But a trafficker may be entitled to delay that long because no evidence will be lost in the interim, and no people are endangered.

Seriousness matters too. In a small fraud case, a judge might permit an officer to hurry things along to accommodate the officer's work schedule. For serious cases like home invasion or murder, judges won't care so much about conveniencing police officers.

Sometimes, when you call the suspect's chosen lawyer, you get no response. If you think waiting for a response will take too long, know that a judge will second-guess you. Before telling the suspect to get legal advice from some other lawyer, assess how urgent the situation is.

In Prosper, [1994] 3 SCR 236 the court set a high standard for "waiver". This case applies when a suspect first says he wants legal advice, but later decides to do without it. The judges decided that in those situations you must give a supplemental Charter warning, so that the suspect knows he is entitled to a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.

If you decide you won't wait, you need to make the ground rules clear to the suspect, because you are setting him up to waive his right to counsel:

  1. You have a right to a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.
  2. I have to hold off eliciting evidence from you until you get that opportunity.
  3. Waiting until tomorrow isn't reasonable because .... I'm not going to wait until tomorrow to interview you.
  4. We've done the following things to contact the lawyer you named: ...
  5. Is there anything you can think of that would put you in touch with your lawyer tonight?
  6. No? That leaves you with three choices:
    1. Choose a different lawyer to talk to tonight.
    2. Call Legal Aid - they're available 24 hour a day.
    3. Proceed without getting any legal advice.
  7. Just to be clear, I'm not going to ask you questions about the crime until you've had a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice. If you want legal advice, let's make it happen. But let's do that tonight.

Read my second paragraph, thinking about the suspect's experience of access to counsel. He may have got the impression that the police officer put a low priority on putting him in touch with counsel. There may be good reasons for the officer's delays - other matters may have occupied the officer. But judges assess infringements of rights from the point of view of the suspect, not the police officer.

2017.07.17 Reasonable grounds - Confirming Tipsters

How much confirmation of a tip do you need before you can act on it?

It depends. On the quality of the tip, and the amount of confirmation you already have.

An officer watched the house of a suspected cocaine dealer when a silver Honda Accord drove up. A tall slim black guy got out, and went into the house. The officer ran the plate, and then remembered that another officer told him of a tip relating to that plate and car: the tipster said it belonged to a high-level drug supplier. The tipster said the supplier was a tall slim black guy in his 30's. The other officer said that the tipster was reliable, and had first-hand knowledge.

About 20 minutes later, the officer saw the suspected cocaine dealer show the tall slim black guy out of the house. When the tall guy drove away, the officer arrested him for drug trafficking. Mr Dunkley, 2017 ONCA 600 had 6 cell phones in his clothing and in his car. Behind panels in the car were US$440,000, and 5.5Kg of cocaine. And a handgun.

At trial, the defence urged the judge to find that the officer's evidence failed to prove reasonable grounds to make the arrest. The arresting officer:

  • had no personal dealings with the tipster;
  • did not know how the source handler came to the conclusion that the tipster was "reliable", and therefore
  • could not explain to the trial judge why it would be reasonable to trust the tipster.

The trial judge and the judges of the Court of Appeal rejected this argument. The tip enjoyed some credibility because the tipster claimed to know from personal observation. The officer's observation coroborrated the tip because the car described by the tipster went to a drug dealer's house, and the driver the description given by the tipster. He stayed for a short time, consistent with a delivery of drugs to the dealer. The appeal judges said:

The high degree of suspicion attached to these non-criminal acts was sufficient to remove the possibility of innocent coincidence.

Note what the judges focussed on. If you observe only "non-criminal acts", then think twice before arresting anyone. On the other hand, if the information you have can "remove the possibility of innocent coincidence", then go ahead.

That analysis works whether you're considering whether to arrest the driver who emerged from the bar, or the street dealer that you're watching.

2017.07.09 Street checks - Identifying the Passengers in a Traffic Stop

When meeting shady people in shady places, diligent police officers try to identify all the people involved. The Charter limits what you can do and when.

Near a crack house house, a black Honda drove slowly by. A police officer watching the car noticed that one passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. The officer stopped the car. That passenger, Mr Mhlongo, 2017 ONCA 562 got out and tried to walk away. The officer stopped him, and asked for identification. Mr Mhlongo produced picture ID which satisfied the officer that he knew who he was dealing with.

The vehicle carried the wrong licence plates. Some investigation at the scene led to the driver's arrest.

After that, without releasing Mr Mhlongo, the officer consulted a database available in his police car to find out more about Mr Mhlongo and the other passenger. Under cross-examination, the officer agreed that the computer checks were investigation into possible criminal matters, but he didn't know of any crime at that moment. He wasn't letting go of Mr Mhlongo until he knew. Meanwhile, Mr Mhlongo tossed something under a nearby car. It turned out to be cocaine. Police detained and then arrested him for possession of cocaine. They found lots more cocaine in the car.

Mr Mhlongo complained at trial that the police arbitrarily detained him. He conceded that the initial detention was lawful. The passenger who should have been wearing a seatbelt tried to walk away: that gave the officer a reason to stop him. But after the officer arrested the driver, the seatbelt investigation was over. There was no further need to hold Mr Mhlongo. The continuing detention after the arrest was not for highway traffic matters, but to investigate Mr Mhlongo for possible criminality. Because the officer admitted he had no grounds, this was an arbitrary detention.

And furthermore, Mr Mhlongo complained that:

  • just by asking Mr Mhlongo to identify himself the police breached his s.8 right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
  • when they continued the detention, the officers failed to offer Mr Mhlongo legal advice. They breached his rights under s.10 of the Charter too.

The appeal court judges agreed.

Of course you want to know who you're dealing with. But you can't detain people without reasons.

Sometimes, careful consideration of the evidence under your nose can justify a detention. But the rest of the time, you must release people when you have to reasonable suspicion that they did or are doing something illegal.

I'm troubled by the s.8 conclusion. A decade ago, in , Harris, 2007 ONCA 574 the court first asserted this idea: collecting names from non-suspects for the purpose of looking them up in a database may breach their s.8 rights. Back then, I thought the dissenting judge made a good point: one doesn't enjoy much privacy in one's name. I also think that if police arrest one guy, they should attempt to identify all the others. I can conceive of situations in which failing to identify the other parties present may breach a defendant's s.7 rights. In any case, collecting intelligence on the inhabitants of crime-ridden areas seems to be a necessary technique for police to protect the life, liberty and property of innocent inhabitants.

Some day, some prosecutor will need to take this issue to the Supreme Court of Canada for clarification. Mr Mhlongo's case is not the right one. In the mean time, if they haven't already, Ontario police forces should develop policies about asking non-suspects for identification or investigating the non-suspects during detentions.

2017.07.09 Detention & Reasonable Suspicion

Here's a close call. Are these reasonable grounds to detain?

A residential neighborhood in Markham, Ontario suffered a spate of day-time B&Es. Some houses were under construction. A plainclothes officer drove there in an unmarked police car for the purpose of investigating the burglaries. He saw a brand-new rental van come from a dead-end area, drive an unnecessarily complicated route, and pull into 31 Hislop Drive. Two young men occupied the truck. Five days later, while patrolling again, he saw the same truck. The occupants stared at him as they drove slowly through an intersection. It drove by 31 Hislop, made a U-turn, and parked 4-5 houses down the street. The officer pulled in behind the van. The vehicle then drove a block away.

The officer felt suspicious, but had observed no driving infractions.

He pulled it over and asked the driver, Mr Gonzales, 2017 ONCA 543 for his licence and registration.

Mr Gonzales asked why the officer stopped him. The officer said he wanted to check his licence. The officer didn't mention the burglaries. Nor did he comment on the skunky smell of marijuana emanating from the truck.

The officer called for backup before arresting the men. In the van, they found 252 pounds of packaged marijuana and $105,000 in cash.

Was the initial stop an arbitrary detention? The investigating officer testified that he stopped the vehicle to investigate the burglaries. The trial judge very generously found that the officer also stopped the vehicle to investigate licencing and insurance. The appeal court rejected this finding. The officer went there to investigate burglaries, not drivers. For vehicle stops, of course, you don't need a reason - if the purpose is genuinely to investigate licencing and vehicle safety. For criminal offences, you need reasonable grounds.

The judges found that the officer's observations did not add up to reasonable grounds to suspect that the young men in the van participated in the burglaries.

I think it's a close call. I suspect that a highly observant and articulate officer might have been able to make sufficient inferences and deductions from the unusual behaviour of the van and its occupants to justify a detention.

But the facts left no uncertainty about the vehicle safety detention. This officer couldn't justify stopping the vehicle to check licencing and insurance. He was specifically investigating burglary. The van committed no driving infraction. To pretend otherwise is to lie (and to be clear, the officer did not try to use this justification for stopping the van).

To avoid telling this lie in court, don't use the traffic safety excuse to explain why you stopped a suspicious vehicle unless it's actually true.

2017.07.09 Detention - s.10(a) - Not Telling Why

In the previous article, did you notice that the officer never told the occupants of the vehicle what crime he suspected when he first detained them?

Section 10(a) of the Charter obliges you explain the reason for a detention. Mr Gonzales, 2017 ONCA 543 also complained that the officer failed to do so, and therefore he sought exclusion of the evidence.

The plainclothes officer explained that he delayed telling the suspects why he was stopping them until he could bring in back-up. The officer was not wearing his bullet-proof vest and various other gear. It took 7 minutes for backup to arrive. When they did, he arrested the suspects without further delay, explaining their jeopardy at that time.

The court accepted the "officer safety" explanation for delaying the explanation of the true reason for the detention.

If telling a suspect the real reason why you stopped him could get you hurt or killed, then you may delay the explanation. But take immediate steps to make yourself safe, and then get to the explanation right away.

2017.07.09 Strip Search - You need a Reason

After police arrested Mr Gonzales, 2017 ONCA 543 (see above), they took him to a police station and strip-searched him.

Problem was, the officers could not identify any evidence they expected to find by so doing. You can't strip search someone for evidence just because you lawfully arrested him or her. You need reasons to believe that a strip search will discover evidence, weapons or contraband.

There were no such reasons to justify this strip search. The judges didn't like that. Gonzales beat the charges.

I think the Gonzales decision is worth reading and discussing. It's well-written and clear. How might you have gone about this investigation differently?

2017.07.08 Who Gets the Goods? Disposition of Exhibits

Mr Colyer may have stolen a $40,000 diamond. Police received information that he pawned it at Floward Enterprises Ltd., 2017 ONCA 448. The investigators found a diamond at the pawn shop. Believing it to belong to the victim, they seized it.

I gather Mr Colyer beat the charge. Perhaps the victim's death deprived the prosecution of an essential witness.

When the trial was done, the pawn shop owner asked for the diamond back.

The police told the pawn shop owner that they would not decide who gets the diamond. There's a procedure for that, set out in s.490 of the Criminal Code. The police also tried to inform the victim's family about s.490: the people who want the diamond back should ask a provincial court judge to decide who gets the property.

The pawn shop owner applied for return of the diamond. He didn't formally notify the victim's family about the hearing. The provincial court judge gave him the diamond. Then the victim's family found out, and they appealed.

The technicalities of this decision don't matter to police. The big point is that you can and should duck property disputes over seized property. The Criminal Code provides a procedure. Tell the competing claimants about the procedure. Heck, you can apply to the court yourself asking for a decision. Try to make sure everyone interested in the property knows when the hearing will be. Give notice in writing too.

2017.07.08 Timely Photographs

Two prisoners occupied the same cell during a lockdown. One died of head injuries. Did he just fall, or did the other prisoner attack him? Four days after the death, someone photographed an injury pattern on his head. It looked like tread marks from the other prisoner's shoe. But the photographs weren't clear enough for the expert to give a definitive opinion.

The jury convicted Mr Bye, 2017 ONCA 528 of murder anyway. And the appeal court upheld the conviction. I think the shoe pattern on the victim's head helped the jury to their conclusion. A clearer picture might have helped.

Photographing injuries solves lots of problems, when done correctly. But lots of officers take lousy pictures.

Some people say "the camera never lies". It's not true. Here's a list of common problems:

  • Too new - Bruises take time to develop. If you take photos minutes after a violent event you may miss many marks. If you arrive minutes after the incident and photograph the victim before taking a statement, try taking some more photos an hour later. I have one case of a recanting spouse who blamed her injuries on an incident days before. However, the investigating officer noticed that the bruises on the victim's face swelled over the several hours they were together. This turned out to be important evidence in the case.
  • Too old - Scratches heal; swelling subsides; bruises fade. Get those photographs before the injuries dissipate.
  • Too bright - Flash cameras can hide the injury you seek to capture. If you orient a flat surface (like a bruised arm) directly at the camera, the flash can reflect off the skin, and conceal what you hoped to preserve. Try oblique angles, and natural lighting.
  • Too dark - Night photography is difficult. In the dark, the flash captures only nearby objects. If you photograph at night, plan to return in the morning.

If it's worth photographing, it's probably also worth making a note of what you saw. If the camera lies, then after checking you notebook, you can set the record straight.

2017.07.04 Parallel Investigations create Disclosure Problems

I'm seven months late commenting on this case. Better late than never. This case matters to investigations big and small.

The drug squad figured Mr Chu, 2016 SKCA 156 conspired to traffick cocaine. They investigated and put together a case. A separate team investigated him for his dealings with the proceeds of crime. The drug squad finished first. They laid charges and gave Crown the fruits of their investigation. Crown disclosed to defence. Nobody told the prosecutor about the proceeds of crime investigation until a few days before trial.

Two days before trial, the prosecutor told the defence lawyer that the other police investigation produced 1,900 documents, some of which might be relevant to the trial.

This rather upset the defence lawyer, who asked for an adjournment.

The trial judge felt no sympathy. He ordered the case to proceed, and convicted Mr Chu. The judges of the Appeal Court ordered a new trial. They felt sympathetic. Here's why.

Imagine you were about to buy a beautiful old house. It will cost you your life savings, and a commitment to pay most of your disposable income for 20 years. Minutes before you complete the transaction, you learn that 20 different building inspectors examined the house over the last 10 years. Each one wrote a report. All the reports are collected in a folder for you to read. Only a fool would sign on the dotted line before reading the contents of that folder.

The defence lawyer was in a similar position. Maybe those documents contained nothing of importance. But he didn't want to proceed with the trial until he knew.

Parallel investigations of the same suspect for related offences automatically create this disclosure problem. Heck, even if the offences are unrelated, there's a distinct risk that two separate investigations will discover information relevant to the other case.

For those of you involved in big investigations, you may easily overlook the possibility that the evidence you gathered may relate to the defence of the other case. If you know of a parallel investigation to your own, think big picture: do these two investigations overlap at all? What disclosure obligations will trigger when we lay charges on the first one?

For those of you involved in little investigations, don't wait until the day of trial to disclose evidence or information to the prosecutor. When the prosecutor discloses it to the defence lawyer, that lawyer will get an adjournment. Adjournments derail good cases.

In Mr Chu's case, I suspect that the delay caused by the late disclosure prevented further prosecution. The busts occurred in 2011. Will that delay survive a Jordan application?

2017.06.17 Warrant Drafting - Offence, Place, Items Sought ... and When

Mr Saint, 2017 ONCA 491 was no saint. He kept drugs. Police officers learned about this, and applied for a search warrant under the CDSA. The warrant they got said the officers could execute the warrant "at any time", but didn't mention any expiry date.

After police collected Mr Saint's drugs and charged him, he complained about the warrant. He was right. Judges can't grant permanent authority to search a residence. There needs to be a deadline.

The judges agreed with his argument, but he lost. The judges found that this warrant implicitly authorized the search on the day it was granted. Mr Saint was convicted and lost his appeal.

Don't play with fire. Make sure your warrant specifies an expiry date. If you need an expiry date weeks or months into the future, then explain why in the Information to Obtain.

Language like in the ITO that helped save this warrant. The ITO specifically asked for authority to search the residence on the same day as the officers applied for it.

2017.06.17 Investigative Techniques - Dirty Tricks

Innovative investigative techniques can bear much fruit. But stay on the right side of the law.

Durham Regional police sought to bust a drug ring. They knew who they wanted to bust, but they did not know where gangsters stashed their drugs. They obtained lawful authorities: wiretap to intercept the targets talking; tracking devices to find out where they went; and general warrants authorizing staged break-ins to inspect those places. No luck. One of their targets even found a tracking device.

Surveillance noticed Mr Dunstan, 2017 ONCA 432 engaged in a short transaction with one of the targets. Later, surveillance noticed Mr Dunstan's vehicle parked at a particular residence in York Region.

"Somebody" called 911 to report a break-in at that place. That caller wouldn't identify himself. York Regional police officers responded. They found the door was kicked in, but large quantities of drugs and cash remained in the place.  Durham Regional police got involved, and claimed credit for the bust.

Defence counsel suspected that the Durham cops took a short cut. They figured that Durham officers staged a break-in and called 911, knowing that this would justify a warrantless entry by York Regional officers. Defence counsel listened to the voice of a Staff Sargent Gillis as he testified about the case, and noticed similarity to the voice in the short 911 call.

Defence applied for permission to use a high-quality microphone to record S.Sgt. Gillis' voice while he testified, so that their voice comparison expert could compare it to the 911 recording. The trial judge said "no". The defence could not gather enough evidence to prove that S.Sgt. Gillis cheated. The court admitted evidence from the search of Dunstan's, and the jury convicted Dunstan. The appeal court said "yes", the trial judge should have permitted defence to record S.Sgt. Gillis's testimony. Dunstan got a new trial.

All the judges agreed that the short-cut - if taken - was unlawful, and would likely result in exclusion of evidence. It circumvents the judicial pre-authorization process for searches. If you don't have enough evidence to justify searching a place lawfully, then you are not permitted to convert your suspicions into adequate grounds by making an anonymous 911 call and tricking other officers into making the search for you.

There's a temptation to try it anyway. How is anyone going to find out?

Don't kid yourself. Justifying illegal activity in the name of law enforcement is called "noble cause corruption". It's a slippery slope which leads to an ugly place. If you get away with it the first time, you might want to give it another go. But you work in a zone of transparency. Police disclosure obligations are very broad. Your electronic systems track you. It's easy to get caught.

I'm not saying S.Sgt Gillis broke the law. But read the decision, and you'll see how much information defence counsel did obtain, and how much more they'll get next time.

Back in April, I lauded innovative police investigative techniques. ("Mr Big's cousin"). But the public pays you to obey the law. Don't go breaking it instead.

2017.06.16 Child Pornography - Possessing or Accessing?

When Mr M.N., 2017 ONCA 434 and his spouse reported finding child pornography on their computer, police examined it. They reached the conclusion that he used his browser to look at child pornography. They charged him with possession of child pornography.

The trial judge convicted him, but the Court of Appeal acquitted him.

The computer contained temporary files in the browser's cache. This indicated that he used his browser to look at child pornography, but he did not deliberately download images so that he could look at them later. The evidence proved he accessed child pornography.

The appeal court found that they are different offences. Mr M.N. did not commit the offence charged, and therefore must be acquitted.

There is a concept in criminal law of "included" offences. At the conclusion of a trial of a serious offence, the judge can convict the defendant of a less serious but "included" offence. For example, the offence of assault causing bodily harm necessarily includes an assault. If the evidence at trial proves that the defendant assaulted the victim, but the victim's injuries arose from some unrelated incident, then the judge will convict the defendant of the less serious offence of common assault.

The court held that accessing child pornography (s.163.1(4.1)) is not "included" in the offence of possessing child pornography (s.163.1(4)).

When drafting search warrants or laying charges, consider carefully: does the evidence show that he stored the illicit images, or just looked at them?

2017.06.11 Abuse of Police Powers and Resources

Cst Heron, 2017 ONCA 441 smuggled cheese.

He and another officer bought it cheap just across the border. Using their credentials as police officers, they brought it across the border. They sold it to local pizzarias. No import duties. Lots of profit. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. When he feared that authorities were closing in, Cst Heron searched CPIC to see whether other police officers had recently searched his partner's vehicle.

Both officers got busted for smuggling. Cst Heron also got convicted for using the same database that you use every day. The only difference was, he put it to personal use. In this context, that CPIC search was a criminal breach of trust.

Heron went to jail. His buddy got busted too.

I don't know why these guys went bad. The judge's decision offers hints: alcohol, substance abuse, relationship trouble. I suspect those were merely symptoms of deeper losses of purpose and integrity.

Police work ain't easy. The public demands high standards. Courts demand high standards. The clientele delivers constant abuse. Labour disputes undermine morale. It's easy to feel entitled to extra compensation. Extra perks seem easily plucked. The badge gives you access where others cannot go.

Don't do it. CPIC tracks every search. Just use police databases for work.

The badge gives power and access. And lots and lots of accountability.

If you feel tempted to reward yourself on the sly, pull back before it's too late. Ex-constable Heron will now tell you it's not worth it. Too late for him. Not too late for others. If you feel trapped or embittered in your work or life, there is lots of help, if you just look.

Most officers who read this website don't feel tempted. From the emails I receive, I think you are keen to do the right things. You're the ones that the embittered officer ridicules for too having much enthusiasm. As I read the sad case of Cst Heron, I hope that you, your co-workers and your managers can save the next one before he or she falls. It takes effort to rescue a sour comrade, but it takes less work than repairing the damage after a colleague turns to crime.

2017.06.11 Police Expert Evidence - Independence of the Expert

Police officers develop unusual areas of expertise. For example, when you investigate enough drug cases, you learn the language and methods of drug dealers. Few people other than police officers and drug dealers know these things. And DREs learn know little-known facts about drug intoxication.

Courts accept as experts those people who have specialized knowledge that other folks don't have. Therefore, courts do often accept expert evidence from police officers about drug dealers' coded language, and methods of handling drugs and money.

By reason of such experience, an Ontario officer got to know these things, and could give expert opinions about them.

But not in the case of Mr McManus, 2017 ONCA 188.

For four years, that officer received information that McManus was dealing in drugs. The officer participated in surveillance of Mr McManus, and in the search that led to Mr McManus' arrest. The officer testified at Mr McManus' bail hearing that he believed Mr McManus was involved in organized crime.

All of the officer's opinions are likely accurate and true, but does he look independent and unbiased? The court thought not.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently insisted that all experts be fair, objective, and non-partisan. White Burgess Langille Inman v. Abbott and Haliburton Co., 2015 SCC 23. The prosecution should have found an expert who had not participated in the investigation.

Taken too simplistically, the McManus decision could cause mayhem:

  • If a fingerprint examiner attends the scene of the crime, and "participates in the investigation" by lifting fingerprints, should she be prohibited from testifying that in her expert opinion, the accused's fingerprints match the ones from the crime scene?
  • If an accident reconstructionist attends the accident scene and "participates in the investigation" by examining skid marks, should the trial judge prohibit him from giving expert opinion evidence that the accused's vehicle did not brake before the collision?
  • Should a DRE be prohibited from expressing an opinion about the ability of a driver to operate a motor vehicle?

Of course not. And that's not what the judges said.

They contrasted this case with other cases in which a police expert's opinion was properly admitted. In the other cases, the expert received only the information necessary for the opinion, and the expert did not participate in the rest of the investigation.

Don't involve your police experts in more of the investigation than is necessary for them to provide an opinion. The more information they receive about your theory of the case, the greater the appearance that they might suffer from confirmation bias. The more they participate in busting the suspect, the greater the appearance that they want to see the suspect convicted.

2017.06.10 Continuity of the Suspect - Voluntariness and Charter Rights

Just after a crime, when you find a suspect, an almost impossible conflict of duties arises.

  1. You swore to keep the peace: you should not let culprits walk away from crimes.
  2. Section 9 of the Charter prohibits you from detaining anyone without reasonable suspicion.
  3. You must ask questions, so ensure you stopped the right person.
  4. At common law, you must not compel anyone to confess.
  5. If you detain anyone, s.10(b) of the Charter requires you to offer them access to counsel without delay.
  6. If you detain anyone, judges interpreted s.7 of the Charter to require you to tell them about their right to silence.
  7. At common law, when you have reasonable grounds to believe you found the right person, you must warn them about their right to silence.
  8. Courts interpreted s.10(b) to require you to hold off questioning detained or arrested suspects until they get the legal advice they request.

Every officer who deals with the suspect must obey these duties. Breaching one can taint what happens next.

Three men robbed a Rogers Wireless store in Vaughan, Ontario. A police officer found Mr Hamilton, 2017 ONCA 179 nearby. Because Mr Hamilton resembled the broadcast description of one of them, the officer detained him, and asked where he was coming from (breach #1). "Tim Horton's" replied Mr Hamilton. 20 minutes later a second officer arrived and arrested Mr Hamilton for robbery. Mr Hamilton wanted legal advice. Never-the-less, that second officer asked him about where he had come from (breach #2). Mr Hamilton gave a more complete account which omitted any visit to Tim Horton's.

Police took Mr Hamilton to a police station, where he got 4 minutes of advice with duty counsel.

After that, a third officer questioned him. That officer told Mr Hamilton about his right to silence. Nobody told the third officer about the conversations with the two preceding officers. Unsurprisingly, the third officer did not tell Mr Hamilton that nothing he and the previous officers discussed should cause him to think that he must speak again.

Mr Hamilton told the third officer that he already explained it all to a previous officer. Instead of giving the secondary warning at that moment and making a fresh start, the third officer asked Mr Hamilton to tell him what he told the previous officer.

When you first find a suspect, you want answers. When your adrenaline runs, you may forget your other duties.

To solve problems that result, add more duties. When you catch a suspect, tell all the subsequent officers what you have done with him or her.

In this case, the breaches led to problems, and a retrial. Every officer who deals with the suspect is a link in the chain. The excited officers at the beginning caused troubles all the down the chain.

When you catch someone interesting, keep calm, and carry on doing your duties - all of them. Tell the next officer(s) what you have done. And report the whole chain to the prosecutor.

2017.06.10 Bail Hearings - Undertaking or Recognizance - Cash or Surety

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada instructed us about bail hearings. R. v. Antic, 2017 SCC 27.

First, surety is as good as cash. If a defendant can post security, but not cash, then the security suffices.

Second, in a bail hearing, the defendant is entitled to the most lenient form of release available on the facts.

Section 515(2) creates a ladder of forms of release:

  1. Undertaking
  2. Recognizance without deposit or surety
  3. Recognizance with surety
  4. Recognizance with cash deposit (with consent of prosecutor)
  5. Recognizance for people from out of province, or who live 200km away.
  6. Detention

The court directed justices and judges that they must consider and reject each rung of the ladder before moving on to the next one up the list.  (Note that number 5 is a special case)

This may change how bail hearings proceed. When you seek a recognizance or a detention, you may need to spell out why other forms of release are insufficient.

2017.05.28 Arrest and Transport - Talking with Another Officer's Prisoner

Another officer arrests a suspect and turns him over to you. It's not your investigation. Notes don't matter, right?


If the suspect later gives a statement, you will testify about the conversation between you and him. All of it.

When one officer arrested Mr Richards, 2017 ONCA 424 for trafficking, he needed to execute a search warrant on Mr Richard's house. The officer entrusted Mr Richards to another officer. That officer spent 30 minutes with Mr Richards, but took minimal notes. Probably, they discussed nothing of importance. A year or more later, that officer could recall nothing of the conversation.

That was a problem. After those 30 minutes, Mr Richards confessed to the lead investigator. The prosecution needed to prove he did so voluntary. Mr Richards testified that the secondary officer improperly persuaded him to confess. That officer couldn't really say what was discussed, because there was no record.

After arrest, handling a prisoner is something like handling an exhibit. With exhibits that might contain DNA, you must prevent physical contamination. With prisoners, "contamination" can arise through conversation. When you seize the murder weapon, you don fresh gloves, so as to avoid putting DNA on it. You place it in a bag to minimize the number of people who could accidentally transfer DNA onto it. You investigate who touched it besides the murderer. You take these steps so that, at trial, the court can conclude that no DNA got onto it except the murderer's. You document what you did so that you can assure the court afterwards that you did not accidentally contaminate the exhibit with DNA from some other source.

Handling prisoners is similar.

When someone arrests a prisoner who later confesses, the prosecution must prove that no police officer said or did anything to the suspect which undermined the voluntariness of his confession. No "contamination" by threats or promises. The only way to prove that is by asking all of the officers who had the suspect in their custody. "What did you discuss with the prisoner?"  Like DNA, you should minimize the number of people uniforms who speak to the subject. Like DNA, you should document what you did or discussed.

The weakest link is always the officer least involved in the investigation. They rarely think that their involvement matters, and so they take no notes of their innocuous conversation with the suspect. I've seen this problem over and over for decades. I saw it in a trial last week. And the Ontario Court of Appeal saw it in this case.

Don't be the weak link. If you conversed with the prisoner before his interview, make a note. Even if you only discussed the weather.

2017.05.19 Impaired Driving - Search Incidental to Arrest

The day after a murder, a police officer driving an unmarked police car noticed Mr Pearson, 2011 ONSC 1913 drive a vehicle with excessively tinted windows. The officer pulled him over to discuss the unlawful tinting. When Mr Pearson opened his window, an odour of marijuana wafted out. Mr Pearson's slow movements and red eyes led the officer to require him to perform sobriety tests. Mr Pearson failed. The officer arrested him for driving while impaired by a drug.

Could the officer search Mr Pearson's trunk for drugs?

A knapsack there contained shotgun shells which linked Mr Pearson to the murder.

Defence argued that an arrest allows an officer to search only to arm's length. When arresting for impaired driving, the officer can not look in the trunk.

The trial judge said that an officer who arrests a driver impaired by drugs may search the trunk for the drugs that impaired him. This week, the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed. Pearson, 2017 ONCA 389.


This decision does not say that every time you arrest someone in a car, you can search the trunk. There must be a reasonable prospect that you will find evidence of the offence in the trunk at the time that you search.

Mr Pearson was charged with murder and with impaired driving. A jury convicted him of murder. He lost his appeal. I don't know what happened to the driving charge.

2017.05.19 Unprompted Admissions while awaiting Legal Advice

A month later, another officer stopped Mr Pearson, 2017 ONCA 389, again because of the excessively tinted windows. This officer saw a shotgun shell lying on the back seat. The officer arrested Mr Pearson and his passenger for unsafe transportation. Mr Pearson wanted to talk to a lawyer. Before giving him that opportunity, the officer asked questions about the shell. He answered.

Later, on the drive to the police station, Mr Pearson asked the officer what charges his passenger faced. The officer told him his passenger faced the same charge. Mr Pearson then asserted the he was responsible for the shotgun shell, not his passenger.

That proved to be an important remark in the murder trial. The trial judge denounced the officer's initial questions, but admitted the remarks in the police car, because the officer did not elicit them. Talking about them was entirely Mr Pearson's idea.  The appeal court agreed.

This case demonstrates several lessons:

  1. Don't ask questions about the offence after detention or arrest, but before the suspect gets the legal advice he requested.
  2. Don't deliberately set up the suspect to make remarks about the case before the suspect gets legal advice.
  3. Document carefully all unprompted remarks that the suspect makes during this period. Heck, keep a recording device going during all your interactions with him.  (But tell him you're recording.)

2017.05.06 Consent Seizure - Warrant drafting

Mr Reeves, 2017 ONCA 365, was on parole. He and his common-law spouse owned a house together, but because he have been violent to her in the past, he could visit only with her express permission.

His common-law spouse looked into the computer they shared, and found evidence of child pornography. She told his parole officer, and she told the parole officer she didn't want to see him any more.

Mr Reeves got into more trouble, and was arrested.

Word reached police. An officer visited the common-law, and asked for her consent to seize the computer. He did a smart thing. He got her written consent.

He got the computer, but he did not report it to a justice for 4 months. No "5.2". The judges didn't like that.

Another officer applied for a warrant to search the computer. That officer also did wise and unwise things.

The officer included lengthy quotes from the statements of the common-law spouse and her daughter, to explain why the officers thought that the computer contained child pornography. That balanced out his exaggerated and inaccurate summary about what they saw. Seeing a filename in a computer suggestive of child pornography is one thing. Seeing child pornography is another. Don't pretend one is the other. Judges don't like it when you exaggerate the strength of the information you have to support your application.

This exaggeration results from a natural human tendency to draw inferences from information, and to recite the inferences instead of the information. We all do it. One can limit this tendency by returning to the raw evidence and comparing it to your summary.

The officer also forgot to mention the years of strife between the common-law spouse and Mr Reeves. The justice should have been told of them, in case bitterness inspired her to make false allegations against him. You have an obligation of full and frank disclosure. When applying for a warrant, include the information you know about that makes your witnesses look less reliable.

I liked this judge's analysis of what consent of one party means when you seize property that belongs to two people. Give paragraphs 54-71 a read.

I was somewhat troubled by the judges' finding that the officer's failure to report the computer to a justice violated s.489.1. A "seizure" occurs when the state takes something without consent. This officer plainly received the computer with consent. Perhaps the judges got it right. I doubt the officer would have returned the computer to the common-law spouse if she had asked for it back. The officer did understand it to contain child pornography, and had the right to seize it under s.489(2).

Remember to write your report to a justice. If in doubt, complete your Form 5.2.

2017.04.30 Big Investigations - Pre-Charge Delay in Big and Little Investigations

When Hickman Equipment Ltd went bust in Newfoundland, investigators found reasons to suspect corporate fraud. The investigation took 10 years. At trial, Mr Hunt, 2017 SCC 25 and other senior managers of the corporation persuaded the judge to throw the case out because it took too long to get started. Two of three judges in the Court of Appeal agreed. But one appeal court judge said the trial should proceed. Most of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with her. These charges should proceed.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently changed the rules for post-charge delay. The clock starts ticking loud and clear when charges are laid. But this case involved pre-charge delay. There are some lessons to learn here.

Mr Hunt complained that the collapse of the company and the loss of his job caused him harm. But the police didn't cause any of those problems. These complaints did not provide reasons to drop the charges.

Mr Hunt complained of the injury to his reputation by reason of the publicity and gossip around the collapse of the company. He couldn't get another job. And he feared for many years that he was under investigation.

This complaint cuts closer to you as investigators. If you leak details of your investigation improperly, you might cause harm to your suspects.  But these investigators didn't. Too bad for Mr Hunt.

The trial judge thought charges could have been laid earlier. It turns out that doesn't matter.

The highest court agreed that haste in laying charges is a bad idea.

Except for s.505 of the Criminal Code, the law does not require you to lay charges at the earliest opportunity. Indeed, if further investigation might make the case clearer, perhaps you investigate before swearing charges. Before deciding  to turn someone's life upside-down, you should generally gather all available information.

The post-charge delay clock starts when you lay charges. Prosecutors in BC like - whenever possible - to wait until the investigation completes before starting that clock. (Offenders who pose ongoing risks to society often force our hand.)

There is no pre-charge delay clock. But if your investigation will take a long time, then take care not to conduct it in a manner which inflicts lengthy harm on the suspects.

Those are the big investigations.

Now let's talk about s.505, and the little cases. When you release someone on an appearance notice or PTA, that section requires you to lay an information "as soon as practicable thereafter".

I think it's foolish legislation because it rushes police officers into laying charges even before they finish their investigations. What a formula for injustice!

Don't ignore this legal obligation. But try not to let it prevent you from investigating properly. Don't let it force you to lay unjustified charges.

2017.04.13 Undercover Operations - Mr Big's Cousin Works at a Furniture Store

Mr Big's fame undermines his effectiveness. His relatives can sometimes help.

When Mr Cyr had an affair, 'someone' murdered his wife. Mr Cyr stood to collect lots of life insurance money.


Mr Cyr worked at a law firm as a paralegal. His wife's dad's law firm. He had an affair with a secretary there. When the affair came to light, dad must have been unhappy. Cyr got fired.

Naturally, Mr Cyr told uniformed investigators he knew nothing about who killed his wife.

Mr Cyr knew all about Mr Big. Investigators needed some other way to win his trust.

When he got fired, Mr Cyr needed a job. He signed up to become a salesman at a furniture company called "Bad Boy". (Seriously. I am not making this up.)

Shortly after he got that job, another guy signed up with "Bad Boy". That guy already had a job. As a cop. A UCO.

They became friends. Mr Cyr talked about his dream of buying a canoe business. The UCO thought that was a great idea. He wanted in on this opportunity. Somehow, the UCO managed to persuade the owner to sell, and got lots of documents to prove it. Cyr agreed to be partners with the UCO, along with Cyr's good friend Zvolensky, 2017 ONCA 273.

But the UCO had a problem. His evil ex-wife. If only she were dead.

She even called the UCO when he was with Cyr and Zvolensky. She was toxic. Zvolensky suggested he'd kill her. The group started making plans. During those discussions, they revealed how Zvolensky and his buddy Qahwash at Cyr's request killed Cyr's wife in a manner to make sure that it couldn't be linked to Cyr.

Good buddies indeed.

The UCO operation led to discovery of the murder weapon, bearing fingerprints of Qahwash and DNA of Zvolensky. All this evidence came out at trial. The prosecution called evidence at trial that the canoe company and "Bad Boy" cooperated with the undercover operation. "Bad Boy" ain't so bad after all.

All three good buddies got convicted of first degree murder.

At trial defence complained that the UCO's evidence was unfair:

  • the operation made them look bad to the jury: they're on trial for a murder, and the police made them participate in planning another murder. This would prejudice the jury against them.
  • The operation interfered too much with their lives, thus affecting their s.7 right to liberty.

This operation involved no interrogation like the Mr Big interview. No threats. No inducements. The judges liked that.

This operation did involve making the targets look like bad guys. That makes judges skittish. But the probative value of the evidence obtained, particularly the murder weapon, made the judges comfortable with its admission.

If you plan UCO operations, this case is mandatory reading.

While I'm impressed by Mr Big's work-ethic, I've long felt that other members of his family should earn their keep. I'm glad to see that his cousin finally got a job. Even if it was just at a furniture store.

Inventive work pays off, but keep the principles of Hart in the back of your minds when you plan your scenarios.

Bad Boy Furniture Icon

2017.04.01 Warrantless Search of a Residence - Exigent Circumstances or Social Work?

Someone noticed a 4-year-old boy standing alone near a busy intersection, wearing only a diaper. The passer-by called 911. When police arrived, they found the boy in his mother's arms, wrapped in a blanket. The dad arrived minutes later.

The dad, Mr Davidson, 2017 ONCA 257 explained that the boy suffered autism, and tended to wander from their home, which was 50m away.

The attending officer wanted to look inside to see if the house was safe for the child.

He didn't get a written consent, but basically invited himself in.

While looking around to see if the kitchen contained food for the boy, the officer noticed a smell of marijuana. Down in the basement, where the smell became particularly strong, he found a locked door. When the officer asked for a key, Mr Davidson kicked the door open, and behind it police found a grow operation.

The trial judge thought that a police officer's powers of search in cases of imminent harm justified this intrusion into Davidson's home. He relied on the well-known case of 911 calls, Godoy.

The appeal court disagreed. When discussing the power to enter a residence to preserve life, they said:

The police must reasonably believe that the life or safety of a person inside the home is in danger. And once inside the home, their authority is limited to ascertaining the reason for the call and providing any needed assistance. They do not have any further authority to search the home or intrude on a resident’s privacy or property.

...Godoy does not give the police sweeping authority to enter a home without a warrant to investigate whether a child’s mother and father are good parents.

The boy was safe. The police had no reason to believe that anyone else was in danger. Although the search was to prevent harm to a child, the officer lacked reason to suspect that there was any imminent danger. This was a social work investigation, not an imminent harm investigation.

There's one phrase in this decision which raises a red flag: "reasonably believe". In MacDonald, 2014 SCC 3, the court split 5:4 whether you needed "belief" or "suspicion" that violating privacy was necessary in order to protect life. The majority chose "belief" in the existence of an "imminent threat" before police can violate the privacy of a residence. I've always thought that a reasonable "suspicion" that someone will suffer serious injury or death suffices.

Perhaps it's just semantic games. Is there really any difference between believing that someone may get hurt, or suspecting that someone will get hurt?

To enter someone's residence without consent, you need reasonably reliable information suggesting imminent danger to someone. When you go in, limit your search to its purpose: resolve the danger and get out.

2017.03.26 Production Orders to the Press - Same Standard as the Rest of Us ... sort of

A Canadian member of ISIS chatted online with a reporter in Vice Media. What he said might convict him in Canada of terrorism crimes.

Canadian police wanted copies of the communications. They applied for a production order requiring the reporter to give them the evidence.

Vice Media objected. They fear that people like the terrorist won't reveal newsworthy stories if what they tell reporters becomes evidence against them. Heck, ordinary witnesses might not talk to reporters if doing so puts them on the witness stand. Vice Media asked the courts to set a higher standard for issuing production orders against the press. They said judges should refuse to grant a production order unless the police can prove that a prosecution wouldn't get started without the evidence possessed by the reporter.

No way, replied the judges. R. v. Vice Media Canada Inc., 2017 ONCA 231 The press enjoys the same rights of privacy as the rest of us. A reporter's notebook is no more nor less private than a psychiatrist's notebook, a doctor's chart, or a bank record.

But the judges agreed that a free press protects our democracy. How else can we discover the flaws in the politicians we might elect? How else can we learn of the world around us? They said if there are better sources of evidence out there, then you should leave the reporters alone.

2017.03.26 Sealing Orders - Bikini, Beach Blanket, or Sun Dress?

When police sought a production order against Vice Media Canada Inc., 2017 ONCA 231, they asked for a sealing order, to protect the nature and scope of the police investigation. They also wanted it to protect some information relating to national security, and to protect a witness in the case.

Vice Media challenged the orders. On review, everyone agreed that the information that identified the witness and the national security matters needed sealing up. That part of the sealing order stayed. The judges pointed out that the nature and scope of this investigation was pretty obvious, and didn't need secrecy. But publishing the evidence collected so far could prejudice a jury, if ever a prosecution gets launched. Instead of a sealing order, the judges imposed a publication ban.

In the early stages of an investigation, you often ask for a blanket sealing order. It hides the whole of your beautiful investigation from public view.

But conspiracy theories thrive when government operates in secret. For example, right now, Americans wallow in theories about Obama's secret wiretaps or Trump's secret connections with Russia. Public doubt undermines public trust in government. A justice system which hides from public view raises suspicion.

To retain public trust in the justice system, judges want to protect your ITOs with the least secrecy necessary.  In this case, the judges replaced the blanket sealing order with a time-limited publication ban. A focussed sealing order protected only the most sensitive paragraphs in the ITO.

Your ITO is like a beautiful model - an example of good police work which justifies a search or seizure. The conspiracy theorists are like the guys at the beach who want to ogle her. A blanket sealing order hides her entirely from view like a beach blanket draped around her. The guys are unhappy, and suspect she's ugly: "Did the police cheat?" A focussed sealing order is like a bikini, which reveals all but the most secret things. The lecherous guys may want to see yet more, but most of them understand why they won't. A temporary publication ban is like a sun-dress over top of the bikini. It promises greater exposure, when the time is right.

When you apply for warrants in haste, you usually ask for a blanket sealing order, because you don't yet know which information is sensitive. Later in your investigation, you forget to remove it. If you obtain perpetual sealing orders in every case, even when you don't need them, then you undermine the system you rely on.  Put a sunset clause on the blanket sealing order. Or consider a publication ban instead. Here's the outline of a bikini, a sun dress, and a beach blanket, all in one application:

I provide with this original Information to Obtain, a redacted copy. Subject to further orders of this court:

  • For the purposes of preventing the identification of confidential sources described in this information to obtain, I ask for an order that the original of this information to obtain be sealed in an envelope marked "Unredacted - permanent sealing order", and stored in a secure place, and its contents not be disclosed to anyone not involved in the investigation.
  • For the purposes of protecting the defendant's right to a fair jury trial, I ask for a an order that no person shall publish any information from the Information to Obtain until after the trial completes and the appeal periods expire.
  • For the purposes of protecting the ongoing investigation, I ask for an order that the redacted Information to Obtain be placed in a sealed envelope marked "Redacted - sealing order pending charges", and stored in a secure place until charges are laid in respect of this investigation. When such charges are laid, the redacted Information to Obtain may be removed from that envelope, and its contents may disclosed to interested persons.

I made this order up in a hurry. If someone out there has better language to suggest, I might use it in place of this rough draft.

2017.03.25 Detention for Officer Safety - How Much Force?

I missed this decision when it first came out. Better late than never.

2012. Midsummer. 2:20am. St Johns, Newfoundland.

An anonymous caller told 911 of "a male in a black jeep across from the Froude Avenue Community Centre with a firearm, possibly a shotgun or rifle." Froude Avenue is row-housing. Two officers arrived in separate vehicles. They found a lone black SUV in the parking lot. One occupant. One officer recognized him as Mr Squires, 2016 NLCA 54, and knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms.

What would you do?

This officer drew his firearm. He directed the driver to show his hands out the window. He complied. When the second officer arrived, they instructed him to get out, and lie face down on the road. He did. They handcuffed him and put him in the back of a police car. In the SUV, they found a sawed-off shotgun and ammo. The serial number was defaced.

The judges thought the officer went overboard with officer safety. They held that the excessive force violated Mr Squires' right not to be arbitrarily detained.

I dunno. Two years later, police officers in Moncton responding to a similar call encountered Justin Bourque, who shot five Mounties, killing three.

I won't instruct you police officers on how to keep safe out there. I'm a lawyer. I am not an expert on defensive tactics.

But you are.

In the Squires case, the prosecutors unsuccessfully urged the judges not to play Monday morning quarterback. The judges don't get training on how to handle risky situations.

But you do.

You need to know what to do in these situations, and why. Doing the "what" properly protects your life.

But if you can't justify what you did, then judges will limit your authority to act. Like they did in this case. In the long run, explaining the "why" properly protects other officers' lives.

In the court room, many officers make a simple mistake: they identify what they didn't know, instead of what they knew. Ignorance doesn't justify action. For example:

Ignorance justifies nothing Knowledge justifies action
I didn't know why he was there nor what he was doing. The SUV matched the tip. I thought the behaviour - possessing and displaying a firearm at 2:00am in a residential neighborhood - suggested preparation for violence rather than an innocent pursuit like hunting.
I didn't know if there was someone else in the vehicle. I was told of one person, but I could see that the vehicle could hold more people. I needed to get the one person I could see under control and away from the SUV before I looked for others.
I didn't know whether the driver had a weapon. I could see the driver's head, but not his torso. He was in a position to hide a weapon from my view, and aim it at me before I could react.

I don't know whether the officer in Squires went overboard or not. I wasn't there, and I have little expertise. Read the decision and decide for yourselves.

My example explanations may not describe real tactical concerns. But you can use that style to explain the risks to the judge.

The truth is, when responding to such a call, many officers don't think thoughts like the ones in the right hand column. They just follow procedure from years of practice. When they reach the court room, they can explain what they do but not why. During practice, then, discuss the reasons for your tactics. Try using language like the right hand column.

One more thing. Let's think about the point the judges wanted to make. Don't use unnecessary force to arrest or detain suspects. Don't even use unnecessary rudeness even with guilty people. Why? Nasty guys grow nastier when every cop they meet treats them like dirt. Some people, like Bourque, get the idea that cops need killing.

Try not to plant that seed.

2017.03.25 Reasonable Belief - Who wants to Stand on Soft Grounds?

An anonymous tipster said Mr Quilop, 2017 ABCA 70 sells cocaine. A team of police watched him for a couple of days.

They saw him go to a suite connected to another guy that they had reason to suspect dealt drugs. They saw him drive to a house, visit briefly, and emerge carrying something about the size of a baseball in his hand. An hour later, he made a short visit to an apartment, and emerge carrying a small pouch.

So they arrested him, and found drugs, money and cell phones.

At trial, defence challenged the arrest. You can't arrest a suspect unless you believe he's guilty, and the evidence establishes that belief is reasonable. On that legal point there is no controversy.

The team leader saw none of the action. What he knew did not justify an arrest. Defence said he was responsible for the arrest, and he lacked grounds. The team leader responded that he had the authority to stop an arrest, but he didn't decide whether to make the arrest. That was the responsibility of the primary investigator. The court liked that answer.

The primary investigator took responsibility for the decision to arrest. Another officer acted on his direction. That's fine too. But the officer who decides to arrest must have reasonable grounds.

The appeal court found these grounds too thin. They provided reasonable suspicion, but not reasonable belief.

But the cops were right - the drugs were there. Doubtless, the arresting officer felt certain his arrest was justified.

This can happen to you. How do you avoid it?

  • Detail: When we humans see a pattern we've seen before, we tend to reach a conclusion about what's happening, and remember the conclusion rather than the details that make up the pattern.You need to record the details that make up the pattern, so that you can recount them later. For example "slurred speech" is a conclusion that you might draw when the suspect says: "Whash duh pahblum offisher?" Make a note of the suspect's words.
  • Note-taking: what did you know and when did you know it? Some details weren't recorded in notebooks at the time. Recalling them later looked like making stuff up.
  • Attenuation: What seemed obvious when you saw it will become unclear in the court room. Observations pack less punch in the retelling. Therefore, "reasonable grounds" require something more than "I think so". It needs that little bit more, so that a skeptic will agree that you're probably right.

2017.03.18 Unhappy Juror after the Verdict

After the jury convicted Mr Lewis, 2017 ONCA 216, one of the jurors phoned the defence counsel to complain about what happened in the jury room.

The defence lawyer did a smart thing. He stopped the phone conversation and referred the juror to an independent lawyer.

That lawyer wasn't so clever.

She prepared an affidavit which the juror swore. It complained of aggression, bullying and hostility in the jury room. It complained that one of the nasty jurors told him "the accused was of bad character, likely had a criminal record and was in a gang".

Neither the trial judge nor the appeal court were impressed.

"Section 649 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for any juror to disclose “any information relating to the proceedings of the jury when it was absent from the courtroom.” [The second lawyer] put herself and the juror in jeopardy by filing an affidavit detailing the juror’s complaints about the deliberation process."

Basically, the lawyer helped the juror commit a Criminal Code offence.

I read cases every year in which problems like this arise. What do you do if a juror comes to you, complaining about what happened in the jury room?

The better course of action if the juror has a problem with the verdict is to bring the matter to the attention of the trial judge as soon as possible. Work with counsel.

If a juror comes to you complaining about what occurred in a jury room:

  1. Stop the juror talking about what deliberations. The juror can't tell you anything about the deliberations of the jury.
  2. Keep people safe. The juror can tell you if he or she is in danger, and from whom. They can tell you if they've been threatened with harm, or assaulted.
  3. Get advice from lawyers.
  4. If the juror is concerned about the verdict, bring the juror's concern to the trial judge as soon as possible.

2017.03.18 DNA or DNA+?

Did Mr Lira, 2017 ONCA 214 and his buddy Mr Ismail rob the "Cash in a Flash" store back in November 2010?

Security video showed one of the robbers limped like Mr Ismail, and wore an unusually striped jacket like Mr Ismail. The other one wore tan shoes with red laces, just like Mr Lira. Oh yeah, and down in the boiler-room of Mr Lira's apartment, police found gloves and a balaclava that looked like what the robbers wore. And they had Mr Ismail's DNA on them.

DNA evidence often helps bust bad guys. But don't stop investigating when you get the DNA hit. DNA works best if you can collect independent circumstantial evidence.

Toronto Novembers can get cold enough for gloves and a balaclava. Mr Ismail's DNA on those items doesn't - by itself - lead to conviction. But these officers collected more evidence, which busted both guys.

2017.03.18 Completeness of Investigation

Most police officers feel pressure to move quickly from one investigation to the next. Junior police officers in general duty feel this pressure most acutely.

It's a trap.

When investigating the guilt of the suspect, you should also investigate the suspect's innocence.

Ms Dunkers, 2017 BCCA 120 worked for a charity. She stole $200,000 from them, or so it seemed. The investigating officers received a quantity of documents from the directors. Those documents showed that Ms Dunkers wrote herself a bunch of cheques that the directors never authorized.

Ms Dunkers made some vague remarks to suggest that she covered some of the charity's expenses from her own pocket. These cheques merely reimbursed her for those expenses.

The charity kept files on expenses. It would have been easy to review them at the time of the investigation. By the time it got to trial, those files were packed away in storage.

At trial, defence counsel accused the police of shoddy investigation. The trial judge wasn't impressed by the defence complaint, but nor was he impressed by the police investigation.

They had some idea what Ms Dunkers' explanation was. Why didn't they preserve the documents which related to it?

This idea of investigating innocence arises in every investigation. Whether it's a commercial fraud, a murder, a domestic assault or a shoplifting. Try to get more than the complaint. Investigate innocent explanations, even if the suspect refuses to give you a statement. Does the shoplifter have a receipt? Does the alleged batterer have any injuries? Are there other people who wanted the deceased dead?

What was the result? It's a short decision. If you really want to know, click the link and find out.

2017.03.14 Fentanyl is a Problem in B.C.

Mr Smith, 2017 BCCA 112 sold fentanyl as "down" to an undercover police officer. The officer pursued charges. At trial, Mr Smith's Charter arguments failed, and he pleaded guilty. He had never been busted before. He told the judge that he thought it was heroin, not fentanyl.

The trial judge imposed 6 months jail. The Crown appealed, complaining that BC has the biggest Fentanyl problem in the country, and yet the lowest sentences.

The Court of Appeal agreed this was a problem. Fentanyl is killing people. The judges agreed that the appropriate sentence should be 18 months. But Mr Smith committed his offence when the Fentanyl problem was just emerging. Two of the three judges figured the trial judge wasn't in error at the time, and upheld the 6-month sentence.

If he didn't know, then he might tell his customer it was heroin, and his customer might use too much and die. If you obtain "down" from a suspect, you might ask during the transaction what kind of "down" you're getting.

2017.02.18 Video-Recording Witness Statements - Not Just Children

You likely know that video-recording children's statements can result in the video becoming part of their evidence at trial. It started years ago with sexual offences, but Parliament broadened the section to make it work for all witnesses under 18.

It also works for people with mental and physical disabilities. s.715.2

Mr Osborne, 2017 ONCA 129 and his circle suffered developmental delays and mental disabilities. He told one of them that he intended to kill his exgirlfriend. And he did. At trial, the friend could not remember the conversation, but could remember telling the truth to the police. Was his video-recorded statement admissible?


This section applies more broadly than just young folks with intellectual challenges. And it applies to all crimes, not just murder and sexual offences.

Aged victims often deteriorate after a crime. Video-record their statements when possible too.

2017.02.16 Police Powers - Exercise them Accountably

If a guy gropes a woman's breasts, and pulls her shirt so that he can peer at her breasts, we call it sexual assault.

Cst Khan, 2017 ONCA 114 said it was a search incidental to arrest, to ensure that she carried no weapons.

To be fair, he just busted the woman for buying cocaine. But the way she remembered it, he seemed more interested in flesh than weapons.

The trial judge believed the woman. Khan lost his job and his reputation.

When you exercise powers of arrest, you do what would otherwise be called an assault and kidnapping. Use those powers respectfully, and accountably.

If you read her description at the beginning of the decision, you may get ideas on good and bad search procedures.

The remainder of the decision discusses a technical legal issue. Most police won't find it interesting.

2017.04.05 Right to Counsel after a Detention - How Fast?

An officer arrested Mr Patrick, 2017 BCCA 57 for possessing a sawed-off shotgun (see above). Even though Mr Patrick wanted to talk to a lawyer right away, she didn't let him call a lawyer from the scene, using a cell phone. She took him to the police station.

The trial judge thought the officer flagrantly violated Mr Patrick's rights. The Court of Appeal wasn't so sure.

Section 10(b) of the Charter, requires you to give a suspect his legal rights "without delay". But the courts find that you may delay that access to counsel where circumstances so require.

That doesn't mean you can always delay access to counsel until you reach the police station. If access can be given at the scene of arrest, without risk, then handing the suspect a cell phone to use in the back of a police car may be appropriate.

But many prisoners can abuse their access to a cell phone.

  • Will the wife-beater text his partner, threatening her with harm if she gives a statement?
  • Will the drug-dealer call his associates to interfere with your road-side arrest?
  • Will the drunk driver delay breath-testing to call the owner of the car to explain why it won't be home tonight?

Some scenes are too chaotic to permit you to give that access: Accident scenes. Feuding neighbors.

If you have a reason specific to this prisoner or this situation, then you can delay his or her legal calls until the situation is under control.

2017.02.04 Charter Rights of Third Parties

Mr Mauro, 2017 BCCA 45 picked a bad time to crash his Audi. It carried $100,000 worth of cocaine when it hit another vehicle. Instead of worrying about the injured woman in the other car, Mr Mauro phoned his mom, and instructed her to bring his Jetta to the scene. He took a shopping bag out of his car and held it until his mother arrived. He put the shopping bag into the Jetta, and his mom drove it a short distance away.

Police attended to deal with the car crash. The injured woman's husband told the police about Mr Mauro's strange behaviour with the shopping bag.

A police officer questioned the mom. She denied having anything in "her" car. The officer figured she was lying, and cautioned her sternly against public mischief. He told her it would be in her best interests to give him the bag.

He scared her. She gave him the bag.

At trial, Mr Mauro complained that the police searched his Jetta without a warrant, thereby breaching his s.8 rights.

The judges agreed.

Defence complained that the officer detained Mauro's mother without telling her that she could get legal advice.

The judges agreed.

Defence said that the evidence should be excluded.

The judges disagreed.

Mr Mauro had standing to complain about the warrantless search of his car. He didn't have standing to complain about police treatment of his mother. But having established a breach of his s.8 rights, he needed to persuade the trial judge to exclude the evidence. At that stage, the trial judge could consider all the breaches of Charter rights that the police committed during the investigation. Including violations of the mother's rights.

But mom tricked the police into thinking the Jetta was her car. She lied to the police about the object in it. The judges sympathized more with the police than with the defendant. Evidence admitted; drug dealer busted. Thanks, Mom.

You are sworn to protect everyone's Charter rights all the time. Because trial judges can sometimes consider the Charter rights of 3rd parties, when investigating suspects, you need to protect the Charter rights of the people they hang around with.

2017.02.04 Ontario Traffic Tickets - Correcting Mistakes before Filing

Have you ever issued a traffic ticket, and later found you forgot to fill in the year, or the municipality where the offence occurred?

In York (Regional Municipality) v. Wadood, 2017 ONCA 45, court decided that you can correct minor mistakes before filing the ticket with the court.

But don't add an extra offence or change the charge. For that, you'll need to issue a new ticket.

To distinguish between a major and a minor change, you should ask yourself whether the person who received the original ticket would still understand what the charge was about, even though she or he did not receive the correction.

This case applies to the Ontario Provincial Offences Act only. Don't assume the same rules apply elsewhere in Canada.

2017.02.04 The Non-Custodial Interview

Two vehicles raced. One crashed, killing the driver. Police broadcast a plea for the driver of the other vehicle to come and talk to them. Mr O’Leary, 2015 ONSC 1346 aff'd 2017 ONCA 71 showed up at the police station unannounced. An officer asked him why he came. He explained that he responded to the request on the radio.

The officer told him he could get the advice of a lawyer. The officer told him he "may" be charged. The officer told him that he was free to go, and that he did not have to say anything about the crash. The officer never searched him, nor told him where to go (except once when indicating where to sit). He stayed. He talked. His statement convicted him.

He appealed, complaining that the police:

  • Induced him to give a statement by what they said in the radio broadcast.
  • Tricked him into thinking he was a witness rather than a suspect.
  • Detained him by words or conduct.
  • Failed to get a full waiver of the right to counsel.
  • Prevaricated in the court room about whether they had reasonable grounds to arrest Mr O'Leary when interviewing him.

The judges rejected all of these arguments. But there are lessons to learn from them.

  • Press releases require careful consideration - if your request for cooperation includes suggestions that the suspect will get better treatment from the courts if s/he confesses, then the judge will consider that offer as a reason not to admit what the defendant says in your interview.
  • When interviewing someone you suspect of a crime, tell them about the crime you suspect they committed, and tell them that they have the right not to tell you about it.
  • Section 10 of the Charter only requires you to tell a suspect about the right to get legal advice when you detain the suspect. But nothing stops you from telling a suspect that they can get legal advice if they want. Doing so does not create a detention. Especially when interviewing unsophisticated suspects, you can prove to the judge that you treated the suspect fairly by mentioning the right to counsel even though the suspect was not detained.
  • Mr O'Leary testified that he thought he was detained even though the officer told him he could leave. This tactic can work when an officer says the words "you can leave" but then behaves like suspect has to stay. Therefore, if you say those words, then act like you mean them.

Defence counsel asked the interviewing officer to say at what point he had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that Mr O'Leary committed the crime, and complained that the officer should have arrested him at that point.

That's silly. Defendants don't have a Constitutional right to be arrested just because an officer starts to believe in their guilt. You can be completely convinced of a fellow's guilt, and still decide not to arrest him.

I suspect that this police officer may have felt uncertainty on this topic, and tried to duck that question. As a result, he may have looked evasive on the witness stand.

If you decide not to arrest someone, then it's perfectly fine to admit that you had grounds: "Yes, counsel, after your client admitted driving the vehicle I believed that he was guilty. But I had decided not to arrest or detain him, so I didn't."  If counsel presses you, you can respond: "Are you saying I had an obligation at that point to arrest or detain him? I am unaware of any such legal obligation, but I would be grateful for the judge's guidance on that point. I certainly told him of my suspicions and his right to silence. I certainly wanted his side of the story."

2017.01.30 Photography of Suspects

Do you photograph just the face or the full appearance of your suspects?

A couple of guys robbed a convenience store. One wore a mask. The clerk complained to police and described the clothing of the two robbers.

45 minutes later, police apprehended two guys wearing remarkably similar clothing. One was Mr McKay, 2017 SKCA 4. A smart officer photographed all their clothing carefully, and later compared it to security video in the store.

It matched.

Unfortunately, the trial judge mishandled the evidence, requiring retrial. But there wouldn't be a case without the careful documentation of the clothing these guys wore when police found them.

In some cases, you don't care about the suspect's clothing or appearance. But in routine investigations, it's easy to ignore valuable evidence. Did the drunk driver have bloodshot eyes? Sometimes the absence of evidence means something. Did the suspect in a domestic assault suffer damage to his clothing or injuries to his body?

When you need to solve a whodunnit, photographs of your suspect's appearance before and after the event can shed much light on whether you caught the felon.

2017.01.30 Right to Counsel - Reminder to Listen

When you explain the right to counsel, listen to your suspect’s responses, and record them. React when they express any hesitancy.

Mr Dunford, 2017 SKCA 1 drove on a highway, feeling happy that his Canadian immigration papers arrived. Too happy. He ignored some construction road signs for 13km. When some big trucks slowed for a flagger, he overtook them. He was going full highway speed when he hit the flagger, killing her.

Mr Dunford’s mood changed from happy to distraught. He cooperated with the police investigation and gave a full statement. The officer who interviewed him explained his legal rights to him. Mr Dunford said he understood. He didn’t want a lawyer. At the beginning of the interview, “Mr. Dunford indicated that he did not mind going without a lawyer and said he just wanted to ‘get it done’.”

When a suspect declines counsel, defence will look for even the slightest ambiguity. In this case, defence argued that the officer breached Mr Dunford’s rights by failing to clarify. The court responded:

“The police do not have an obligation to respond to a detainee’s misunderstanding of his rights or how to implement them if that misunderstanding is not communicated to the police or if there are no other indicators suggestive of a lack of comprehension.”

So you don't have to read minds, but you must watch to see if your suspect appears confused about his or her rights.

2017.01.20 Search Warrants - Telewarrants - "Impracticable" does not require "Urgency"

I previously wrote about Clark, 2015 BCCA 488, a decision from BC which clarified whether you can rely on the telewarrant process in non-urgent search warrant applications.

You can.

The problem was, judges in other provinces disagreed.

Not any longer.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the BCCA: R. v. Clark, 2017 SCC 3.

In case you missed it last time, here's what I wrote:

During a night-shift, Cst Marshinew finished preparing an application for a warrant to search a residence where Mr  lived. No justice of the peace worked in his vicinity at that time of night. Must he stay up until the morning to apply in person, or could he apply at night by telewarrant?

Defence argued that there was no urgency.  The investigative plan involved assembling the search team in the following afternoon.  Therefore, the police didn't need the warrant immediately.

The trial judge accepted the idea that telewarrants can only be granted where there is a need for the warrant to be issued before a personal application could be arranged.  The appeal court disagreed. At para 68, Frankel J.A. said:
"The telewarrant procedure was designed to make it possible for law enforcement officers to apply for a search warrant 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Whether the application is made in-person or by fax the reasonable-grounds standard must be met before a warrant can be issued.  The impracticability-requirement is concerned with whether it is practicable to make an in-person application at the time the application is brought; it does not require that an immediate need for a warrant be demonstrated."

The judges agree that you should state, in the ITO, the circumstances that make it impracticable for you to appear personally before a justice.  That generally means explaining how you know that no judge or justice of the peace (in B.C., a "judicial justice") is not available.  Some provincial courts like BC issued directives from which you can quote when explaining why a Justice is not available to hear your application in person.

2017.01.14 Demeanour in Public

Mr Koopmans, 2017 BCCA 10 tried to kill Mr Martin by shooting him. Mr Martin was the most important witness in the case.

Mr Martin used drugs. During the investigation, he suffered paranoia. He suspected that police were conspiring against him, and told the investigating officer so. Apparently, he also told her that an officer who attended the scene was "dancing and skipping" in front of him. At the jury trial, defence counsel sought to make an issue of this, either to undermine Mr Martin's credibility or to undermine the police in the eyes of the jury.

I suspect that an officer who attended the scene shared a private joke with another officer, unrelated to the investigation. Mr Martin interpreted the officer's antics as malice toward himself.

Even regular folks carry plenty of misconceptions about police. In your work, you tend to meet the people at the margins of society, who have drug addictions and mental disorders. Those folks can easily misinterpret you.

You deal with the misery of broken lives on a daily basis. It's hard to stay compassionate, respectful and professional all the time. To relieve the emotional toll, you need a place to laugh and joke together. If that place must be the crime scene, look around for witnesses and security cameras before you crack a joke or pull a gag.

And don't play with the exhibits.

2017.01.07 Context Evidence

M.B., 2016 BCCA 476 had a teenage problem: she didn't like her boyfriend's previous girlfriend ("C.B."). That girl was pregnant. And she still liked M.B.'s boyfriend ("I.S."). Might the birth of the baby distract the boyfriend from M.B.?

M.B. wrote a text message to the previous girlfriend:

“I hope you know that you’ll get stomped if you come to this school, dirty bitches like you aren’t welcome here”

Did these words constitute a criminal threat?

It all depends upon the context.

In this case, investigators collected all of M.B.'s communications to the ex-girlfriend:

“Cool. You'll have like no friends. Our school is really cliquey and no one likes fat pregnant bitches.”

“Ha ha. Been at my school for three years. I think I know how things go and I bet the kid's not even [I.S.]'s. Lol.”

“Lol cause you're a dunce ha hahahahaha wow. And I said I bet the kids not even [I.S.]’s cause you’re a dirty slut who probably sleeps with everyone just to get attention”.

“fight me?:)”.

“Loool. Scared?”

They also acquired messages M.B. sent to her boyfriend about his old girlfriend C.B.:

“[C.B.]'s so annoying. I'm going to like kick her in the stomach when she moves here.”

“If she wants to fight with me I will own her ass. Just sayin'. You know I don't take people's shit.”

“Ya. So will your kid be when I fuckin' kick [C.B.] in the stomach. Joke.”

“I'm not afraid to hurt her [smiley face] because I’m a heartless bitch, rememberrrrr.”

“Holy tits. Get [C.B.] to stop fucking messaging me or I'm gonna rip her face off.”

“K well blah I’m gunna fucking hurt her.. Dude I can make myself look more preggo then [C.B.] could lol”.

By itself, the disputed message would not prove a criminal threat. But this context, persuaded all the judges that M.B. meant to frighten C.B..

When investigating relationship violence, many investigators focus too narrowly on the last bit of unpleasantness. Without context, it may appear less or more serious than would be revealed by some history.

You want more. Some current communication systems like SMS, voice-mail and Facebook permit you to recover the words exchanged before the final event. Get as much as you can.

2017.01.07 Evidentiary Value of a GPS

In your investigations, if you find an GPS device device, you may get a great deal of information.

I stumbled upon R v Didechko, 2016 ABQB 376 today. The GPS in that case automatically recorded everywhere Mr Didechko went: to the bar; to the place where the hit and run occurred; to his parent's house; and then where he dumped the car. He reported the car stolen, but the GPS showed that he never gave the thief any opportunity to take it.

The trial judge found this evidence pretty compelling.

If you find such a device would produce interesting evidence, then get judicial authority to download it.

2016 Developments in the Law

2016.12.20 Reasonable Grounds - Can you Trust a 911 caller?

A guy called 911 to complain about two guys carrying handguns at Tim Horton's. He said that he and his buddy were following the car the gunmen got into. He gave vague descriptions of the people, but provided a licence plate. He gave updates where to find the car. He offered to stick around to tell police what happened. Police found the car he described, where he described it. It went 60km/h in a 40km/h zone.

An officer stopped the car.

Would you arrest the occupants based on this information?

These officers did.

They found drugs, but no guns.

One of them, Mr Carelse-Brown, 2016 ONCA 943 complained that the officers lacked reasonable grounds to believe that the occupants committed a crime. The officers knew nothing about the caller, and therefore had no reason to trust him. The officers should have detained the car and investigated.

The judges disagreed. Finding a car that matched the description, location and direction described in the call tended to confirm the caller. The caller seemed willing to identify himself fully by meeting with police.

Because of the high public risk, the court approved of quick and decisive police action. "This was a dynamic, dangerous and rapidly changing situation involving a serious threat to public and officer safety."

Judges might want to to work slower - detaining first and investigating - if the crime complained of did not pose immediate public risk.

2016.12.20 Arrest & Detention - s.10(a)

When you arrest or detain a suspect, you don't need to tell him in precise legal language what offence you're investigating, but he needs to know the extent of his jeopardy. At the early stages of an investigation, you often know little. Based on what you do know, err towards describing the more serious offence. That way, the suspect can get relevant advice.

Mr Moore, 2016 ONCA 964 drove his car into a pedestrian. The pedestrian had been driving, and got out to confront Mr Moore about his driving. The arresting officer told Mr Moore that he was under arrest for dangerous driving. Mr Moore got legal advice from duty counsel. Then the officer told Mr Moore that they were also investigating him for assault with a weapon. Mr Moore wanted legal advice, but could not reach his lawyer. Police proceeded to interview him.

At the trial for assault with a weapon, Mr Moore complained that the officers did not sufficiently advise him of the charges, and that he did not get the legal advice to which he was entitled. The trial judge rejected this, but the appeal court agreed.

The s.10(a) warning tells the suspect what kind of trouble he's in. The s.10(b) process ensures that he can get legal advice relating to that trouble.

If you aim high at the s.10(a) stage, then you need go through the s.10(b) stage only once. If the jeopardy increases, then the suspect needs fresh legal advice.

Don't allege offences for which you have no evidence. For example, don't tell the suspect that you're investigating a "murder" until you have information suggesting that the victim died. But if the victim's condition is critical, then tell the suspect so. And if you give informal information like this, write down what you said. You need to show the court that you really explained to the suspect what trouble he was in.

2016.12.17 Warrant drafting - What to say about Unreliable Sources

When applying for judicial authorization to intrude on someone's privacy, you must tell the judge or justice everything that you know. What do you say about about someone you don't trust?

When investigating a murder, police in Ottawa received a tip that the suspect's father was overheard saying it was better the victim was killed rather than his son. When applying for wiretap, the affiant cautioned the issuing justice “to take a skeptical view of the informant’s information because, to my knowledge, it is second hand information and not direct knowledge.” He aid that this information did “not advance investigators in this case and can only be treated as intelligence…” Although he asked for permission to intercept the father's communications, he omitted this information from his “summary of grounds for belief” in respect of the dad.

The officer had better information to suggest that the suspect's dad knew about the murder. When investigators came asking questions about the murder, the dad lied to police about his son's whereabouts. Shortly after the dad met with other suspects, he drove in a manner that would prevent police from following him.

The officer got the authorization.

The decision doesn't say whether the police busted the suspect for the murder. But the dad's communications revealed him to be dealing in drugs. As a result of the interceptions, police busted him with heroin and lots of cash.

Mr Hafizi, 2016 ONCA 933 persuaded the trial judge that the warrant should not have been granted. The investigating officer forgot to tell the issuing justice that the dad was on bail for drug trafficking charges. His "heat checks" could have been unrelated to the murder.

The trial judge even found that the affiant "deliberately withheld relevant information that would have completely negated the inferences he sought to be drawn by the issuing justice". The court of appeal disagreed with this conclusion too, but agreed that the officer should have included the information about the trafficking charges.

I think that the Court of Appeal liked the caution with which the affiant dealt with the unreliable source information.  It may have helped them conclude that the officer did not act in bad faith.

Beware of leaving information out. Probably, the officer should have included information about Mr Hafizi's outstanding drug trafficking charge.

If you have information you think is untrustworthy, you can say so in your application. That's a lot better than leaving the information out.

2016.11.26 Photo Lineup Procedures & Lineups of Acquaintances to the Witness

Two men attacked Mr Pierre inflicting wounds that nearly killed him. At the scene he said "Carl" or "Carlton" did it. He sank into a coma for a month. When he first awoke, he wrote a name "Karl Atire" on a piece of paper. At trial, Mr Pierre said that was a mistake brought on by medications. He meant Carl Renous.

Police collected photographs of various people of interest, including Mr Pierre's friends. Each face was quite different from the others. The day after he awoke, police showed him these photographs. Mr Pierre picked out Mr Charles, 2016 ONCA 892 as one of his assailants. He later told police that Carl Renous was the other. Defence complained that this did not follow proper lineup procedure.

Bad news: the investigators misplaced the picture of Mr Charles that they used in this lineup. This made for some embarrassing testimony. Good news: the investigators video-recorded the process, showed each picture to the camera. and preserved that video-recording. Bad news: the officers did not give Mr Pierre the standard instructions for a photo lineup. Good news: Mr Pierre claimed to know his assailants.

Later, when less medication flowed through Mr Pierre's veins, the investigators did a fresh photo-lineup process with him, using pictures of people that resembled Mr Charles. He picked Mr Charles again.

Ordinarily, one uses a photo lineup to see whether a witness can distinguish between a suspect and similar-looking people unrelated to the offence. When the witness only met the suspect during the offence, this method discriminates between recognition, and mere similarity of the suspect to the felon.

When the witness knows the felon, this procedure packs less punch: of course the witness recognizes an acquaintance in the photopack.

Because Mr Pierre knew his attackers, the first photopack served a useful purpose - it identified the felon. If he had not known his attackers, it would have undermined any subsequent identification.

Because the officers video-recorded the procedure so well, that one could see in the video what picture Mr Pierre chose. That reduced the impact of the misplaced photo.

That's unusual. No video-recordings I've seen of photo-lineups captured clear images of each picture as the witness examined them. In a recent trial I ran, it would have helped. You might consider reviewing the video quality, camera angle, and presentation methods you use when showing a photopack to a witness.

Regardless how formally or informally you present pictures to witnesses, carefully preserve the pictures you showed. Mark or annotate the ones which the witnesses pick.  Keep the others as well. They are all exhibits. You'll need them at trial.

2016.11.26 Proving the Obvious

In the case of Mr Charles, 2016 ONCA 892, described above, police found cell tower records showing Mr Charles' cell phone travelled to the town where the attack occurred, and returned to Toronto just afterwards.

The decision doesn't explain how police learned Mr Charles' phone number. I suspect that an investigator relied upon hearsay from a police database, or information from an uncooperative or unavailable witness.

At trial, Mr Charles' probation officer testified that Mr Charles gave him that phone number about 2 weeks before the attack. Defence complained that the probation officer was a person in authority, and Mr Charles did not give his phone number voluntarily. The judges sided with the prosecution; but they won't always.

I suspect that the idea of proving Mr Charles' phone number through the probation officer was an afterthought, not a result of considered investigation. I think this because I encountered a similar problem this week, which I solved in a very similar way.

Investigators often work from what they "know" rather than what can be "proved". When the matter comes to trial, the prosecutor suddenly demands evidence to prove things that seemed obvious during the investigation. And at the last minute, sometimes you can't find witnesses to prove the obvious.

If the probation officer's evidence had been inadmissible, I'll bet that the prosecution would have had a hard time linking the phone number to Mr Charles.

If a fact like that underpins the whole case, take time to find admissible evidence to prove it. For example, how do you prove that a suspect used a particular cell phone number?

  • Find acquaintances who communicated with him at that number.
  • Get phone company records.
  • Seize the phone and (with a warrant) examine its contents.

2016.11.25 Obstructing a police officer by resisting arrest

Some folks use words to tell you that they don't like being arrested. Some use body language. Words of unhappiness do not constitute resistance. At what point does the body language become a crime?

During Mr Kennedy's 2016 ONCA 879 arrest for armed robbery:

  • an officer told him to keep his hands above his head, but he reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out and lit a cigarette instead;
  • an officer told him to keep his back turned to the officer speaking to him, but when handcuffed, he instead turned around periodically;
  • an officer instructed him to lift his jacket, but instead he took it off and set it on the car;

One officer also said that Mr. Kennedy tried to pull away.

Did any of this amount to resisting arrest?  The judges agreed: "the offence of resisting a peace officer requires more than being uncooperative: it requires active physical resistance." The pulling away would be resistance. But what about the other actions? Although Mr Kennedy's actions sat "at the very low end of the scale of acts of resistance", these actions constituted resistance. Anything less is not.

You often arrest or detain difficult and impolite people. From paragraphs 31 to 35 this decision reviews a variety of situations in which courts decided what constituted criminal resistance and what did not. Most officers will profit by reading them. I take from these paragraphs that "resistance" involves applying force to the officer, or doing something which requires force or energy which prevents or interferes with the officer's arrest.

2016.11.20 Joint Statements and Instructing Witnesses

Good investigators never take the statements of two witnesses in circumstances where one can hear the other's version of events. It's all too easy to interview several people at once, especially when eyewitnesses feel urgency to report to police what they saw. But it undermines the statement they give together because to the court looks like collusion - each witness learns what the other saw, and may deliberately or inadvertently start to describe the event the same way.

But that's just part of the problem.

Consider the unfortunate case of Ms Clause, 2016 ONCA 859. She invited Mr Martin to her house for a birthday party. It went badly. Other guests beat up Mr Martin. He left the party, but felt so angry, he returned to fight with his assailants. He lost that fight too. And then someone stabbed him in the eye. He and two eyewitnesses said Ms Clause was the stabber.

A jury convicted her, but for various reasons, the appeal court ordered a new trial. One of the reasons involved collusion.

The eyewitnesses were Mr Martin's roommates. Only Mr Martin gave a statement to police around the time of the attack. Their close relationship raised a real concern with the court that they might have deliberately agreed to name Ms Clause, or that by discussing the case, some may have affected the memories of others. The appeal court thought the jury should have been instructed to consider that possibility.

How do you stop eyewitnesses from comparing their recollections with each other? All you can do is ask:

"Before I turn off this recording device sir, I'd just like to ask you one more thing. It sounds like you and your roommate are important witnesses in this matter. Until this case finishes, could you please avoid discussing with her the details of what you saw?"

2016.11.20 Impaired Driving - Screening Devices - Reasonable Suspicion

Although Mr Schouten, 2016 ONCA 872 looked sober, an officer noticed an odour of liquor on his breath. It was the morning after "a local motorsports event". The officer was checking the sobriety of drivers emerging from the grounds.

Mr Schouten told the officer that he had not consumed any alcoholic beverages for 10 hours, but he could not remember how much, nor what he drank.

The officer believed that alcohol would be eliminated from the body in 10 hours, but because of the odour, the officer demanded that Mr Schouten blow into a screening device.

The screening device read a fail. Later, breath tests showed Mr Schouten still had too much booze  in his body to drive: 120 and 109mg%.

At trial, defence attacked the officers grounds: if the guy looked sober, and last drank so long ago that he would not have any booze left in his body, then it was unreasonable to suspect that he had any booze in his body.

He won at trial. And at the first appeal. But he lost the appeal that mattered.

All three judges in the Court of Appeal agreed: an odour of liquor on the breath of the driver justifies making a screening device demand.

But notice that judges at two levels of court thought otherwise. Some judges sympathized with the defence argument. Those are the sorts of judges who may find other arguments persuasive. Here are a couple of typical arguments, and ways you can investigate in order to answer them:

Investigative tactic
The officer mistook an odour emanting from the car or the clothes of the suspect for an odour coming from the breath.
Take more than one sniff. Distinguish between breath and body odours.
The odour of liquor is subjective - especially when the odour is faint.
Get a second opinion from another officer, especially if the suspect denies consuming alcohol.

2016.11.19 Truck Drivers who Cheat

Mr Bhangal, 2016 ONCA 857 fell asleep while driving a commercial vehicle. The truck drove into oncoming traffic and killed someone.

Was falling asleep a crime? No.

But driving for too many hours without rest is. He faked his driving logs, making it look as if he got enough rest. Investigation into those driving logs discovered that he kept himself awake and driving for way too long before the crash. And a jury considered it criminally negligent to keep driving in that state.

When a commercial truck driver crashes, you might want to examine his log book.

2016.11.15 Murder or Assisted Suicide

Mr Elton, 2016 BCCA 440 stabbed his wife with a bayonet and strangled her. At his murder trial, he said he did so because he honestly believed that she wanted to die, and that she had attempted to kill herself by consuming Valium. He asked the judge to acquit him because if he was guilty of anything, it was aiding a suicide, not murder.

The trial judge convicted him, and the appeal court upheld the conviction.

"Aiding" is merely helping another person to do something, not doing it yourself.

Intentional killing another person is murder. He intended that his actions kill her, and they did. He was guilty of murder.

People often confuse "intention" with "motive". Even if his motive was to help her, his intention was to kill.

2016.11.10 Conversation with Prisoners - Voluntariness

Most police officers turn on a recording device before interviewing a suspect about the alleged offence. That's good, because it provides a complete record of what you said to the suspect. The judge needs that recording to determine whether you put any unfair pressure on the suspect to talk.

If you do that, and you interview properly, then you can expect lawyers to focus on conversation which occurred before you started the recording device.

Mr Carr, 2016 ONCA 837 claimed that during the 2-minute walk from the cells to the interview room, the investigator implied that unless he talked about the offence, he would not get released from custody.  The investigator testified that he usually said nothing while walking a suspect from cells to the interview room, but could not recall if he talked with the prisoner on that occasion.

The trial judge didn't buy Mr Carr's claim, but another judge might. Those brief interactions matter.

Most investigators take care to record their interactions with their suspect. But in my experience, the less an officer participates in the investigation, the less care the officer takes to record his or her interactions with the suspect. For example, the officer who transports a suspect from the arrest to the police station will often turn on no recording device and take minimal notes. When that officer testifies, s/he has virtually no memory of the conversation.

And then the defendant says "that's when the officer told me that unless I explained what happened, I wouldn't get out of jail" or "the officer told me that judges and prosecutors go easy on guys who fess up".

Every officer who interacts with a suspect between arrest and interview is a witness, and must be able to account for their conversation and treatment of the suspect.

2016.11.05 Inspecting Mail

You can't inspect mail in the possession of Canada Post. You can't get a warrant to inspect mail. Canada Post Corporation Act s. 40(3)

What do you do if you think there's contraband in the mail?

Well, there are lots of things you can do. One of them is to involve the authorities at Canada Post. But you must do that carefully.

American law enforcement officials complained to Canadian police that Mr King, 2016 CanLII 11698 (NL SCTD) was selling ephedrine over the internet, and shipping it to the USA. Police investigated, and found some evidence to support this complaint.

In a letter, a Canadian officer asked Canada Post to inspect Mr King's outgoing mail.

That's a problem. You can't search mail. If you direct Canada Post to search someone's private mail, then Canada Post acts as your agent.

The officer realized this problem, and sent a second letter which explained why this exportation was unlawful, and suggested that Canada Post might examine these packages as "unmailable", and if they found ephedrine that they might turn it over to police.The judge still found that the officer turned Canada Post into a police agent, even with the second letter. To this judge, it still looked like the police were telling the postal inspector what to do, and turning him into their agent.

There was a better way to write the letter. In situations like this, your "request" should not read like a command but the humble submission of information.  It should state the grounds which might move the postal inspector into action. But it should leave the decision whether to inspect up to the postal inspector:

Dear postal inspector:

I received the following information, which suggests that Mr King is using your postal service to ship ephedrine to the USA:

I asked a lawyer at the Department of Justice, who told me that doing this is an offence because ... .

I have no authority to search mail in the course of post, nor can I request or require you to search mail on my behalf, and so I make no such request.

Only you have the authority to inspect mail. Only you can decide whether to inspect any of Mr King's mail.

Schedule 4 of the Non-mailable Matter Regulations defines any " item transmitted by post in contravention of an Act or a regulation of Canada." as "non-mailable". Section 4(d) of those regulations require you to deliver such mail to police. If you do encounter this kind of non-mailable matter in relation to Mr King, I would be the appropriate person to contact.

Please contact me if I can be of any assistance.


2016.11.05 Missing Persons Reports

Some "missing person" reports waste your time. And sometimes you meet a killer.

Mr Shafia, 2016 ONCA 812 didn't like his daughters' boyfriends. By disobeying his commands about their love lives, they offended his sense of honour. Other members of his family shared his offence. The four offended ones murdered the girls, and those members of their family who supported them. The victims were bashed on the head, placed in an old car, and pushed into a canal.

Then the four killers went to the police station to file a missing persons report.

Subsequent investigation proved that their reports were false. Their statements became important evidence against them.

Most missing persons reports come from genuinely worried people. But if it turns out that you interviewed the killer, won't you be glad you recorded it?

2016.10.22 Undercover Operations - Police Tricks that Cross the Line

A police investigation into a 2011 murder stalled, and the prime suspect had fled the country. The lead investigator thought that police could intercept his friends discussing the murder with him if sufficient stimulus inspired the friends to call him. Undercover officers would talk to the friends. Because organized drug trade appeared to motivate the murder, the undercover officers pretended to be connected to Montreal drug suppliers, interested in "getting rid of" a "rat" - a witness who spoke to police regarding the murder.

The original plan would have caused no difficulty. The U/Cs would talk to each of the suspect's friends in public places where they could walk away.

Instead, they cornered Ms Derbyshire, 2016 NSCA 67 one morning, and pressed her for information about the murder. To everyone's surprise, she told them how she helped the suspect dispose of evidence and flee the jurisdiction. For the day, the officers controlled her movements: they took her cell phone, and they demanded and received answers.

She was charged with accessory to murder. The case depended upon her remarks to the police officers.

Through her lawyers, she complained to the trial judge that the U/Cs terrified her with implied threats of serious harm or death. In violation of her right to silence, they compelled her to give information against herself. And she complained that the officers' failure to record their conversations with her violated her right to a fair trial.

I find irony in that last complaint. In Duarte, [1990] 1 SCR 30, the court agreed with defence complaints that without prior judicial authorization, covert recording of a suspect's conversations violated his s.8 rights. Now a defendant complains that failure to make such a recording violates her s.7 rights. The judges rejected this complaint.  But the fact that defence argued it suggests that defence counsel value police accountability very highly. You can use transparency as a factor to support the issuance of 1-party authorizations.

The judge believed Ms Derbyshire's version of the events. The U/Cs were controlling and terrifying: the officers extorted a confession from the accused by threats of violence. The judges found that unacceptable, and excluded the confession.

The officers painted a less frightening picture of their interactions. Perhaps a recording of the interaction might have supported their version. But their testimony did not impress the judges. One of the U/Cs did most of the talking; the other seemed to recall very little of the conversation. The two U/Cs and their cover man each described the operation and its purposes in significantly different terms. The planning and execution differed greatly.

This case offers suggestions for all police:

  1. It illustrates a boundary police officers should not cross: don't use threats or violence to extort evidence from anyone - suspects or witnesses.
  2. In court, the testimony of the secondary officer matters as much as the primary officer. Even if you attend in a merely supporting role, pay attention and take notes.
  3. Innovation and flexibility during investigation can harvest good evidence. But know the limits under which you operate.
  4. If you do operate lawfully, transparency protects you. Whenever dealing with important witnesses, record what you (lawfully) can.

2016.10.22 Confessions - Voluntariness - What to Do with a Volunteer

Two cases this week show how judges like it when police treat suspects fairly. Here's the first.

Mr Fernandes, 2016 ONCA 772 walked into a police station and told the clerk he wanted to confess to burning down his mother's house. An officer came to speak to him. Mr Fernandes explained that he was homeless and wanted to go to jail. The officer explained that arson is serious, and punishable by imprisonment. The officer urged him many times to get legal advice, and reminded him several times that he was free to leave at any time. At first, Mr Fernandes refused, but after a while, he relented, and spoke with duty counsel. After that, he confessed.

Because police laid charges, I guess somebody did burn down Mr Fernandes' mother's house.

At trial, Mr Fernandes' lawyer argued that the confession was not "voluntary", for two reasons:

  • Mr Fernarndes' homelessness constituted such dire circumstances that he would say anything to get a roof over his head. Therefore, the confession was the product of oppression.
  • Mr Fernandes wanted to go to jail. The officer "promised" to put him in jail if Mr Fernandes would just confess.

The trial judge agreed, and excluded the confession. Mr Fernandes beat the charge.

The Court of Appeal rejected these ideas. The concept of "voluntariness" protects the suspect from unfair pressures that the police put on the suspect to get him to confess. In this case, the officer didn't cause Mr Fernandes' homelessness. The officer did nothing to coerce or tempt a confession from the suspect. Quite the opposite. This officer put roadblocks in the way.

At first blush, I thought the officer went too far to persuade Mr Fernandes to get legal advice. Mr Fernandes was not detained, therefore section 10(b) of the Charter had not triggered. But Mr Fernandes explained that he wanted to go to jail.  By doing so, he alerted the officer that the usual incentive to remain silent did not apply. By urging Mr Fernandes to get legal advice first, the officer showed the judges that he was not going to take unfair advantage of Mr Fernandes' desperate situation.

The appeal court liked this fair treatment, and ordered a new trial.

2016.10.21 Right to Counsel v. Haste to Test Breath: Getting the Priorities Right

When you make a breath demand of a driver, several obligations trigger.

  • S.10(b) of the Charter requires you to arrange for counsel " without delay" when a detainee wants one.
  • Section 254(2) and (3) require you to test the driver's breath "as soon as practicable".

Which one comes first?

Mr Rowson, 2015 ABCA 354 caused a bad motor vehicle accident. At the scene, officers feared that victims might die. When an officer asked him to blow into a screening device, Mr Rowson wanted to call a lawyer. Knowing the seriousness of the matter, the officer let him talk to a lawyer for a short time before testing his breath. Mr Rowson failed. The officer demanded breath for analysis, and he later blew 117 and 105 mg%.

At trial, defence argued that the officer did not test Mr Rowson's breath "as soon as practicable". Because the officer "searched" Mr Rowson's body contrary to law, the officer therefore breached Mr Rowson's rights under s.8 of the Charter.  The officer should not be permitted to rely upon the "fail" result to justify the breath analysis demand. Defence asked the court to exclude the results from the breath analysis.

The appeal court agreed that the officer breached Mr Rowson's s.8 rights by allowing Mr Rowson to call a lawyer before blowing into the screening device. But they disagreed that the breath tests should be excluded. They sympathized with the officer, who plainly recognized the seriousness of the situation, and properly worried that Mr Rowson should get legal advice.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the Alberta Court of Appeal.

To answer the question I posed, the correct priority of events is:

  1. Breath screen / SFST
  2. Legal advice
  3. Breath analysis / DRE

But judges like it when you really care that the suspect gets legal advice when he faces jeopardy.

2016.10.16 Prisoners Talk

When police arrested Mr Day, 2016 NLCA 52 for drug trafficking, he shouted out to his girlfriend not to say anything to police. At trial, he testified that he had nothing to do with the pound of marijuana in the trunk of his car, and suggested that maybe his girlfriend put it there.

The judge didn't find his testimony persuasive. What Mr Day shouted to his girlfriend did not easily mesh with his innocent explanation.  And besides, his girlfriend had recently texted him "the bags you gave me are done" and Mr Day replied, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you”.

All too often, prisoners in police custody call out to each other with advice or instructions about what to say during the investigation. Those remarks can make a significant impression on the trial judge, if you take the trouble of writing them down.

2016.10.16 Employees Talk

Ms McCarthy, 2016 NLCA 33 worked in a Newfoundland police station. Posted on the wall in the drug section of her office, she noticed a picture of her cousin.

She warned her cousin that he was being watched. Indeed he was.  But investigators found out that she violated her oath of confidentiality.

She lost her job. She got charged with obstruction of justice. The trial judge sent her to jail. (The appeal court reduced the sentence to a conditional sentence, but only because she confessed, she apologized, and she pleaded guilty.)

Leaks do happen. Beware of conflicts of interest. Supervisors might want to tell this cautionary tale gently, not to threaten staff, but to remind them of the harm they can do to themselves when they feel the improper tugging of family ties.

2016.10.09 Security Video

Security video can prove independent events to a high degree of confidence.  I hope that you routinely look for security video in the area of offences you investigate. Here's a case from earlier this year which illustrates what to do.

Dean Saddleback, 2016 ABCA 204 drove a stolen truck. He took it to a 7-11, where he had the bad luck to be noticed by an off-duty police officer. The officer watched Mr Saddleback get gas, and pay for it inside the convenience store. Because Saddleback looked particularly suspicious, the officer called in other officers. Those officers pursued the truck. Mr Saddleback fled and escaped. The store security video was the only way to prove the driver's identity.

Security video evidence tends to suffer from some routine - and avoidable - flaws. Those problems arose in the trial:

  • Authenticity: In general, a video recording isn't evidence until a person testifies, explaining where it came from and what it shows.  When an officer asks a private business for a video clip, the business often delivers the video without identifying the person who downloaded it from the recording system. In Mr Saddleback's case, someone gave the 7-11 clerk the relevant video. The clerk testified, but he couldn't say from personal knowledge that the recording captured the right date and time. Defence objected to its admissibility.
  • Time stamps: Organizations don't always accurately set the date and times on their security systems. And then, every spring and fall, they forget to change the system time to match changes of the clock. This clerk thought that the clock was wrong by an hour.
  • Quantity: People tend to download only the exciting part of the recording: the part where the crime occurs or the criminal passes by the camera. In this case the prosecution played only the portion of the recording which showed Mr Saddleback, but did not show any of the recording where the off-duty officer appeared.

Everything turned out okay. The clerk remembered Mr Saddleback from that day, and was able to testify that the video accurately depicted what occurred when Mr Saddleback attended. The court accepted the clerk's testimony that the video accurately showed what happened when Mr Saddleback attended.

You won't always be so lucky.

  • A security video is not evidence unless you also identify the person who can testify what it shows, and what period of time it captured. Usually, this is the person who downloads the video. That isn't always the person who gives you the video. Find out who. And beware. Those folks rarely make notes of the date and time of the video they download unless you instruct them to.
  • Always investigate the date and time stamp on the video. By how much does it differ from the actual time?
  • You want all the evidence in the video-recording, not just the few clips that show the felon best. That may include minutes or hours before the crime (when the felon surveyed the scene), and the minute or hours after the event (between the departure of the felon and the arrival of known persons, such as the police).

2016.10.04 Detaining a Suspicious Vehicle

Cst Vachon-Zee recognized a frequent offender sitting in the passenger seat of a Chrysler Cirrus. He didn't recognize the driver, Mr Mr Ali, 2016 ABCA 261. A computer search reported no concern that the car was stolen. But the officer was suspicious. In his experience, thieves often stole this model of car. He wanted to know what the passenger "was up to", and to check whether the car was stolen. He decided to check the ownership documents.

The car stopped when signalled to do so. An odour of fresh marijuana wafted from the driver's window. The officer arrested the driver, and on a search incidental to arrest, found crack.

At his trial, Mr Ali argued that an officer who stops a vehicle to investigate crime needs reasonable grounds to suspect that someone in the vehicle was involved in crime. The appeal court agreed. If you're going to stop a vehicle to investigate crime, you need more than mere suspicion.

But this officer also wanted to check vehicle ownership documents.  You don't need reasonable grounds to suspect that a traffic safety offence is being committed to stop a car.

Courts call this a "dual-purpose" stop. Defence counsel distrust you when, after the fact, you try to justify a stop as a stop for vehicle safety enforcement. If you find something interesting, they will cross-examine you for a long time.

Therefore, when your instincts tingle, and you want to pull over a suspicious vehicle, think about what you're investigating. If you have solid reasons to suspect crime, pull it over. If you don't have solid reasons, consider whether licencing and registration, sobriety and roadworthiness interest you.

If they do, actually investigate those issues. Make inquiries over the radio or the on-board computer (if you have one). Ask questions about that topic.

By the time you encounter drugs or stolen property, it's too late to come up with excuses for stopping the suspect.

2016.09.30 Disclosure - Confidential Sources - Debriefing Reports and Handler's Notes

Sometimes, confidential sources provide good information. Judges issue warrants and authorizations. Police bust bad guys.

Defence counsel then attack the process by which police obtained the warrants and authorizations: did the officer who applied for the warrants and authorizations accurately describe the reliability of the sources, and the information they gave? Should the officer have mentioned other information which tended to undermine the source's credibility or suggested the warrant should not have issued?

To ask that question, defence counsel ask for documents relating to the information that the confidential sources gave: Source handler's notes, source debriefing reports, everything. "Full answer and defence", counsel cried.

Many judges agreed.  But that risks identifying the confidential source. Some judges assumed that redacting the documents would suffice to protect the identities of the informant.

Today, in R. v. McKay, 2016 BCCA 391, BC's top court responded.

No. Defence is not entitled to everything. Only what's relevant to what the officer knew (or should have known) when he or she applied for the warrant.

No. Redaction does not always protect confidential sources. Little bits of information can burn a source.

Defence is still entitled to disclosure when challenging an authorization or warrant, but they need to show why disclosure of the material may assist in showing that the authorization should not have been granted.

This decision solves some problems in BC, particularly for the RCMP's Human Source Unit.

2016.09.28 Wiretap - Who's a "known"?

When you apply for an authorization to listen to private communications, you must identify an offence, and all the persons you "know" whose communications you have reasonable grounds to believe may assist in the investigation of that offence.

Those people are "knowns". You need to identify them in order to intercept their conversations lawfully. And if you knew about them, and failed to identify them in the application, then even if you do intercept their conversations, the court may exclude the recordings from evidence.

So how much do you need to "know" to make a person "known"?

Two separate teams of police investigated what appeared to be two separate schemes to import cocaine from Argentina to Kelowna, BC. The two teams shared some information. There were enough similarities to raise suspicion that they may be related. It turned out that Mr Montgomery, 2016 BCCA 379 and an associate participated in both. The first operation identified them. Wiretap captured their conversations in the second investigation. They complained that the police should have identified them as "knowns" when applying for the authorization in the second investigation.

The court had no difficulty rejecting this argument. "Known" needs to be reasonable belief, not mere suspicion.

But the test remains slightly weird.  You must have reasonable grounds to believe that "probably", listening to this person's conversation "may" assist the investigation of the offence. The court noted at paragraph 92 the prospect of further litigation on this topic.

2016.09.26 Impaired Driving - Taking Breath Tests "As Soon as Practicable"

"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in his hair," Cst Ferguson stopped a car driven by Mr Prestupa, 2016 SKCA 118. Okay, it was prairie, not "desert". And "cool" understates the chill of Saskatchewan in January. A screening device registered a "fail" when Mr Prestupa blew into it. Cst Ferguson read him a breath demand.

That triggered an obligation to test Mr Prestupa's breath "as soon as practicable". Cst Ferguson's police station lay 75 or 80 km away; other police stations were a bit closer. Mr Prestupa asked the officer to let his parents pick up his car, rather than allow it to be towed. Cst Ferguson agreed. They called his parents. Meanwhile, Cst Ferguson called for a breath technician to attend his detachment to test Mr Prestupa's breath. It took a while for the parents to arrive. He left the scene 47 minutes after the initial stop.

Cst Ferguson drove rather quickly back to his detachment. 75 or 80 km in 33 minutes. Hmm.

Mr Prestupa blew 190 & 180mg%.

At trial, Mr Prestupa complained that the officer did not test his breath "as soon as practicable": there were closer police detachments to which they could have gone.

The trial judge agreed, but the appeal courts didn't buy it. The phrase is "as soon as practicable" not "as soon as possible".  And besides, there was no evidence that the other detachments had breath-testing equipment and breath technicians at the ready.

Several ideas emerge from this case:

  1. The phrase "as soon as practicable" means you need to account for how you spend your time after making a breath demand.
  2. The judges did not mind Cst Ferguson's decision to wait for Mr Prestupa's parents to take his car. But beware. If another officer could have watched the car, Cst Ferguson should have started driving.
  3. The judges liked how Cst Ferguson called for a breath technician before departing for the police detachment. "A stitch in time saves nine." A little forethought can save lots of time.
  4. "As soon as practicable" does not mean "as soon as possible". Although the judges noted Cst Ferguson's quick trip back to the police station, I would caution against high-speed driving. In B.C., I don't think s.254(2) of the Criminal Code authorizes police officers to drive at emergency speeds for the purposes of breath testing.  See s.122 of the Motor Vehicle Act, and the associated regulations.
  5. After demanding breath, ask yourself "what can I do to get the breath testing done promptly?" The defence argument in this case failed not because it was okay to take Mr Prestupa to a detachment far away, but because defence did not show that a closer detachment would have tested Mr Prestupa's breath sooner.

Many tasks will slow you down. Impaired driving prosecutions can fall apart if you:

  • Take inadequate notes of symptoms and times
  • Fail to explain legal rights so that the suspect understands
  • Give the suspect inadequate opportunity to exercise them
  • Divert your attention from the suspect, allowing him/her to burp or consume stuff before testing

2016.09.10 Jordan - Right to a Trial within a "Reasonable Time"

Some of you encouraged me to write about the Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27.

It discusses trial delay - the legal wrangling, adjournments and court scheduling conflicts that seem to have no relation to police work.

Why did these police officers care? Because all their hard work will go to waste if the court throws out a case that took too long.

What can police do about delay? Doesn't it all happen at the Crown office and the court house?

There are some things you can do little about. If the government won't pay for prosecutors, judges or courthouses, then delays may mount.

But the courts often blame police for delays. Usually for late disclosure.

Some officers find it difficult to sympathize with this criticism. Collecting, vetting and packaging every little bit of paper, digital information, photograph and video is a colossal chore. It's boring, and the little bits of information that you miss are usually unimportant in the big picture.

If you feel that way, try imagining that you were about to buy a house. An expensive one. You will commit all of your money, and you will sign up for a large mortgage. This purchase decides your finances for the next 20 years. On the day of the deal, the vendor hands you a folder containing 1,000 pages of documents including maintenance receipts and at least 30 reports from property inspectors who examined the house in the last 5 years. Would you sign on the dotted line without reading the folder? At least 30 purchasers paid for property inspections, and walked away without buying this house. Are you sure about this?

That's how defence counsel feels when "new disclosure" shows up just before trial. They don't want to start the trial until they know everything about the case. The diligent defence lawyer will ask for an adjournment. Judges sympathize. They grant the adjournment. And they blame police for failing to provide the disclosure in time for trial.

Clever defence counsel capitalize on this sympathy. I've seen cases where the late disclosure of a single page of trivial information resulted in an adjournment. And the court blamed the delay on the police.

Delays lead to stays of proceedings.

What can you do?

General duty officers

  • Disclose BEFORE trial. If you arrive at court on the day of trial carrying a couple more photographs of the scene, or a page or a statement that was not previously disclosed, you may cause an adjournment. In many cases, that delay could have been avoided if you delivered it to the prosecutor as little as 2 or 3 days before trial.
  • Earlier is better. Like the home-buyer, defence counsel wants time to consider all the evidence. So does Crown. If the charge is laid, and you have more information, don't wait. Disclose promptly.
  • Completeness matters. If you took 7 good photos of the scene and 3 lousy ones, disclose all 10.
  • Completeness matters. It's easy to forget stuff.  Like the fact that security cameras in your police station recorded the actions of the drunk driver that you arrested. He wasn't violent. For a guy who blew 200mg%, he didn't even look all that drunk. Crown and defence need to see this evidence.
  • Completeness matters. What the victim told the 911 operator may include details that she omitted from her statement.
  • Completeness matters. Other officers who participated in this investigation may forget to give you everything they obtained. Ask them.
  • Your availability affects trial dates: make sure that the right people or computer systems know when you can't attend court.

Plainclothes officers

  • Organize your disclosure from the beginning. Your next investigation will start before this one completes. Use a system which guarantees complete disclosure.
  • Organize disclosure from outside your unit. When you call in outside units like identification services or DNA analysis, ask for and track their disclosure to you.
  • Completeness and promptness matters. Neither Crown nor defence want to make deals nor set trial dates until they know what the case is really about. That new file in your queue could distract you from finishing the old one.
  • Your availability affects trial dates too: make sure that the right people or computer systems know when you can't attend court.


  • The bigger the investigation, the bigger the disclosure headache.
  • After the arrest, allow no investigator to escape the team until they have provided complete disclosure of their own.
  • Ensure that sufficient people remain on the team to complete the package to Crown. Likely, there will be more work to do on the file.
  • Revolving file managers guarantees confusion.

Upper Management

  • Big picture - When your people suggest systems and infrastructure to manage disclosure, think big picture. Disclosure problems can destroy good work.

Disclosure ain't the only problem you can fix.

When a warrant issues for an accused, when the charge is laid, or later, make real efforts to find him. And if your first efforts fail, make sure you follow up regularly. If the guy leaves Canada, even failure to pursue extradition promptly can count against the state.

This post is long, but I did not explain the Supreme Court of Canada's decision. I don't think that fine points matter much to police. In a 5:4 split decision, the majority concluded that a judge should generally kill a prosecution if the Crown or court delay it more than 18 months ... unless there's a good explanation.  Cases in superior courts get 30 months. The minority predicted problems with this one-size-fits-all approach. The judges all agreed that delay is a bad thing, and that the prosecution and its partners bear the burden of bringing accused people to trial promptly.

The court breathed new life into the right to a speedy trial. Defence counsel will look for reasons to blame you for delay.

2016.09.09 Impaired Driving - Oops, I forgot to Read the Breath Demand at the Scene

Section 254(3) requires you to make breath demands "as soon as practicable" after you realize that the suspect's ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol.  Some officers arrest the suspect but forget to read the breath demand at the scene. By the time they reach a police station, it's no longer "as soon as practicable".

This case suggests an interesting solution.

Mr Guenter, 2016 ONCA 572 crashed his car into another car, injuring the people in it. He had been drinking. The attending officer got distracted by the chaos of the accident scene. At the scene, he arrested Mr Guenter for impaired driving causing bodily harm, but he only got around to reading the demand at the police station.

Lucky for him, the breath technician had his own way of dealing with things. The breath tech always:

The court found that the investigator's breath demand was not made "as soon as practicable", but the breath technician's demand was. The breath tech learned from the investigator that the suspect drove while impaired, and then promptly demanded breath samples. That (new) demand lawfully required Mr Guenter to blow, even if the first one didn't.

About 2 hours after the crash, Mr Guenter blew 170mg%. The evidence was admitted, and Mr Guenter was convicted.

Does that mean every breath technician should now emulate this breath technician in every case?

I don't think so. Not only must the demand be made as soon as practicable, but you must test the suspect's breath as soon as practicable too. In ordinary cases, where the first breath demand was properly made, defence can argue that making another one wastes time.

If your colleague arrives at the police station, and then remembers to read the breath demand, you can save his or her investigation by asking your colleague for the evidence and information which suggests that this person - within the preceding 3 hours - operated or had the care or control of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol. If the answers satisfy you, you can make the demand "forthwith or as soon as practicable". After your demand, let the suspect speak to counsel again if desired.

Until I read this decision, I would have doubted the lawfulness of this procedure. If you use it, expect prosecutors and defence counsel to challenge your actions. Bring them copy of Guenter, 2016 ONCA 572 to explain yourself.

2016.09.09 Statements of Suspects - Compelled, Elicited or Volunteered?

In some provinces, including Ontario, when drivers crash their cars, legislation requires them to tell police what happened when police ask. But the right to silence means that suspects of crimes can't be compelled to explain their involvement. This case explored the interaction between right to silence, statutory compulsion, and a police officer's duty to hold off eliciting evidence before a detainee got his right to counsel.

Mr Guenter, 2016 ONCA 572 was drunk. His car crashed into another car injuring its occupants. But who drove his car?

The first police officer to attend asked Mr Guenter if he was hurt.  Mr Guenter replied "No. My heart hurts because I feel bad for hitting this vehicle with a family in it."  After an officer arrested him for impaired driving causing bodily harm, he banged his head on the hood of the cruiser. He later blurted out - of his own accord - things like "drank too much J.D.”; “I smoked weed”; “a couple of beers, it’s Christmas". " I made a mistake. I was at a Christmas party. He shouldn’t have turned in front of me."

He also said: "Shoot me in the back of the head.” “Shoot George too. He ran into the bush.” “I should have never let him drive.” At trial, Mr Guenter testified that another guy named George drove the car.

His earlier comments proved he drove. Were they admissible?

His lawyer argued that legislation compelled him to tell the officer about the accident. Therefore, admitting these remarks would violate his right to silence. But the prosecution pointed out that the officer asked about his health, not about the accident. The judges agreed.

His lawyer argued that after the arrest, everything that Mr Guenter said before he got to talk to a lawyer should be excluded. The prosecution responded that after detention or arrest, police must hold off eliciting evidence from the suspect. That's what these officers did. They asked no questions. They weren't trying to get evidence out of him before he spoke with a lawyer. Mr Guenter volunteered these remarks of his own accord. The judges agreed.

Mr Guenter was convicted.

In B.C., the legislation no longer compels drivers to give explanations for accidents to the officers who attend. Before detaining a BC driver at an accident scene, you can ask questions, knowing that the answers won't be excluded from trial.

In other jurisdictions, officers need to gather information from other sources than the driver.

At trial, defence will challenge your version of how these conversations went.

When a detained suspect blurts out information of his or her own accord, the investigating officer rarely has a notebook open and a pen in hand. A subsequent decision dwelt upon the value of contemporaneous audio and/or video recording during these dynamic interactions. I agree, but with caution. Making lots of audio or video recordings means storing, disclosing and transcribing lots of recordings too. It's the way of the future, but I suspect it costs more than most proponents realize.

2016.09.09 Deals with Devils - Accomplices who Rat Each Other Out

Some drug dealers complained to police of a couple of home invasions committed by men with guns.


Police suspected two buddies Keenan and Kelman, both drug dealers and users. One day, when they were both in custody, police made them an offer: lead us to the gun used in the first robbery, and you'll get bail. They accepted the deal, produced a gun, and - with the consent of Crown - they got bail.

A little while later, police told Keenan that he would soon face charges over the first home invasion. Keenan gave a statement. He told police he was the getaway driver. He named Kelman and his friend, Mr McGown, 2016 ONCA 575 as the robbers who entered the house.

All three got charged. Keenan, the rat, pleaded guilty, and made arrangements be sentenced on the basis of his police statement. Kelman also pleaded guilty and got sentenced.  McGown wanted a trial.

At the preliminary inquiry, Keenan testified for the Crown. He gave a new version.  He wasn't the driver, his good buddy Kelman was.  He went into the house with McGown.

Keenan got sentenced as the driver. He even got a reduced sentence because he "cooperated" with the state.

At trial, Keenan testified for the Crown. He was the only witness who could establish that McGown participated. He gave much the same story as he told at the preliminary inquiry. Defence pointed out that his "cooperation" with the Crown involved admitting that he didn't take full responsibility at sentencing for what he did. He was a liar that manipulated the system. That undermined his credibility.

His good buddy Kelman testified for the defence. Kelman agreed that he, Kelman drove the car. Indeed, much of his story matched Keenan's version. But Kelman said that his good buddy McGown wasn't even there. Oh, no. Some other dude he didn't know participated in this crime. A stranger. Some friend of Keenan's.

The judges believed Keenan the rat, not Kelman. McGown went down. But only because other evidence confirmed that Keenan told some truth, and there was no evidence to suggest that Keenan was protecting some third party.

Beware of rats. Their statements sound great. Confirm everything that you can. When these folks reach the court room, their testimony often changes. Sometimes dramatically. Don't offer them special deals, immunity or reduced sentences without Crown's blessing ... and lots of documentation. Because at trial, you will look like a fool if it appears that the rat duped you.

2016.09.08 Limits of General Warrants - Complying with Legislation

Can a judge authorize a police officer to disobey legislation? In Whipple, 2016 ABCA 232, the Alberta Court of Appeal seemed to suggest that a judge may issue a General Warrant which authorizes a police officer to disobey s.10(a) of the Charter. I expressed some discomfort with that notion. Just a few days earlier, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that a General Warrant can not authorize a police officer to disobey s.503 of the Criminal Code. This decision makes more sense to me.

Even though the court held that the officers breached Mr Poirier's, 2016 ONCA 582 rights, you gotta give them some credit for trying to do this one correctly.

Reliable confidential sources told police that Mr Poirier sold drugs. Whenever he wasn't selling, he stored them in his rectum. The investigating officers obtained a general warrant which authorized the officers arrest Mr Poirier and to hold hold him for as long as it took him to defecate all the drugs out, and to watch him and control him so that he did not conceal or destroy the drugs during this vigil.

It took 43 hours.  In stages separated by many hours, Mr Poirier eliminated crystal methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and Dilaudid.  Each time something came out, he told the officers that was everything. And then later, more came out.

Defence complained that this was not a search, but a detention. Section 487.01 - the General Warrant section - empowers a judge to authorize police to "...use any device or investigative technique or procedure or do any thing described in the warrant that would, if not authorized, constitute an unreasonable search or seizure in respect of a person or a person’s property".  The court disagreed: it's a search that takes time because of the passive nature of the searching: the police just watch till nature takes its course.

After an arrest, s.503 requires you to bring your prisoner before a justice "without unreasonable delay" and within 24 hours (unless no justice is available).

Defence complained that s.487.01 does not empower a judge to authorize police to disobey the Criminal Code. The court agreed. Reasonably promptly after the arrest (not at the 24-hour mark), the officers should have brought the prisoner to a justice of the peace, and asked the justice to order that Mr Poirier be detained in their custody to complete their execution of the General Warrant.

But the officers made some other mistakes, which resulted in Mr Poirier's acquittal.  See below...

2016.09.08 Reasonable Search of a Prisoner - Privacy, Comfort and Health

As described above, a judge authorized police to perform a "bedpan vigil" on Mr Poirier, 2016 ONCA 582. Mr Poirier excreted lots of drugs. But there were some problems.

The officers in this case used the General Warrant legislation in a creative way. The court approved. But the officers got distracted by the complications of executing it. Perhaps Mr Poirier was not a congenial guest. It looks like the officers lost track of some basic principles of handling prisoners. We can learn much from this investigation.

2016.09.03 Knocking on the door of the Suspect - the "Implied Invitation"

Will Duval wrote me: "Here's a good suggestion for your website..."

He's right, damn him. I spent many hours thinking about what to write about this difficult case.

In their homes, people enjoy a right of privacy from the government. As a police officer, you can't enter or search people's houses except with lawful authority, such as a warrant, exigent circumstances, or permission from a person who lives there.

But can you knock on the front door?

Long ago, some officers received a tip that Mr Evans, [1996] 1 SCR 8 grew marijuana in his home. Because other investigative approaches failed, they knocked on his door and explained that they were there to investigate a grow at the residence. Oddly enough, when Mr Evans opened the door, they smelled green marijuana, so they arrested him, and took down his grow-op.

All the Supreme Court judges agreed that in the absence of contrary indications, an officer may assume that every resident of a home offers an invitation to people to come and knock on the front door (or ring the doorbell) to communicate with the residents.  But four of the seven judges added a limitation: this "implied invitation" invites only communication, not searches for evidence against the residents. Although these officers wanted to talk to the occupants, they also wanted to sniff the air when the residents opened the door. That intention turned the door-knock into an unconstitutional search.

So, if you suspect someone committed a criminal offence, and you approach his home with the intention of gathering evidence of the criminal offence from a resident there, then you breach his s.8 rights when you knock on the door (and may breach his rights even when you set foot on his front walk).  But you may lawfully knock on the door if all you intend to do is communicate with the resident. You can knock and talk even if you suspect that the resident committed the offence you're there to investigate. You can even talk about the offence.  And if you discover evidence during this conversation, it's all good.  But only if your initial intention was just to talk.

Mr Rogers 2016 SKCA 105 backed his car into another vehicle, causing negligible damage. A witness thought he was drunk, and called the licence plate in to police. An officer went to Mr Rogers' apartment to investigate. When the officer knocked on the door, Mr Rogers opened it.  He looked, sounded and smelled intoxicated. The officer arrested him, and demanded breath samples. Mr Rogers blew 270mg%.

Depending how you look at it, the legal trouble began when the officer knocked on Mr Rogers' door, or it began in court, when the officer answered questions about what he intended to do when the door opened:

So your purpose in attending at Mr. Rogers’ home was to determine whether he had been the person driving, correct?
And more importantly, whether his ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired.
And you would agree that the observation made of a suspected impaired driver’s appearance, demeanour, speech, and actions are critical pieces of investigation in an impaired driving investigation?
Yes. They are what form my grounds.
But going back to my question, you knew that the minute you opened the door you would be able to gather evidence regarding Mr. Rogers.
Not necessarily. The minute he opened the door is when I would start observing to determine whether or not I had ... any grounds.

If the officer's only purpose in knocking had been to speak with the occupant to find out who drove the car, then the knock wasn't a search.  But the Court of Appeal judges agreed that this officer's knock was a search because he intended to secure evidence. And because no judge granted a warrant to the officer permitting him to do that, this was an unlawful search. Evidence excluded. Drunk driver acquitted. The judges explained that they simply followed the law set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Evans.

If you think the legal trouble started with the officer's admission that he was looking for evidence, then your solution to this conundrum would be to lie in court when answering questions about your motives when you knocked on the door. I disapprove. Not only would this be perjury, but any good cross-examiner will reveal it to be perjury. Goodbye career.

I think the legal trouble started at the door, not in the court room.

The court itself noted that in similar circumstances, courts reached the opposite conclusion, for example: Petri, 2003 MBCA 1; Grotheim, 2001 SKCA 116.

After reviewing many similar cases, they commented:

"There are numerous other applications of the implied licence to knock principle from all levels of court. Often, the line between when the police intend to investigate a crime and when they intend to secure evidence in relation to it is not easy to perceive..."

Where's the line? Talking with the residents is okay -- even about the offence.  Knocking on the door in the hope of seeing evidence like symptoms of impairment isn't.

You have a general duty to investigate, but the courts chastise the officer who does try to gather evidence at the door. How do you avoid this problem?

By respecting the privacy of the home. If all you're allowed to do is talk, then you might deliberately limit your ability to see evidence in the residence and smell the breath coming from the suspect.  You might knock, and then move as far back as possible while still being able to talk.  Fully explain why you came, and invite the suspect outside, or ask for permission to enter.

This approach raises two problems:

  1. Tactical disadvantage: an officer who blinds himself to dangers in the residence will one day be blind-sided.
  2. The suspect has control: a cagey drunk will slam the door in your face. Unless you have other leads or lawful authority, your investigation may stop there.

I don't think the law requires police to render themselves vulnerable to attack. At the door of the suspect's residence, keep watching for dangers, and routinely position yourself for safety.

I do think that the law limits your investigation. In some cases, exigent circumstances may justify entering the residence to preserve evidence.

But not in this case. No doubt, with every minute, Mr Rogers' liver was busy removing alcohol from his bloodstream. Definitely, evidence was disappearing. But you can't rely on "exigent circumstances" to enter unless you know that an offence probably occurred. This officer had only reasonable suspicion.

In s.487.11, the Criminal Code permits you, in exigent circumstances, to search for whatever a search warrant will let you find, "if the conditions for obtaining a warrant exist". Search warrants require probable grounds. You can't use this power if you have only a reasonable suspicion. And besides, a search warrant won't authorize you to sniff a suspect's breath nor watch his "appearance, demeanour, speech, and actions".

I do not expect the Supreme Court to clear this up any time soon. In Evans, the court divided 4:3. In the similar case of Feeney, [1997] 2 SCR 13, they divided 5:4. In MacDonald, [2014] 1 SCR 37, 2014 SCC 3, they divided 4:3. In each of these cases, the court considered how a police officer should behave at a suspect's door. In each case, their conclusion conflicted with previous case law.

Thank you, Will Duval, for pointing this case out.

2016.09.03 Evidence offered by Hysterical Witnesses

What evidence could have helped determine whether Mr M.T.L. 2016 YKCA 11 raped his friend's fiancee?

The complainant spent an evening drinking with her friend, Mr M.T.L.. Through the evening, she sent text messages to her fiancee to join them. At the end of the evening she slept at Mr M.T.L.'s place. That's where the sex happened. But did she consent? Afterwards, she sent a text message to her fiancee about the encounter. She went to a hospital, where a doctor found redness and soreness in her genitals. She declined a formal sexual assault exam. After she complained to the police, Mr M.T.L. allegedly sent her a message threatening to commit suicide unless she told everyone that she lied.

The investigating officer never examined her cell phone. According to her, she offered her cell phone, but the police weren't interested. According to the officer, the complainant told him that she was using a "loaner" cell phone which was now wiped and returned to the phone company. No messages remained.

The trial judge convicted Mr M.T.L..  The appeal court ordered a new trial, worrying that perhaps the complainant wasn't reliable.

Cell phones pack a great deal of information these days. In a case such as this, the content of the text messages before and after the incident could probe the complainant's feelings toward her fiancee: if they showed that she loved him that night and wanted him to join them, then she wouldn't likely cheat on him. The timestamps could help determine when the important events occurred.

I can't say from reading the decision what really happened with the cell phone. If the complainant was right, then the cop missed some important evidence. If the cop was right, then the complainant destroyed important evidence.

Lots of complainants have told me over the years that they offered additional evidence to the investigating officer, but the officer wasn't interested. When I asked officers to follow up, I receive mixed results. Sometimes the cop missed key evidence. Sometimes, it's useless information.

It's easy to understand why an officer might discount their ideas. Distressed people often don't think straight, and often express themselves badly. Some are crazy, and some just sound crazy. It takes time and patience to distinguish between the two.

In this case, the completeness of the investigation mattered to the appeal judges. You may be called upon to explain why you didn't follow a specific investigative lead. This case illustrates how important that explanation may become to the final result.

I think of it this way:

  1. Your investigation isn't complete until you have canvassed every reasonably available source of information.
  2. Your report isn't complete until you have documented the whole of the investigation (including the dead ends).

If you ignore a potential source of evidence, someone may ask you why.

2016.08.22 Detention, Arrest, and Inventory Search of a Vehicle

When can you search the contents of a vehicle?

Ontario's courts developed rules around inventory searches, based upon their legislation. The rules in other provinces differs, according to the applicable legislation available to them.

In two decisions, the Ontario Court of Appeal recently reviewed this area of the law.

Late at night, police officers driving an unmarked car watched Mr Dunkley, 2016 ONCA 597 visit a couple of gas stations. He went into the kiosk several times, he bought nothing, he came out. He drove away fast, through a MacDonald's parking lot, as if to shake someone following him. He drove to another gas station, and went into the kiosk. The officers told him to stop and tried to talk to him, but he fled, discarding his keys. He left the car unlocked. (He explained that he thought these plainclothes officers intended him harm; he did not know they were police.) An officer searched it for identification. When he found a firearm, he applied for a search warrant before searching further. The trial judge found that the search for identification was lawful, and even if it wasn't, the officers had authority to do an inventory search when they impounded this abandoned car; they would have found the gun anyway.

The court of appeal disagreed. The officers reasonably suspected that Mr Dunkley was up to no good, but did not have sufficient grounds to arrest him. Reasonable suspicion authorizes you to stop someone, and search for officer safety. But this empty car posed no risk to them. Reasonable belief - that the suspect probably committed crime - permits you to search the suspect and his vicinity for evidence. The court found that the officers' observations did not meet this higher standard.

Finally, the court considered whether the officers could do an inventory search. Section 221 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act permits officers to impound "abandoned" vehicles. But the court observed that nothing about the way this guy parked his car indicated an intention to abandon it. The officers made him run away. This was not an "abandoned" car. Lacking any justification for the search, the court excluded the evidence.

A police officer saw two cars racing. He pursued one of them - an Acura - into a dead-end street. He found it parked in a driveway at a different address than the registered owner. A guy in an oversize white shirt walked away from the vehicle. Another officer found Mr Ellis, 2016 ONCA 598 nearby, wearing an oversize white shirt. Mr Ellis lived at the same address as the registered owner of the vehicle.

Because the computer system flagged Ellis as a gang member, an officer patted him down for weapons. Something in his pocket felt hard. The officer asked him to empty his pockets. Ellis had a cell phone and keys for an Acura. The officer returned them. After discussing these details with the first officer, the second officer arrested Ellis.

Police then searched the car for identification of the driver, and found a handgun.

The court approved of the pat-down search of Mr Ellis. There were grounds to detain, and reason to fear that he might harm a police officer.

The court held that the police lacked authority to search his car as part of the arrest. Although the officers had reasonable grounds to arrest him for "careless driving", the other preconditions for search incidental to arrest did not apply. Mr Ellis had put 50m between himself and the car - it wasn't close enough to be in his vicinity at the moment they arrested him. And there was no reason to believe that searching the car would discover evidence of careless driving.

On the other hand, the court found that this car was "abandoned", because Mr Ellis parked it in a stranger's driveway, in a position likely to block access to vehicles. An inventory search was inevitable, and the police would have found the gun. The court upheld Mr Ellis's conviction.

For Ontario officers who discover a recently-driven vehicle, this pair of decisions sheds a little light on whether it is "abandoned": if the car will be a nuisance to other drivers, then it may be abandoned. If it's parked normally, it may not. But other factors may lead judges to other conclusions.

For all officers, these decisions illustrate the limitations of search incidental to detention and search incidental to arrest. But I would add some cautions. The Ellis case does not establish a 50m limit for the "vicinity" of the arrest. Time also matters. Suppose you pull over a vehicle for an offence, and the suspect flees. If you chase him and catch him 100m from the car and arrest him, I think you can search his car incidental to arrest. But if you find him 30 minutes later, only 25m from the car, you can not.

Both cases emphasized the narrow scope of a search for officer safety. In the Ellis case, the suspect's gang associations justified police fears. The judges liked knowing that the officer who searched for officer safety returned the items immediately. This proved that the officer was not snooping for evidence. In the Dunkley case, they rejected the idea that the officer searched the empty car for officer safety: it posed the police no danger.

2016.08.09 Evading s.10(a) - Lying about why you stopped a target

Even though s.8 of the Charter guarantees everyone's privacy, judges can authorize you to intrude into the privacy of the targets of your criminal investigations.

But can you stop someone without telling them the truth about why? Section 10(a) of the Charter requires you to tell people why you detained or arrested them. But sometimes, you need to withhold the truth. Is there a provision of the Criminal Code which permits this?

Albertan police were investigating Mr Whipple, 2016 ABCA 232 and others for drug transactions. They didn't want their targets to know that a judge granted a wiretap authorization in respect of their communications. From intercepted communications, the officers knew that Mr Whipple would transport methamphetamine. They obtained a General Warrant under s.487.01 to search Mr Whipple's car. That order authorized the police to mislead Mr Whipple - if necessary - as to the reason for stopping him.

The officers actually found Mr Whipple committing a traffic infraction. They didn't need to mislead him about the reason for the traffic stop.  And they did, quite quickly, inform Mr Whipple of the drug search too.

Defence complained anyway.  They pointed out that s.487.01 creates exceptions to s.8 of the Charter, but not to s.10(a). The trial judge agreed, and ruled that the general warrant was invalid.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.

They observed that the general warrant authorized police to search Mr Whipple's car, which is a matter under s.8 of the Charter.  The fact that it authorized police do the search in an unusual way did not invalidate the general warrant.

The way they saw it, the interference with Mr Whipple's s.10(a) rights was necessary to the execution of a justified general warrant.

I dunno.  My gut urges caution. Because s.487.01 only permits police to do what would otherwise be an "unreasonable search or seizure in respect of a person or a person’s property", I still don't think that s.487.01 can be used - by itself - to authorize police to lie to detainees about why they were stopped.

In this case, if there was any authority to permit police to lie about the reason for a detention, I think it came from s.186 - the wiretap provision. If the wiretap operation required ongoing secrecy to achieve its purpose, then a judge exercising the wiretap powers could make a specific order pursuant to s.186(4)(d) ("... such terms and conditions as the judge considers advisable in the public interest") which would protect the secrecy of the authorization.

But I can think of situations in which no existing legislation could help.  Suppose a confidential source tells you that right now, a terrorist is driving to a daycare to blow up children. The source begs you to lie to the suspect about your reason for stopping him. She tells you that his colleagues know what he's going to do today, but only she knew which daycare he decided to hit. You find the suspect's vehicle on the road one block away from the daycare. It commits no traffic violations. Of course you stop the van. What do you tell the driver?

I think you should lie. The suspect has a right, protected by s.10(a) of the Charter, to know why you stopped him. You would violated that right. But the source has a right, protected by s.7 of the Charter, to life.

I think that Parliament should pass legislation by which a judge may authorize a police officer to lie about the reason for a detention. This case illustrates why such legislation makes sense. I also think that there should be an exigent circumstances exception.

I thank Cst. S.D. Smith for bringing this decision to my attention.

2016.08.05 Possession of Data in a Computer - Breadth of Search

Last year, I wrote about this case.  Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada weighed in. Although the court overturned the Alberta Court of Appeal's rulings, my suggestions for police remain the same. I repeat them here, so that you can see why.

Mr Villaroman 2016 SCC 33 brought a Macintosh computer to a computer store for repairs.  Technicians found child pornography in the computer, and called the police. Police seized it, got a warrant and searched it for child pornography. By examining the child pornography files, an expert found reason to believe that someone using the one account on the computer used Limewire - a file sharing program - to download them from the net.  Links in the file system suggested that someone viewed the files too.  The two people who lived with Mr Villaroman did not put the files there.  But was it Mr Villaroman?  The trial judge thought so, and convicted him.  The appeal judges weren't so sure.  The one account had no password. They said.

"If there had been evidence that only the three people lived in the residence, and that the computer never left the home, we might have had less concern. Had there been that evidence and also further evidence that other persons did not come and use the computer, nor use the room where it was located, probably we would not interfere with the conviction. Other possibilities would then be too remote. But there is no such evidence."

The Supreme Court of Canada found that the Court of Appeal erred in their re-assessment of the case by speculating about innocent explanations for the evidence in the computer. But the court also commented that a different trial judge could have acquitted Mr Villaroman based on the same evidence.

Even after reading the trial decisions (2012 ABQB 630, 2013 ABQB 279), I can't be sure I know just how much evidence the investigators actually discovered which linked the accused to the pornography.

It's clear that they sought judicial authority to search the computer for child pornography.

With the benefit of hindsight, I see that searching for probative non-criminal data might have helped.  For example, I don't think they looked for emails with similar date stamps as the pornography.  If Mr Villaroman emailed his friends on the same nights as his computer downloaded child pornography, one may infer he did the downloading.

Can you snoop through the emails?  Only if your warrant authorizes it. In Fearon, 2014 SCC 77, the court emphasized that a lawful searches should pursue only relevant evidence, and they want clarity about the breadth of an officer's search.  Therefore, your ITO should spell out what kind of data you want to snoop through and why it's relevant.  And the warrant should explicitly grant you that authority.

Playing armchair quarterback, I suggest that the investigator in this case could have sought authority "to search emails, stored communications and documents in the computer bearing date stamps close in time to the date stamps associated to the child pornography for evidence of who operated the computer at the times when the child pornography was downloaded, viewed or accessed."

2016.07.19 Search & Seizure - Reasonable Expectation of Privacy - Text messages in Other People's Phones

Mr Winchester bought guns. Legally. 45 guns over 6 months. Police received information that he sold them on the black market, and got search warrants for several places, and got Mr Winchester's cell phone. In it, they found text messages that proved Mr Marakah, 2016 ONCA 542 committed firearms offences. The trial court found that the police violated Mr Winchester's s.8 Charter rights during their search. Mr Marakah asked the trial judge to exclude the text messages from his trial because he still enjoyed an expectation of privacy over them. Even though the police found them in someone else's phone.

The trial judge found that Mr Marakah had no expectation of privacy in the text messages in Mr Winchester's phone. Even though police searched Winchester's phone unlawfully, the court admitted the text messages from the phone into Mr Marakah's trial.

Two out of three appeal court judges agreed with the trial judge. They rejected the reasoning of the BC Court of Appeal in Pelucco, 2015 BCCA 370, which reached the opposite conclusion in a similar situation.

But those Ontario judges didn't say what you wanted them to say: "A person who sends text messages to another person always loses any expectation of privacy in those messages." See para 78. An explicit arrangement or guarantee of confidentiality between sender and recipient may create an enforceable expectation of privacy. But that's the exception in most cases, not the norm.

Therefore, in Ontario, most of the time, the sender of text messages doesn't enjoy an expectation of privacy in them after they arrive in the recipient's phone.

When courts of appeal disagree with each other, the law becomes confused.

Because people use text messaging so much, on phones and other communication technologies, you want clarity.

Because one Ontario judge disagreed, Mr Marakah can, if he wants, require the Supreme Court of Canada to hear his appeal.

2016.07.16 Executing DNA warrants

Take a picture

Why would an officer take DNA samples from a suspect? The answer is easy: to identify the suspect. I suggest that if you do not know the suspect very well, you will want to take a photo of the suspect's face at the same time as you take the samples, so that you can remember whose DNA you got.

In a recent case of mine, a police officer in one city assisted another officer in another city by executing a DNA warrant on the prime suspect. The officer who executed the DNA warrant had no other involvement in the case, and met the suspect for only a few minutes.

Two years later, at trial, the officer couldn't remember the face of the defendant. Considering the purpose of DNA comparison, this tended to defeat the work he did taking the sample. Fortunately, he did take care record information from suspect's driver's licence, and compare the photo on it with the face of the suspect.

Can you take a picture of the person from whom you take the bodily samples? Defence counsel might argue that doing so violates s.8 of the Charter. "If it ain't in the warrant, you can't do it." I observe that the Criminal Code makes no provision for photographing he suspect at the time you take bodily samples. Instead, s.487.07(3) requires you to ensure that the suspect's "privacy is respected in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances".

I think you can. In B.C., the case of Multani, 2002 BCSC 68, the court approved of officers taking photos of drivers they detain for traffic offences, for the purposes of identifying the driver afterwards. I think the same logic applies to the execution of a DNA warrant.

Indeed, I would go further, and suggest that you can video-record the execution of a DNA warrant for the purpose of proving compliance with the terms and conditions of the warrant. Police did this in an old case Kanuma, 2002 BCSC 355

Read the warrant

I learned recently that RCMP recruits learn at Depot how to take bodily samples for DNA analysis. The RCMP here in BC use a kit, which contains a checklist to follow. I suspect that someone trains them to follow the checklist.


Checklists can make junior officers complacent.

When you execute a DNA warrant, your authority comes from the warrant, not the checklist. Read the warrant. If the warrant tells you to something different from the checklist, then obey the warrant.

2016.07.16 "'Ello, 'ello, 'ello. What's all this then?" - Detention at the earliest stage of the investigation

Angel Daley, 2016 ONCA 564 tried to pawn jewellery at Money Mart. Her friend Sharon Stockton, waited outside in Angel's car. The clerk the store noticed that Angel's jewellery resembled stolen jewellery depicted in a recent police flyer, so she called police.

The police who attended tried to figure out whether Angel's jewellery was the stolen jewellery depicted in the flyer. Meanwhile, they wouldn't let her go. Therefore, they "detained" her. For approximately 40 minutes.  Without telling her of her right to counsel.

From her, they learned about her car, waiting outside. An officer spoke with the friend, and saw more jewellery in Ms Stockton's possession that looked like stolen jewellery. He arrested her, searched the car, and found Angel's fentanyl, and a rather nasty knife.

At trial, Ms Daley's lawyer asked the judge to throw out the evidence: 40 minutes of waiting demands an explanation; and detentions trigger rights to counsel. They complained as well of an unlawful search.

The trial judge admitted the evidence, but the appeal court threw it out. Nobody explained why looking at some jewellery took 40 minutes. In the absence of an explanation, the detention was arbitrary. The officer should have given Ms Daley her right to counsel. (The judges agreed that the search was lawful.)

 We all know that you can overlook important evidence when you move too fast. This case suggests that you can also cause trouble by going too slowly while a detained suspect waits. I suspect that the officer stopped Ms Daley from leaving the store, and then slowly and methodically figured out what the problem was. If it looks like a detention will take a significant time, then you should talk to the suspect about lawyers. If it does take a long time, you may need to explain why.

2016.07.13 Production Orders for Stored Text Messages

Over the last several years, judges reached different conclusions on whether you need a production order or wiretap to compel a telephone company to disclose text messages stored in their servers. Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal weighed in. Here's the current list, by province:

I think this issue is now pretty much decided: production order, not wiretap.

Similarly, a search warrant is an appropriate tool to search cell phones for text messages. Desjardins, 2014 QCCS 6790

2016.07.05 Agents - Lawful Justification - Role of Police

Last week, the British Columbia Court of Appeal published a decision it made 6 years ago. R. v. Lising, 2010 BCCA 390. I don't know why it took so long. It remains interesting reading for officers who deal with confidential sources and agents.

For 10 years, Michael Plante collected debts for the Hells Angels. In 2003, after an arrest for extortion, Plante decided to work for the RCMP by infiltrating the Hells Angels. The RCMP paid him handsomely: over $1M over several years. All he had to do was help the police bust the gangsters ... while committing enough crime that the gangsters would continue to trust him.

A cop named Bob Paulson oversaw the project. He saw a problem. The public pays police to prevent crime, but this project involved paying a guy to commit crime. That participation would make the police parties to Plante's crimes. Canadian law requires police to obey the law, not break it. Police officers don't get a mulligan just because they're trying to catch bad guys.

Fortunately, a couple of years earlier, Parliament passed legislation enabling specially-designated officers to authorize a person to do things that would otherwise be crimes. s.25.1.

If you use the legislation, then these acts aren't crimes, so I'll refer to them as "acts".

How does that work?

Investigative plans take time to develop. While working with police, Mr Plante intimidated witnesses, ripped grows, and trafficked in large quantities of drugs and firearms. It took many months for police to prepare a Letter Of Agreement (LOA) which set the ground rules for Mr Plante's immunity from criminal prosecution. (There were several LOAs after that.)

Although s.25.1 and similar provisions in the CDSA justified some of Mr Plante's "acts", others were crimes.

The investigating police were parties to the crimes. Defence applied for a stay of proceedings.

But Bob Paulson did some things the court liked.

The handlers did some things the court liked.

Mr Plante did some things the court liked.

These things resulted in:

Even though the police and Mr Plante did not comply immediately nor completely with s.25.1, the court denied the defence application, and the Hells Angels who were convicted at trial lost their appeal.

And Bob Paulson got a promotion.

Despite its age, I think this decision remains worthwhile reading for police officers. It reminds officers of highest principles: police enforce the law, but are not above the law. This applies as much to traffic cops as organized crime investigators. And it demonstrates practical steps you can take when working with nasty people.

2016.07.04 Search and Seizure - Warrant drafting - Avoiding "Step 6"

A confidential source told police that Mr Reid, 2016 ONCA 524 kept firearms in a specific storage locker. Relying almost entirely on what the source said, police applied for, and obtained, a warrant to search that locker. They found guns. Lots of them. Stolen only a few days earlier.

What the police found suggests that this source enjoyed a position very close to the criminals. Obviously, this source would not want to be identified.

At trial, defence applied to quash the warrant.

As required by the case of R. v. Garofoli, [1990] 2 SCR 1421, the prosecution had to disclose a copy of the original application. Before doing that, the prosecution redacted (deleted) from the application everything that tended to identify the source.

This source was too good - almost everything s/he told the police tended to identify him/her. After redaction, what remained could not justify the issuance of the warrant. Mr Reid would win the application, and beat the charges.

The prosecution moved to Garofoli's "Step 6": the prosecution prepared a summary of the confidential source's information. The summary contained too little detail to identify the source, but just enough to explain why a warrant could issue. The prosecution gave that summary and the original unredacted application to the trial judge, and asked the judge to determine whether the summary fairly explained what the confidential source told police. The judge compared them, and found the summary accurate. The prosecution gave the summary to defence.

Working from the summary, defence complained that the original application failed to spell out what criminal record the source had, whether the source faced outstanding charges, and whether the source had previously given information to a police force. Defence complained this was essential information which the first justice needed in order to decide whether to trust the source and issue the warrant.

These are fair complaints, but they didn't succeed because of the very detailed information this source gave. In other cases these issues may make or break the case. When relying on confidential informants, search for this information, and include it as an appendix. Here's what you can write to achieve this:

I searched for source A's criminal convictions in CPIC [and any other database available to you], and I attach as Appendix A1 the complete list of what I found.

I searched for source A's outstanding charges in [whatever database is available to you], and I attach as Appendix A2 the complete list of what I found.

I investigated source A's past performance in giving information to police. I understand that 7 times in the past 5 years, source A gave police information about criminal activity. Further investigation confirmed the source's information 3 times. The other times, the source's information could neither be confirmed nor contradicted. I attach as Appendix A3 more detailed explanations of the information this source provided, and how further investigation confirmed it.

Naturally, the prosecution will redact the appendices. A1 and A2 tend to identify the source. But what remains in your application shows the trial judge that you disclosed the information which the first judge needed to assess the credibility of your source.

Similarly, you can summarize the source's information in your application, and include the details for the prosecution to redact. Suppose your source says "Yesterday, Mr Reid took me to Vigilant Custodian Storage, opened locker 13 and showed me 45 guns." That information identifies your source. You may summarize it, and include the detail for redaction:

Source A reported that Mr Reid possessed firearms in locker 13 at the premises of Vigilant Custodian Storage within the last 14 days. Source A claimed s/he obtained this information not by gossip, but from her/her own observation or by hearing or overhearing the words of a person who claimed direct knowledge. Specifically, Source A said: "Yesterday, Mr Reid took me to Vigilant Custodian Storage, opened locker 13 and showed me 45 guns."

Plainly, the emphasized portion must be redacted. What remains is true, but does not point so directly to the identity of the source. It leaves open the possibility that the staff at Vigilant Custodian Storage saw the guns, or that they or someone else overheard Mr Reid and the source talking. And the remaining information explains why a warrant should issue to search the locker.

Why should you bother preparing the "step 6" summary when applying for a warrant? After all, the prosecution can do it at trial.

Step 6 is controversial. In Mr Reid's appeal, he tried to argue that it's unconstitutional. Step 6 is tricky to do. If you lay the groundwork when you apply for the warrant, then the prosecution stands a better chance of success at trial.

2016.07.02 Exigent Circumstances Search

A woman called 911. She said she heard her neighbours arguing.  The male threatened to kill the female. The female cried and pleaded, “please don’t kill me.” She heard loud banging and crashing coming from their apartment.

Officers attended, and knocked at the door. No answer. After they knocked more, a woman answered. She refused to open the door. She spoke to someone behind the door, but she told police she was alone.

What would you do?

These officers feared that a man posed the woman serious risk of harm which they felt obliged to prevent.  They sought permission from superiors to break in. Before that occurred, the woman stepped out of the apartment, unharmed. Without her permission, the officers entered and searched. They found Mr Lowes, 2016 ONCA 519 hiding under a bed. They found drugs.

The trial judge excluded all the evidence. He reasoned that the officers could have assured themselves of the woman's safety by questioning her, by questioning the neighbor who made the 911 call or by getting a warrant.

The appeal court ordered a new trial.

The neighbor's information gave reason to fear for the woman's safety.  The woman's apparent lies at the door about who was home gave the officers reason to fear that the man was controlling and directing her.

In my opinion, the trial judge correctly identified an important principle: even in exigent circumstances, where life and limb are at risk, you should not search private places if there are reasonable alternatives by which you can ensure people are safe. But the trial judge's proposed alternatives in this case weren't reasonable. The woman already told lies; questioning her wasn't a good way to ensure her safety. The neighbor was in a poor position to assess the woman's safety. And the officers lacked sufficient grounds to justify any warrant. The appeal court found that entry and search was the reasonable response to the situation.

Therefore, this case provides some guidance for first responders who encounter similar situations all too often.

I particularly liked how these officers sought a second opinion from a senior officer before entering. In the excitement of the first response, it's easy to act without second thoughts.

2016.06.23 Search and Seizure Incidental to Arrest - Genital Swabs & Fingernail Clippings

Courts across Canada disagreed whether police could swab the penis of a man arrested for a recent rape.  This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada swept away the confusion. R. v. Saeed, 2016 SCC 24.

Yes. You can. If:

BUT, the court set guidelines:

  1. Do it at the police station if at all possible;
  2. Protect the health and safety of all involved - gloves and sterile equipment;
  3. Don't act alone - ask a superior officer for authorization;
  4. Tell the suspect what you are going to do, why, and what your authority is;
  5. Let the suspect remove his own clothing and swab his penis himself; or, "if he does not choose this option, the swab should be taken or directed by a trained officer or medical professional, with the minimum of force necessary";
  6. Officers of the same gender as the suspect do the swab "unless the circumstances compel otherwise";
  7. Minimize the number of officers involved;
  8. Do it in a private place where others can't watch;
  9. Don't strip the guy completely naked; expose only what you need to get the job done, and minimize the time during which he is exposed;
  10. Keep a complete record of what you did and why.

These are not rules. I suspect that number 5 may cause difficulty with some suspects. If your suspect won't strip or swab his penis properly, you can help him.

Mistakes other officers have made in other cases include:

Feel squeamish? From my experience prosecuting cases like this, I can see reasons to train officers to do this kind of forensic work:

2016.06.17 Arrest and Detention - Explaining Why - s.10(a)

Dennis Guthrie, 2016 ONCA 466 assaulted someone at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter in Toronto. He hurt the guy badly. Police arrested him that night for "assault causing bodily harm". He didn't seem drunk or high. Police let him speak with a lawyer. Next morning, 11 hours later, an officer interviewed him.  He told the officer that he had no memory of the events of the night before.

At that point the officer said some important things:

This decision is very short and to the point.  An easy read.

Lessons to draw from it:

2016.06.11 Disclosure - Liability

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana 1906.

Ivan Henry 2016 BCSC 1038 recently received an award of $8M. He spent 27 years in jail for rapes he probably didn't commit. This decision explores what went wrong.

In 1980-1982, police investigated around 20 similar sexual assaults. Mr Henry's ex-wife told police that she suspected Mr Henry. Police assembled a live line-up to which a group of complainants attended.  One of them gave a qualified identification of Mr Henry.

Mr Henry, who suffered mental disorder, fired the lawyers he retained. He represented himself - poorly - at trial, and the jury convicted him.

Years later, prosecutors noticed a striking similarity between his charges and and other offences committed around the same time by a guy named McRae. A review led to the conclusion that the evidence suggested Mr Henry didn't commit the crimes for which he was convicted.

Although there were problems with the police investigations too, the bulk of the blame for this wrongful conviction fell on the prosecutor, who failed to disclose investigative materials to defence.

What relevance do prosecutorial mistakes made 35 years ago have to current police practice?  More than you might first expect.

Cross-referencing similar files might have discovered Mr McRae earlier, and taken suspicion away from Mr Henry. Collecting, organizing and assessing relevant information was a problem then. It's still a problem today.

The methods of conducting lineups described in the decision may seem antique to you, but complacency about our methods today will lead you astray. Even today, some officers still tell eyewitnesses after the photo-lineup whether they got the identification "right".  Even today, we see photopacks containing images of the suspect which differ markedly from the other faces.

2016.06.01 Warrants - Night Search - Arresting the Occupants

A junior officer made a common mistake. A senior officer's experience saved the day. Understanding the principles involved could help your next case.

A storage locker facility renovated, and discovered that one of their lockers contained a bunch of firearms. So they called police. Police got a search warrant and found 4,000 rounds of ammunition and 1.5 kg of ecstasy in the locker along with a machine gun, an assault rifle, and sawed-off shotgun and 7 other pieces.

The junior officer drafted an application to search the residence of the person who rented the locker. He didn't think he had grounds to believe that the residence contained firearms, so the warrant asked only for authority to search for keys and documents of ownership. He got started in the morning, but didn't finish until shortly before 9:00pm.

He forgot to ask the justice for permission to search the residence "at night".

The justice signed the warrant at 9:02pm, but it did not specifically permit police to search by night.

The junior officer radioed the rest of the team, which was watching the residence.  The senior officer watched the woman who rented the storage locker leave her apartment with a man. The officer knew little about the woman, but he knew a great deal about Mr Robinson, 2016 ONCA 402, the man with her.  Mr Robinson embraced and kissed her.  The officer knew Mr Robinson to be a "player" in the local criminal underworld, a man who dealt with guns and violence. The senior officer knew who dealt in guns often kept some in their residences.

The senior officer ordered the arrest of Mr Robinson for possessing firearms. On his person, they found keys to the storage locker and the apartment. That night, they found guns and drugs in the apartment.

Defence complained that the police had no authority to search at night. The judge agreed. Night starts at 9:00pm. Police officers shouldn't execute regular search warrants at night without specific judicial authority. s.488.

Defence complained that police had no authority to arrest Mr Robinson: If the junior officer didn't have grounds to believe that there were guns in the apartment, then the senior officer had no grounds to arrest him for possessing firearms.

The judges disagreed. The logic here matters:

  1. A search warrant does NOT authorize any arrests.  A search warrant authorizes searching. If you want to arrest someone associated to the place you search, you must know for yourself why you think the person probably committed an offence.
  2. The junior officer didn't believe the apartment contained firearms. He didn't have enough information to reach that conclusion. But the senior officer had more information than the junior officer. He saw the association between the renter of the locker and the known gun dealer. From that he could infer that the gun dealer controlled the guns, and was in actual or constructive possession of the firearms.  He could arrest Robinson.

The senior officer testified that he thought the warrant authorized a search for firearms. He was very surprised that the junior officer did not ask the justice for authority to search for guns. The senior officer would have identified firearms as the first thing to look for in the apartment.

I don't think this reflects badly on the junior officer. Although he suspected guns would be in the apartment, he didn't think he could say that it probably contained them. When applying for a warrant, you shouldn't ask for authority to search for things you hope to find unless you think it probable that you will find them.

The senior officer made a quick decision to arrest Mr Robinson. It was the right decision because he knew the underlying investigative facts.

At the time of the arrest, the senior officer didn't know what the warrant authorized. From the judgment, it appears that defence counsel suggested this fact mattered. I disagree. The practicalities of getting the warrant from the justice to the scene prevented the senior officer from reviewing the warrant at the time of arrest. That didn't matter ... as long as the senior officer knew the underlying investigative facts, he would actually have reasonable grounds to arrest.

But communicating the contents of the search warrant to the scene does matter. Members of the search team needed to know what searching the warrant authorizes. Bringing a copy of the warrant to the scene does matter. Section 29 requires you to do so "where feasible", and to show it to people who want to see it.

The judge forgave the night search as an inadvertent error. The judge convicted Mr Robinson of possession of firearms and drugs in the apartment. The judge acquitted him of the guns at the storage locker because the evidence wasn't clear which locker the guns and drugs came from.

In conclusion:

  1. Never arrest someone just because you have a warrant to search their place.
  2. Arrest if you have grounds.
  3. Night starts at 9:00pm. Warrants under s.487 require separate justification.
  4. Officers on teams that execute search warrants should know what the ITO says.
  5. Bring the warrant to the scene.
  6. Officers who search should read it.

2016.05.27 Hard Arrest & Isolating the Prisoner

Police received a tip that marijuana grew inside a house at 24 St. Claire Avenue. Hydro records tended to confirm it, but those records identified the house at 21 St. Claire Avenue as equally suspicious. Both houses smelled of weed. FLIR showed strange heat patterns coming from both.

Just before executing search warrants for the two residences, officers saw Ms Pino, 2016 ONCA 389 carry a box from number 21 St Claire Avenue. She put it in the trunk of her car and drove away. They followed her. She drove to Value Village, where she got into the passenger seat, and a man took the wheel.

Two officers arrested Ms Pino and her companion. One officer drove an unmarked car. He wore black clothes and a black mask over his face. Only a police vest identified him.

The box contained 50 clones.

To prevent Ms Pino from tipping off her neighbors or others who might destroy evidence, the officers did not permit her to call a lawyer until after the search. It uncovered a large grow operation in her house.

At trial Ms Pino complained of excessive force used during the arrest. She and her friend testified that the masked officer drew his gun and pointed it at her. He terrified them unnecessarily.

The masked officer denied drawing his gun. The other officer "couldn't remember" whether or not his partner drew a gun.

The judge believed the defendants over the officers.

Ms Pino complained that police did not properly advise her of her right to counsel. The arresting officer recited the s.10(b) warning for memory at the scene because he didn't bring his duty book, which contained the standard card. At court he could not remember the wording.

Ms Pino complained of unnecessary delay after the search in permitting her to speak with a lawyer. The search started at about 3:30pm, but she didn't get to talk to a lawyer until 6:40pm (when most lawyers have left their offices). Once the police arrived at St Claire Avenue with all the vehicles and people necessary for the searches, there was no longer any point in keeping the investigation secret.

Although the trial judge admitted the evidence, the court of appeal found there were too many serious breaches of Charter rights, and excluded it. Guilty as she was, Ms Pino beat all the charges.

The full truth about this investigation can not be determined from reading the decision. Maybe the defendant lied to beat the charges. Maybe the officer never drew his gun. If so:

Maybe the officer did draw his gun. If so, then:

Aside from use of force, the arresting officer garbled his recitation of Charter rights in the court room. If you're gonna explain the rights by memory, then make sure you can always recite them accurately.

And finally, giving your prisoner prompt access to counsel always matters. You can suspend access to counsel if you fear that the prisoner will foil a police investigation.  But after you enter the property, it's time to let prisoners call their lawyers.


2016.05.17 Investigative Detention - How Long can you Hold a Suspect in Investigative Detention?

Doherty J.A. didn't like what the police did after they stopped Mr McGuffie, 2016 ONCA 365. Doherty is a respected judge whose words will inspire defence lawyers to criticize lengthy investigative detentions. This decision is worth reading.

Someone told police that a group of men down at the bar were passing a handgun around. When officers attended to investigate, bouncers pointed out Mr McGuffie, who was walking away in a hurry as one of the group.

An officer stopped him. And handcuffed him. And patted him down. The officer found nothing at that stage, but put him in a police car with another police officer, pending further investigation. The officer said nothing about access to lawyers.

It wasn't a very good pat-down search. Half an hour later, the officer searched him again. This time, he found a package of cocaine, for which the officer arrested him. Mr McGuffie said he wanted to speak to a lawyer. Half an hour later, the officer took him to the police station - several blocks away, where he arranged for a strip-search. By this time, other officers had already found the gun they were looking for. They found more drugs in his clothes and between his buttocks. After the strip-search, Mr McGuffie finally got to talk to a lawyer.

The judges agreed that the officer had sufficient reason to detain Mr McGuffie, but criticized him for not advising Mr McGuffie that he could talk to a lawyer. The judges agreed that the concerns about firearms justified the initial pat-down search.

But they didn't like what followed.

They didn't like the half-hour of sitting around. They didn't like the hour that passed before Mr McGuffie got access to counsel. They didn't like the second search. If it was really for officer safety, why was it okay to leave him in the police car with an officer for half an hour?

It's easy to see how events distracted the main officer in this case. When he first arrived on scene, he probably felt pressed for time. He wanted to secure one suspect, and then make sure others did not escape the area. He likely gave the initial safety search short shrift, figuring he could return to Mr McGuffie later. And then he got busy with other matters.

But constitutional rights are assessed from the perspective of the claimant. When the handcuffs clicked around Mr McGuffie's wrists, he couldn't go anywhere. He was detained, and he knew it. Section 10(b) says that on detention, he has the right to counsel "without delay". But he didn't get to speak to a lawyer for over an hour.

Police may search a detainee for officer safety. The first search was okay. But the second one looked an awful lot like a search for evidence. And until you have grounds to arrest, you can't a detainee search for evidence of crime.

It's easy for first-responders to fall into the traps that caught this officer. For that reason, it's worth discussing. How would you avoid the pitfalls?

2016.05.08 Group Attacks - Who Done the Damage?

The bouncers didn't like Mr Ukwu. After they threw him out of the bar, one bouncer, Mr Taing knocked him down with a punch. Mr Ukwu got up, and then the other bouncer, Mr Brouillard, 2016 ONCA 342 knocked him down again. He stayed down, because this time his head hit a curb. He suffered life-changing head injuries.

Sure, Mr Brouillard could be convicted of aggravated assault.

What about Mr Taing? His punch didn't cause the head injury.

Yup: Mr Taing was also guilty of aggravated assault. But only because he acted in concert with Mr Brouillard.

When a mob attacks, the evidence often fails to identify who caused the injury or death. If you can't find that evidence, look for evidence which determines whether they acted together.

2016.05.02 Reasonable Grounds and Confidential Sources

Was the information three confidential sources gave police sufficient to justify arresting Mr Dhillon, 2016 ONCA 308? Judging whether you have reasonable grounds for an arrest based on confidential source information requires a gut feeling for what judges will do. This case helps.

All three confidential sources told police officers that Mr Dhillon dealt drugs. Two told police that they bought drugs from him. None had given information to police before; but none were anonymous.

Police watched Mr Dhillon, and saw him meet several people for short periods of time. When they attempted to arrest one of his visitors, that person fled. That guy carried $3,000 when they caught him.

Fearing that word of that arrest would get back to Mr Dhillon, police arrested Mr Dhillon.

Did they jump the gun?

Defence attacked the independence of the confidential sources: did police know that the sources were all different people?


The officer who decided to arrest Mr Dhillon knew that two sources were different people, but couldn't be sure that the last one was not the same person speaking to two different officers.

Defence suggested a conspiracy: at the time of deciding to arrest Mr Dhillon, could the officer be sure that the sources did not make up a story together just to get Mr Dhillon into trouble?

Officers handling these sources told them that giving false or exaggerated information would result in non-payment, or even criminal charges. They dealt with these sources personally.

The defence arguments persuaded the trial judge, but not the appeal court.

This decision highlights communications between source handlers and the officers who rely on source information. Independence of sources, and their personal knowledge took the appeal court half of the way to the point of finding that there were reasonable grounds for the arrest. Confirmation by way of observing suspicious transactions carried them the rest of the way.

2016.04.27 Voluntariness and Confessions - What the Judge may Think

Police arrested Mr Donard, 2015 SKCA 83, and told him they were investigating him for an aggravated assault. But the officers also asked him about some rumours going around that Mr Donard murdered someone named Yooya.

The officer who interviewed him suggested that a judge would want him to be truthful and if Mr. Donard told the truth, he might not have to sit in jail as long.

That's a problem. Judges don't like it if you link the idea of confessing to the hope that the justice system will give the suspect a break. It puts unfair pressure on the suspect. Don't raise that idea yourself. If the suspect asks, avoid it. "I can't tell you how a judge is going to feel, or what a judge is going to do."

After that conversation, Mr Donard admitted killing Yooya. The officer immediately arrested him for murder, and told him his Charter rights. But the officer did not tell him the secondary warning.

Mr Donard made several more statements about killing Yooya.  The trial judge found most of them inadmissible.

If you arrest someone for an offence, and you want to investigate him for another offence as well, you should mention both offences when offering him access to counsel. "Jimmie: I'm arresting you for aggravated assault, but I'm also investigating the disappearance of Mr Yooya, and I suspect you might be involved. You have the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay..."

If an interviewing officer does stray into linking confession with lenience in the court room (or maintaining silence will aggravate the judge), then as soon as possible, someone needs to give the suspect the secondary warning.

The big problem for you is how to start afresh without tainting the second statement with anything discussed in the first statement.  If you identify the improper inducement, you may re-emphasize it. It's better if a different officer takes over, and starts afresh. Read the secondary warning, but discuss it too. "Jimmie: Cst Mistake made a mistake in his interview.  Everything you told him before is off the table. I'm starting fresh. I don't know what you told Cst Smith, but anything he told you, anything you guys talked about, it's off the table. If he said anything that made you think you should tell police officers about what happened to Mr Yooya, just ignore what he said."

Really start afresh. Do not refer to admissions obtained in the earlier statement (unless they arose before any improper inducement).

In Mr Donard's case, the police arrested Mr Donard a month later for the murder. They gave him an extensive opportunity to consult with counsel. He gave a further confession. The court admitted the last statement into evidence, but not the earlier ones.

2016.04.23 Search & Seizure - Exposing your Sneaking and Peeking

Informants and tipsters told police that Mr Coderre, 2016 ONCA 276 dealt drugs from his residence. But when would the drugs be there? Instead of simply knocking on the door and searching the place, the officers got a general warrant which permitted them to sneak in and snoop about, without telling him. The case doesn't say why they needed such permission, but I suspect that they wanted to arrest him when he actually possessed drugs.

Section 487.01(5.1) requires "sneak and peek" warrants to include a notice requirement. The judge must order the officers to return later, and inform the person whose privacy they violated about what they did.

This sneek-and-peek order properly included a notice provision.  It required the officers to tell Mr Coderre about their covert entry into his house. They had 6 months.

The officers didn't find drugs when they snuck in. But their source information made them pretty sure they would catch him some time soon.

Around 6 months later, they got more information.

What should you do? If they told Mr Coderre about the first search, then he'd make sure they never caught him.

Days after the 6-month mark, these officers applied for a new search warrant. In the ITO they explained that they had failed to comply with the notice requirement. And they asked for permission to search his place again.

They got it. They searched. They found drugs. They busted him.

At trial, he complained that they breached his Charter rights by failing to comply with the notice requirement.

The court agreed.  But the judges liked how honest the police were about this. The evidence went in anyway.

Don't expect they'll always forgive this breach.

If you have a deadline, diarize it, and make sure get the notice done before the deadline.

What if you find yourself in the same position position as these officers? Giving notice would wreck your ongoing investigation. One thing these officers did right was to confess their mistake right away. That honesty paid. There's another solution: apply to court for an extension on the deadline for notice.

And that's where a little planning could save you some grief. If you're drafting a "sneak-and-peek" warrant, you might want to slip a little extra language into the terms and conditions:

Subject to further order of this court, the peace officers who execute this warrant shall, no later than (date), notify (names of persons whose privacy will be affected) of the warrant and its execution.

Those magic words turn an application for an extension into something the original judge contemplated and permitted.

2016.04.13 Search & Seizure - How to "Fix" Broken Warrants

Officers investigating internet luring needed a warrant to get Mr Craig's 2016 BCCA 154 information from Nexopia's servers in Alberta. Although the ITO properly identified the username of the account of interest, the draft warrant misspelled it. The judge granted the warrant.

A police officer learned of the problem and asked Nexopia to produce information using the correct username. Another officer added words to the warrant, so that Nexopia would search not only their servers but also "compact discs or digital video discs (DVD) containing" the interesting data.

That was a problem.

As a peace officer, you have no authority to change a judicial order. If judge orders the wrong search, then get a judge to fix the order.

The officers' "little" corrections led to problems.

2016.04.13 Search & Seizure - Reasonable Expectation of Privacy - Private electronic communications

Mr Craig 2016 BCCA 154 sent Nexopia messages to a 13-year old girl. She said they met once. Then his messages became more sexual. The second time they met, he had sex with her knowing she was underage. Eventually, word of this reached police, who sought warrants to get data from his Nexopia account ... and her account, as well as the Nexopia accounts of two of her girlfriends.

As set out above, there was a problem with the warrant.

After charges were laid, the prosecutor tried to circumvent the problem. Rather than relying on the messages from Mr Craig's account, the prosecution relied only on the messages from the girls' accounts. The prosecutor argued that Mr Craig could complain about unlawful searches of his data, but he can't complain about the unlawful searches of other people's data.

It worked at trial, but the Court of Appeal disagreed.

In a fully considered judgment which I expect will re-appear in the future, the court concluded that Mr Craig enjoyed an "expectation of privacy" in the messages he sent to the three girls, even if the police got that data by searching the girls' accounts.

How can this be?

The court explained that Mr Craig knew that only the girls would receive the messages he sent. He knew that everyone on Nexopia had password-secured accounts. Therefore, he reasonably expected that he enjoyed privacy in the messages, even after they arrived at their destination accounts. He could expect that the government would require warrants (or other lawful authority) to get at the messages he sent.

The court gave a preview of these conclusions in a case I mentioned last year: Pelucco, 2015 BCCA 370. In that case, the police searched a drug dealer named Guray pursuant to an illegal arrest. They found text messages from Pelucco on Guray's phone which suggested that Mr Pelucco was selling him large quantities of drugs. Using Guray's phone, police communicated with Pelucco, and used the messages they received to bust him. At that trial, defence complained of the illegal search of Mr Guray's phone. The prosecution argued that Mr Pelucco enjoyed no expectation of privacy in text messages he sent to another person's phone therefore he had no standing to complain of the police search of that phone. The court found otherwise.

What does this mean for police in B.C.? If some witness or victim received messages by some private communication system (text message, email, private Facebook conversation) from the target of your investigation, then you need lawful authority to get those messages from the victim's account

In my opinion, "lawful authority" may come from the informed and voluntary consent of the account holder. Or a warrant.  Or even a search pursuant to exigent circumstances. Others disagree.

In murder cases, unless you obtain consent from the victim's lawful heirs, this suggests that you need a warrant to search the deceased's computer or cell phone for messages from the suspect.

What about police in other provinces? I can't predict what your courts will do. I can say that getting consents and warrants for this kind of information will protect your investigations against arguments of this sort.

2016.04.13 Search & Seizure - Report to A Justice

The officers who investigated Mr Craig 2016 BCCA 154 used a warrant to get data about him from Nexopia. They forgot entirely to report to a justice what they got.

The court concluded that this breached Mr Craig's rights.

Unfortunately for Mr Craig, despite finding all these breaches of his rights, the court concluded that the evidence against him should be admitted into trial anyway.

Don't gamble on your investigations. Report what you seize to a justice. Get into the habit of completing Form 5.2.

The new production order section could have saved them some embarrassment. See 487.0192(4).

2016.04.09 Inventory Searches

Under some motor vehicle legislation, when you impound a vehicle, you have the authority to conduct an inventory. The law permits police to do this to protect officers and police forces from civil liability.

An officer found Mr Harflett, 2016 ONCA 248 driving without a valid licence. He needed to pay some fines, and he could drive again. The traffic stop occurred on a busy highway. The officer arranged to tow Mr Harflett's vehicle to a hotel. Mr Harflett would pay his fines, and then be free to drive away. But before the tow-truck driver hauled the car away, the officer did an inventory search.

That's how he found the "large quantity" of marijuana.

The officer testified that he "always" did "an inventory", and claimed this was not a "search".

The trial judge bought this explanation, but the court of appeal did not. The officer did not impound the vehicle. Mr Harflett was going to stay with it all the way to the hotel. The officer had no need to make an inventory of its contents.

"... the power to detain an individual under the HTA does not inevitably include the power to detain or impound a vehicle, nor does it include the power to conduct an inventory search in every situation."

Calling a search an "inventory" won't make it legal unless it's really an inventory search.  You need:

Using "inventory search" as an excuse to snoop through a suspect's vehicle violates the suspect's s.8 Charter rights.

2016.04.05 Arson Investigation - Circumstantial Cases

Most arsons are hard to prove. Often, the arsonist hopes to recover money from insurance policies, and therefore plans and executes the crime.

Ms Nguyen, 2016 BCCA 133 ran a nail salon in rented premises. The trial judge found her guilty of setting it on fire. The appeal court found no error. Let's see what the investigators did right:

I suspect that these investigators did a good deal more work than the points identified in the decision.

Arson investigation takes imagination, luck and diligence. Arson arises rarely enough that most investigators don't get to learn on the job; but arson occurs often enough to defeat investigators who lack training or experience. Therefore, it may be worth investing some time preparing for the next arson investigation.

2016.04.01 Too Much Evidence, or Not Enough?

Somebody stabbed Ricardo Kelly to death in an apartment building hallway.


Security video recorded who went where in many parts of the building. Investigators obtained lots of it.

Kelly's girlfriend saw the assailant, but didn't get a very good look. She gave several statements which described the assailant. Months after the killing, investigators showed her security video recordings of the four most likely suspects. She rejected two of them because she knew them. She picked one of the other two, Mr McCracken, 2016 ONCA 228 as the assailant. 

Some might think that her identification solved the case. But it was fraught with problems. Her initial descriptions of the assailant differed from the man she picked. One wore a hat, the other didn't. Watching the video did not put her in a position of identifying a person she recognized. Instead, she identified the most suspicious person. And furthermore, before seeing the video people in the apartment told her things which might have caused her to choose McCracken, whether he was guilty or not.

However, careful analysis of the video and phone records led to strong circumstantial evidence which independently supported this identification. Mr McCracken's conviction withstood review on appeal.

The victim, Mr Kelly, sold marijuana in the building. Someone in apartment 1610 called him for a dime bag. A Mr Stevens, who frequented that suite, agreed that he made the call. But when Mr Kelly failed to turn up, Mr Stevens never called back.  Why not?  Perhaps because he knew what happened.

Phone records established a close relationship between McCracken and the people in apartment 1610. The security video put Mr McCracken in or near apartment 1610, along with the other suspect. And the other suspect had a beef with the victim.

The other suspect didn't look at all like the assailant.  That left only McCracken.

Courts do not trust eyewitness identification of strangers, particularly from events as frightening as this one. Therefore, these investigators wisely searched for other ways to identify the assailant. The security video established more than who was in the hallway at the key moment. Because the officers secured more video than the just the killing, it told them what the relationships were between the various people in the apartment building.

Telephone records established more than who called for the drugs. Mr Stevens, for example, denied knowing Mr McCracken. But his telephone records showed that Mr McCracken called him 4 times that day.

When you apply for a production order or search warrant you must collect only information relevant to an offence. However, the relationships between key players in an offence may prove important. And evidence of relationship may occur long before, and even after the incident you investigate.

A warrant which seeks unnecessary information is overbroad. A warrant which seeks too little may leave you without the background evidence.  How do you balance this?

As the next case suggests, you can sometimes focus your requests.  Do you want all phone calls made by the suspect's phone in the month prior? Perhaps that's too broad.  Maybe you want all phone calls between the suspect, and people who live in the apartment over that time frame.

If you need a warrant to obtain security video, how much of it can you say is probably relevant?  If you ask for video which shows only the short time around the attack, you will miss video which shows relationships between the parties in the days or weeks prior to the attack. Do you have reason to believe that identifying relationships will solve the case? If so, you can ask for more video.

One other thing emerged from this decision: the police audio-recorded the eyewitness as she reviewed the hallway video. But they did not video-record her. That hampered review of what occurred. If court can't see the security video at the moment that the witness exclaims "that's him", then the court doesn't see who the witness identified. If you're going to show security videos to an important witness for the purposes of identification, try to set it up as much like a photo lineup as possible. Videorecord the process if possible.

2016.03.26 Production Orders - Cell Tower Dumps and Database Dumps

In cities, cell towers serve tens and even hundreds of thousands of people each day. Cell phone companies record which phones used their towers. Those people enjoy some expectation of privacy over their locations.

Some investigations rely on combing through all the cell tower information. For example, in the Mahmood 2011 ONCA 693 case, robbers with guns stole $500,000 worth of product from a jewellery store. Without much to go on, police got a warrant for a dump of records of cell towers in the area. Later investigation led them to a phone that they could connect to the purchase of a disguise used in the robbery. And that led them to the robbers and some of the jewels. In that case, the court found that the police violated s.8 by asking for too much information.

Rogers Communications, 2016 ONSC 70 complained to court about production orders police sought for the purpose of investigating a string of jewellery store robberies. The officers wanted all the records from the towers nearest stores for the days of the robberies. Around 40-50 towers. And the police wanted the subscriber information for every caller. And billing information, including credit card numbers.

That's a lot of data.

Nothing in the orders indicated how the subscribers' privacy would be protected.

The court identified some principles.

Minimal intrusion - you should seek orders which intrude only as much into other people's privacy as you need to get the job done. In this case the officers didn't need the billing information until they found a phone of interest.

Incrementalism - rather than demanding everything that could eventually be useful, request information step-wise, so as to minimize the violation of privacy. For example, officers may have been able to narrow their investigation significantly by examining the cell phone numbers first. When they found a couple of phones of interest, they could then seek an order requiring the phone company to identify the subscribers of only those phones.

The court made seven suggestions for officers who apply for orders which affect the privacy of lots of people:

  1. An application should explicitly assert that the officer understands the principles of incrementalism and minimal intrusion and has tailored the requested order with that in mind. (And if you don't build your investigation that way, you'll get crucified at trial.)
  2. Your application should explain why all the towers and date ranges are relevant to the investigation. "This obviously flows from what is now the s. 487.014(2)(b) Criminal Code requirement that there be reasonable grounds to believe that the documents or data requested will afford evidence respecting the commission of the offence."
  3. For the same reason, your application should explain why you need all the types of records you seek. Do you really need all that banking and credit card information?
  4. Narrow your search to match the information you have. For example, if the evidence indicates that a robber made a series of calls lasting less than one minute this detail might permit the target of the order to narrow the search and reduce the number of records to be produced.
  5. Instead of demanding all the records, and sifting through them yourself, ask for an order which requires the phone company to collect the records and sift through them, and issue you a report of what they found. "For example, in this case a report on which telephone numbers utilized towers proximate to multiple robbery locations would contain identifying information concerning only a small number of robbery suspects and not the personal information of more than 40,000 subscribers which the Production Orders sought."
  6. If you need the raw data instead of a report, explain why.
  7. Confirmation that the types and amounts of data that are requested can be meaningfully reviewed. Spell out what kind of data you expect to get, and how you plan to make use of it.

Counsel for a phone company suggested that if you do obtain vast quantities of data from cell phone dumps, that you should soon destroy what you determine to be irrelevant.


If you do that, defence may complain that the records you destroyed may contain the very data required to establish an alibi, or otherwise defend the case.

Do not take this decision as gospel. It is a trial-level decision. Appeal courts tend to give more authoritative answers. The only parties were the police, the Crown and the phone company. Nobody to represent the defence interest.

But these seven ideas have legs. Don't ignore them.

2016.03.26 Search & Seizure - Officer Safety

How much can you search to protect yourself?

I noticed this case last summer. I should have commented on it then. Better late than never.

Police officers attended an apartment in response to a 911 call. The dispatcher told the attending officers that a neighbor called in the complaint. A domestic. The woman was crying and screaming "stop hitting me".

A woman came to the door. Police entered.  Mr Ahmed-Kadir, 2015 BCCA 346 emerged from the bedroom. An officer arrested him for assault. Another officer walked through the apartment, and saw nothing of concern.

After 15 minutes, one officer noticed drugs on top of the refrigerator. Then she realized that she stood with her back to a closet that nobody had checked for people. She looked inside. It was full of shelves - no room for a person to hide. But a shopping bag sat on one shelf. An officer looked in the bag and found a handgun.

The officer who looked in the closet said she was looking for people, and for officer safety.

The court excluded the gun from evidence.

On entry, the officers were entitled to look around for people, for officer safety. The officers knew only of a man and a woman; and they found a man and a woman. The judges didn't think, after 15 minutes, that the officers had reasonable grounds to fear that another person might be hiding in the closet, nor that the person would pose them any danger. And the bag on the shelf posed no obvious danger either.

They judges did not complain about the the drug seizure, the drugs were plainly visible.

The lessons to draw are simple and obvious:

  1. When you "clear a residence", you need to be able to give reasons why you needed to walk through it.
  2. Safety of victims and officers can give you reasons; but you need to be able to identify why, in each situation, those concerns arose.
  3. If you need to search for officer safety, do it properly, right away.
  4. If you do a haphazard job in the beginning, you expose yourself to unnecessary dangers.
  5. If you wait too long to search a residence "for officer safety", it will look like a search for evidence, which in many situations be unlawful.

2016.03.21 Right to Counsel - Counsel of Choice

After you demand breath samples from a driver pursuant to s.254(3) of the Criminal Code, you must test his breath "as soon as practicable". No sitting around waiting.

However, for the purposes of s.10 of the Charter the demand "detains" the driver. The driver enjoys the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay, including the right to seek advice from any counsel of choice that may be reasonably available.

An officer made such a demand on Mr Vernon, 2015 ONSC 3943 at 6:45pm on a Sunday evening. They reached the police station at 7:23pm. Mr Vernon said he wanted to talk to a particular lawyer. At 7:30pm, the investigating officer called that lawyer, but one minute later, unbidden, he placed a call to Legal Aid. The duty lawyer called back at 7:44pm, and Mr Vernon spent 12 minutes getting advice from him.  At the time, he expressed no complaint about the quality of legal advice.

He waited until the trial to complain.  There he said that he would rather have spoken with his own lawyer.

The trial judge agreed that the police breached his right to counsel.  So did the summary conviction appeal court and the Court of Appeal.

The judges agreed that the officer should have told Mr Vernon that he "had a right to wait a reasonable amount of time for his counsel of choice to call back."

This puts you in a difficult situation. If you wait too long, then you fail to take the breath samples "as soon as practicable". If you don't wait long enough, then you fail to respect the driver's right to counsel. The judges don't say what a "reasonable amount of time" would be.

The judges agreed that the officer should have taken more steps to try to contact the lawyer of choice.

The cross-examination suggested that the officer should have looked up the lawyer's home number, and checked the Law Society's webpage for other phone numbers. In many cases, these steps will be futile; but taking those steps would make a show of good faith.

This area of criminal practice has been litigated frequently for 30 years, and yet no standard procedure emerged for satisfying a detainee's s.10(b) rights. Although the judges in this case all agreed that the officer did it wrong, they did not say what would have been "right". If asked, most criminal practitioners will come to different conclusions.

I think the answer to these conundrums emerges by considering a police officer's duties under these circumstances:

I suggest that the solution to this conundrum of investigating the offence "as soon as practicable" while waiting for a lawyer who never calls is done by asking person who enjoys the right how he chooses to exercise his rights. Refuse his requests only when they become unreasonable.

This case may revive debates in your office about how to deal with difficult demands for counsel of choice. Good. Beware of anyone who claims to have a fool-proof procedure that works every time. In my view, Charter rights are respected by understanding the principles, not by following blindly a standard procedure which works in most cases.

2016.03.17 Right to Counsel - Eliciting Evidence

Mr Sabados, 2015 SKCA 74 gave police reasons not to like him. They arrested him for robbery. He got bail after 450 days in custody. I guess Mr Sabados had a substance abuse problem: the judge imposed a term that he provide police with breath samples if an officer formed reasonable grounds to suspect that he consumed alcohol.

Mr Sabados didn't stay out on bail for long. 3 months later, police attended to a new complaint. They arrested Mr Sabados for death threats, assault, and breaching his bail by possessing drugs and alcohol.  They offered him access to counsel.

He wanted to talk to a specific lawyer.  He called, and left a message for the lawyer to call back.  Knowing this, an officer interviewed him about the new offence before Mr Sabados got legal advice.

That was a mistake.

Police must hold off eliciting evidence until after the prisoner waives or exercises his right to counsel. Asking questions about the offence is "eliciting".

During the interview, the officer noticed an odour of liquor. Knowing of the bail condition, the officer demanded that he provide a breath sample. He said he would not give samples until after he spoke with a lawyer.

So they charged him with refusing, contrary to his bail order.

That was another mistake.

Demanding bodily samples is "eliciting".

Mr Sabados won.

Even though the recognizance required Mr Sabados to blow, he still had a right to get legal advice before incriminating himself.

If you arrest a suspect, and the suspect wants legal advice, arrange for that legal advice before asking that suspect to provide evidence against himself. You can search incidental to arrest before the legal advice, but you can't ask him for bodily samples, statements or re-enactments of the crime until he exercises or rejects his right to legal advice.

This principle arises most often with serious motor vehicle cases. Drunk drivers who crash often go to hospital. When you demand blood samples from the driver who caused a serious accident, you must give that driver the access to counsel he requests before you take his blood. It's more complicated to do in a hospital, but the principle still applies.

2016.03.09 Gathering Evidence - How much is Too Much Evidence?

A troubled young man on a reserve complained that Mr Hume, 2016 BCCA 105 molested him. The young man said he arrived at Mr Hume's residence drunk. Mr Hume gave him more booze. He passed out. He claimed that awoke naked on the living room floor and found Mr Hume shaving his testicles. He complained to police and showed them that all his body hair was gone. By the next evening, a police officer executed a search warrant on Mr Hume's place.

The officer found no pubic hair on the living room floor. But the vacuum cleaner contained a large quantity of short curly dark hair. The officer dumped the contents of the vacuum cleaner into a bucket, photographed it, and took a small sample.

The DNA lab said that the sample was not suitable for DNA analysis.

At trial, the judge did not permit the police officer to testify whether this hair had fallen out naturally or had been cut.  The judge felt this opinion required expert opinion.

In submissions to the jury, the defence explained away the hair: this was a home on an aboriginal reserve. Lots of people there would shed dark hair. And the home had pets.

I invite you to consider with the perfect vision of hindsight what you would do to get the most out of the evidence in the vacuum cleaner. Would you ...

  1. Keep all the contents of the vacuum cleaner?
  2. Spread the contents of the vacuum cleaner out on a white paper sheet before photographing it?
  3. Find an expert to assess whether this hair was cut.
  4. Examine the hairs under a microscope, and compare them to cut human hair.
  5. Photograph the hairs under a microscope.

It turns out that the police officer did enough in this case to satisfy the jury. They convicted Mr Hume. Next time, it might be different.

2016.03.08 Implied Invitation to Enter Private Property

If you suspect someone of committing an offence, you can't walk onto their private property for the purposes of searching for evidence. But you can walk onto private property for the purpose of communicating with them, even if you know about the offence. It's a peculiar line, which is difficult for judges to assess.

Police officers in rural BC arrested Mr Parr, 2016 BCCA 99 under the Mental Health Act. He was speaking incoherently about his fiancée. They towed his vehicle and took control of his dog.

Knowing that a team of officers was investigating Mr Parr for growing marijuana at his residence, Cst Jenkins went there to tell Mr Parr's fiancée where he was. Perhaps she could take back his dog.

Cst Jenkins found nobody, but noticed odours of marijuana on the property, and equipment for growing it. He told the team. The team got a warrant, and took the operation down.

If Cst Jenkins went there to investigate the marijuana grow operation, then he intruded unlawfully on the land, and his observations could not be used to support the warrant.

Defence argued that Cst Jenkins went there to investigate: Cst Jenkins didn't phone, he went there in person. It was a long drive from the police detachment to Mr Parr's place. After failing to find her, Cst Jenkins took no further steps to locate the fiancée.

The trial judge believed Cst Jenkins when he said his purpose was simply to speak with the fiancée.

This case makes for good reading, not just for the teams, but also the general duty officers those teams communicate with. What's your purpose when you go into private property? Did someone actually invite you? Can you rely on the implied invitation, because they would want you to communicate with them?

Don't rely on my summary.  Read the decision, to understand how the judges analyse this subtle distinction.

2016.03.07 Objective Investigating and Reporting

Police arrested Mr. Laing, 2016 ONCA 184 in a mall parking lot. They found two loaded handguns in his possession. As part of the investigation, some officers obtained and watched mall security video of the take-down. They took no notes if its contents. Between investigation and trial, the DVD which contained that video recording went missing.

Mr Laing's counsel asked the trial judge to drop the case by reason of the lost evidence. The trial judge refused. At trial, defence accused police of planting the guns. He suggested that they destroyed the DVD as part of a cover-up.

According to the officers, the cameras pointed the wrong way, and captured none of the take-down. Too bad they took no notes.

The jury convicted Mr Laing, and the appeal court upheld the conviction.

I think that there's a lesson in here. Human beings tend to notice evidence which supports their beliefs. I suspect that this tendency affected this investigation:

Could anyone fault the officer for thinking that Mr Laing carried a gun? Of course not.

During the take-down, officers found guns. Naturally, they recorded information about that. It was obviously important.

After the take-down, the officers who watched the security video saw no information about the guns. It seemed obviously unimportant. Therefore they took no notes of the video's contents. The DVD seemed unimportant. They took less care in lodging it into exhibit storage.

Perfectly natural human behaviour. But it formed the foundation of the defence attack. And I doubt any of the officers enjoyed having their integrity attacked.

An objective investigation seeks out all reasonably available sources of evidence. An objective report accounts for every investigative angle pursued. It was a good idea to look for the video. It captured nothing that the officers wanted to see

2016.03.06 Conspiracy, Aiding and Abetting - The Marijuana Growers' Supply Shop

What's the difference between aiding and conspiring?

Mr Nguyen, 2016 ONCA 182 and his son-in-law ran a garden supply store in an unusual way. For accountability and marketing purposes, most vendors track which customer bought what. Mr Nguyen's store accepted only cash. He kept no records of customers and what they bought. Most shops sell their products in packaging which advertises the source. Mr Nguyen wrapped his products in plain bags. Customers could load their purchases at a loading bay hidden from view. Like some vendors, Mr Nguyen's store had a van to deliver the goods to the customer. Unlike most vendors, Mr Nguyen let his customers drive the company van away to undisclosed locations.

The store stocked only products useful for growing marijuana. It stocked unusual garden supplies, such as electrical circuit panels and ductwork. He sold nothing that was illegal to possess.

Police followed four customers, each of whom led police to grow operations.

The trial judge convicted Mr Nguyen of the charge of conspiring with his son-in-law and the purchasers of their products to aid and abet the production of marijuana.

That was a mistake. The purchaser and vendor of an illegal product don't conspire, because their objectives differ: the vendor wants money; the purchaser wants the product. Had the charge accused only Mr Nguyen and his son-in-law of conspiring to aid others in the illegal production of marijuana, that charge might have stuck.

But he was guilty of actually aiding others in the illegal production of marijuana. But that required more than merely following the customers, and finding grow operations where the products went. It required evidence that Mr Nguyen was involved in the sales of the products to those customers, or otherwise assisted the purchasers.  That's what aiding is. Nguyen himself helping the customer.

2016.03.05 Possession - "What's in the Gun?"

Section 95(1) of the Criminal Code creates a specific offence of possession of a loaded restricted/prohibited firearm.

Mr Hunter, 2016 BCCA 94 possessed a loaded handgun, cocked and ready to fire, in a storage compartment under the seat of a scooter he sometimes drove. Did that make him guilty of the offence?


Not if the Crown can't also prove that he knew it was loaded.

Sometimes, the circumstances make it obvious. For example Mr Francois, 2014 ONCA 234 took a handgun with him to complete drug transactions which involved threatening to kill people with it. When police arrested them, they found it contained bullets. The circumstances allowed the court to infer that he must have known it was loaded.

But Mr Hunter's circumstances differed. Police found him in a park talking with friends, near the scooter. These circumstances did not lead to any clear reason to say he knew about the bullets in the gun.

That means finding someone with a loaded handgun is not the same as proving they knew the bullets were in the gun. Because courts acquit if there is any doubt, keep investigating. Sometimes they load the bullets with their bare hands, and leave fingerprints. Sometimes, they have more bullets in their pockets, or somewhere nearby. Sometimes, if you ask the right questions, the prisoner, or someone who knows him, will talk.

2016.03.05 Possession - "What's in the USB stick?"

What kind of "circumstances" persuade judges that a suspect had guilty knowledge?

When police arrested Mr Arsabekov, 2016 ONCA 169 in his car, they found a USB stick and a credit card reader.  The USB stick contained lots of credit card information.

Could the judge convict him of possession of the credit card data? Only if the judge could find beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew about the data inside the USB stick.  The presence of the credit card reader (and some efforts to evade police) persuaded the judge that he knew.

The Appeal Court agreed.

It's not illegal to possess a credit card reader. But having one along with a memory device containing stolen credit card information suggests that you know about the credit card information.

2016.03.03 Production Orders and Search Warrants - Reasonable Grounds to Suspect an Offence

We all know that a judge can't issue a search warrant or production order unless the officer provides reasonable grounds to believe that the warrant or order should be granted.

Except, s.487 also uses the word "suspect" in relation to how sure the judge should be that an offence occurred.  And before March 9, 2015, so did the former general production order section.

Does this difference mean anything?

In Nero, 2016 ONCA 160 at para 62, the court said it does.  They said that the judge doesn't need belief, only suspicion, that an offence occurred.

I observe that Parliament removed the word "suspect" from the current general production order section. If Parliament thinks suspicion is too low a standard for production orders, then a judge may conclude that suspicion is too low a standard for search warrants too. When applying for search warrants, rely on this difference at your peril.

But Parliament deliberately chose "suspicion" for many other kinds of searches, such as number recorders and preservation demands. I see less risk there.

2016.03.03 Production Orders - Evidence "Respecting" an Offence

Police suspected Mr Nero, 2016 ONCA 160 of organizing a major drug trafficking operation.  Initially, they sought cell phone records, to find out who he called, and which cell phone towers he was nearest when he called. 

Production orders get you evidence "evidence respecting the commission of the offence". It's often difficult to explain why you think specific records fit that description. At trial, defence argued that these records would establish only that he talked to people, but not that he was guilty of any offence.

At para 83, Watt J.A. observed:

"The records need not be conclusive proof of guilt."

The production orders were good.  When you apply for a production order, you needn't explain why the records will prove guilt, only how they might provide evidence about the offence.

2016.02.29 How much evidence is Too Much Evidence?

In the basement of their house, Mr Walchuk, 2015 FCA 85 beat his wife unconscious. The house caught fire and burned. An expert told the trial judge that someone poured gasoline (or some other accellerant) at the top of the stairs. The trial judge convicted him of murder, on the theory that he set the fire.

After he exhausted his appeals, Mr Walchuk found different experts who concluded that the first expert was wrong. No accellerant on the stairs started this fire: it started somewhere else. There was some evidence to suggest that his wife started the fire by crashing her car into the house before the beating in the basement. He asked the Minister of Justice to review the case: was this a wrongful conviction?

The Minister didn't think so. Nor did the Federal Court Judge, nor the Federal Court of Appeal.

Why not? Among other reasons:

Read the decision for all the circumstances.

The prosecutor could prove those circumstances only because investigators, with active curiosity, looked into questions like "where did that matchbook come from?"

The defence challenged the expert after the trial and the appeals all passed. This conviction stood because the investigators gathered (and the prosecutor presented) more than evidence than necessary to prove Mr Walchuk's guilt.

So when is your investigation complete? After you have attempted all that is reasonably possible to gather all the evidence available.  Don't quit investigating just because you become satisfied of the suspect's guilt. Keep gathering evidence until all the available evidence is collected.

The smaller the case, the harder it is to do a complete investigation. But the burden of proof in a domestic assault is the same as murder: proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So many of those reluctant spouses recant, it hardly seems worth any effort. But if you bust enough wife-beaters, you may prevent a murder. Like Mr Walchuk.

2016.02.28 Arresting and Releasing Foreigners

When you arrest and hold a foreigner, one of your obligations under Art. 36(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963), is to inform the person concerned without delay of his right to contact consular officers from his home state. (Only a few countries in the world are not parties to this convention.)

Failure to do so does not usually breach Charter rights (Walters, 2013 ABCA 204).

After arresting a foreigner, are you obliged to bring him or her before a justice of the peace? Nope. Provo, 2015 ONCJ 311. You can release him or her yourself. But you should turn your mind to whether the suspect will return to court.

Sections 498(1)(d) (and s.503(2.1), by reference) of the Criminal Code, permit you to release the suspect on recognizance (Form 11) with or without conditions.  You can even take up to $500 cash on deposit, to make sure that the suspect attends court.

You might want to consider how you to account for the deposit. Do you seize it and place it in exhibits, and report the seizure to a Justice, or do you deposit it with the court?

2016.02.14 Sexual assault

Mr Edgar, 2016 ONCA 120, a big man, grabbed a woman outside her apartment, and made her let him in.  He kept her captive there for an hour, making various non-sexual demands: he needed to use her phone.  He wanted water. At the end, he made her sit and watch him masturbate. For a few minutes, she did. He touched only himself, and not her. She then fled, leaping off the balcony. She broke both ankles in her effort to escape him.

Did he sexually assault her, even without touching?



Read the definition of "assault" in s.265 of the Criminal Code.  It includes more than touching. Assault includes a threat of force, accompanied by the immediate means to carry it out.

She only sat down because he had threatened her. She watched only because he demanded it. He had her under his control. The whole confinement was an assault, and he rendered it sexual when he compelled her to watch him.

Why do you care?

Because we often forget that second part of the definition of assault.

The man who raises his fist to a woman assaults her even without striking, if he does so in a manner that causes her to believe that a blow was imminent. At your next domestic call, the complainant may say that no blows were struck before you got there. When the reluctant complainant says "he never hit me, he only threatened", you should follow up: "Did he make it look like you were about to be hit? Did you think that was going to happen?"  If you get "yes", then she described an assault. If you believe her claims are probably true, and arrest is necessary in the public interest, then you can arrest him for assault.

If you do, he may express bewilderment "I never touched her, man."  If so, have some sympathy for the blighter. Maybe you should take him to an interview room, and explain why you arrested him. Video-record it. Who knows, he might even show you how he held his fist.

2016.01.30 Press Conferences - Prejudice to Fair Trial

When you make a big bust, holding a press conference tells Canadians that police are effective, and crime doesn't pay.

But tread carefully. 

After police busted Mr Pedersen, 2016 BCCA 47 and his accomplices for importing one tonne of cocaine they told the world. At trial, Mr Pedersen asked for a stay of proceedings. He complained that the publicity robbed him of a fair trial.  The jury would be prejudiced against him.

The judges denied his application.  But they commented:

"care must be taken to avoid prejudicing the accused, particularly where the trial will be held before a jury."

What do you avoid showing and saying in such a press conference? I have little skill in media relations; I won't tell you how to talk to reporters. But your prosecutor would fear press coverage of:

In this case, the trial judge disliked the "trophy" or "self-congratulatory" tone of the press conference, but she liked the fact that press conference revealed no detailed personal information about the suspects.

Therefore, despite your excitement after the biggest bust in your career, you should take a deep breath before the press conference, and calm down.  Remind yourself that what you say there will be used to cross-examine you, and attack the case. When the reporter presses you for information about the defendants and their individual roles, avoid saying anything exciting enough that a juror would remember it a year later. "Giving too many details at this early stage could undermine the accused's right to a fair [jury] trial."

2016.01.29 Citizen's Arrest - Civilians don't need Charter Cards ... unless you organize them

After Mr Nguyen, 2016 BCCA 32 attacked another man at a bar, bouncers grabbed  and held him until police arrived. During the wait, Mr Nguyen told them things that his lawyer wished he hadn't said. At trial, Mr Nguyen complained that the bouncers failed to tell him his rights under the Charter, and asked the court to prevent the jury from hearing what Mr Nguyen said about the fight.

The judges concluded that the Charter does not require private citizens acting on their own to explain Charter rights.

They would have to explain Charter rights if you instruct or enlist private citizens to arrest or detain miscreants as some organized initiative.

2016.01.27 Book Update

My publisher recently released the 2015-2016 edition of Common Canadian Criminal Code Offences and Procedures. This book collects into one soft-cover book the parts my two larger (and more expensive) books that I use most. Some police officers tell me that they found the previous edition useful, and no police officer has told me otherwise. Either you folks are just polite, or perhaps there's something there that police officers like.

This edition covers the same topics, but reflects court decisions and changes in the legislation. (Since the last edition, the "Harper Government" amended the Criminal Code about 15 times, causing hundreds of changes to the act.)

Click the link if you want to know more.

2016.01.26 Search and Seizure - Automobile Crash Data Recorders

In November, I reported the growing Ontario case law which suggests that you need a warrant if you want to search the device in a vehicle which records the last few seconds of driving data. (Hamilton, 2014 ONSC 447; Glenfield, 2015 ONSC 1304).

Now the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a trial decision which came to the opposite conclusion.  Fedan, 2016 BCCA 26.

In that case, the police obtained a warrant to search the vehicle for other forensic evidence such as DNA, but they did not obtain permission to search the black box. The court found that they didn't need judicial pre-authorization because the driver enjoys no expectation of privacy in it.

2016.01.25 Search Warrant - Searching the Place Identified on the Warrant

Intercepted communications of a drug king-pin led police to believe that a woman called "Momo" supplied crystal meth to the king-pin's network. Police watched him enter the front door of a residence in a mixed commercial and residential plaza, let in by a woman. When drafting the warrant to search that place, the affiant wisely obtained schematic diagrammes which suggested that the front door led to an apartment at the rear of the building. The schematics showed a rear entrance to the same apartment. Two vehicles registered to Valerie Pham parked in the lot outside the building. Her sister Tammy received the Hydro bills for apartment 4204B. Valerie's driver's licence photo resembled the woman who welcomed the king-pin. Police believed Valerie was "Momo". The justice granted their application to search of "4204B Dundas Street West (rear)".

Things on the ground differed from the drawings.

The front entrance did not reach the rear apartment.  The front entrance led to an undocumented apartment in the basement.  There, they found Ms Ting, 2016 ONCA 57.

Her apartment was not at the "rear", and did not connect to that apartment. Police searched it, and her cell phone, anyway. For an hour and 40 minutes.

They found drugs and money. They figured that she must be "Momo". Then, realizing that they had a problem with the warrant, they applied for, and obtained, a new warrant. This one let them search "residence of 4204B Dundas Street, West".  With that warrant, they searched some more, and found more drugs.

The judges hated it. The first warrant authorized the search of a different residence. The second one failed to identify which of the apartments there the officers wanted to search. The real "Momo" - Ms Ting - beat all the charges.

The address on the face of the warrant matters. Apartment buildings pose special problems. Researching before you apply for a warrant helps prevent mistakes. When you execute the warrant, make sure you enter the right place. And if the warrant is wrong, fix the problem before you search.

2016.01.25 Exigent Circumstances Search

On February 14, Mr Mengitsu sold drugs to an undercover police officer who came to his apartment.  On February 24, the same officer arranged to purchase more from Mr Mengitsu, a dealer.  That day, the dealer foolishly told the officer he needed to get some more from his supplier. Other officers watched him visit the nearby apartment of Mr Phoummasak, 2016 ONCA 46 before completing the sale.

The officers believed Phoummasak was the supplier.  They debated whether to apply immediately for a warrant to search the Phoummasak's apartment. The officer in charge directed them to buy drugs one more time, to make sure of the supplier's location. Anticipating this, they started drafting their application, and arranged another buy.

On March 15, 2012, the dealer sold them drugs again. Again, he needed to visit Mr Phoummasak's apartment before completing the deal. The officers planned to arrest the dealer as he returned to his own apartment. Instead, he walked to Phoummasak's apartment building. The arrest team took him down in public, right in front of the supplier's apartment building. The dealer's cell phone then began to ring repeatedly.

Fearing that this arrest would cause his supplier to hide or destroy his drugs, the officers entered the Phoummasak's residence without a warrant.  They found Mr Phoummasak throwing baggies of drugs off the balcony.

At Phoummasak's trial, defence agreed that exigent circumstances may justify a warrantless search, but complained that the police created the emergency. Defence said police had sufficient grounds for a warrant after the second buy, but police chose not to apply for it. If police create the emergency, then police can't rely on exigent circumstances.

The court agreed with this general principle. You can't manufacture exigent circumstances as a way of circumventing the legal requirement to get a search warrant.  But these officers planned all along to get judicial authorization. They were just double-checking the location of their intended search. Their plans went awry when the dealer went in an unexpected direction. The court found that the police response to the unexpected events was reasonable, and not an effort to avoid paperwork. Mr Phoummasak lost at trial and on appeal.

Unexpected developments may justify a warrantless search under s.487.11 of the Criminal Code (or, in the case of drugs, s. 11 of the CDSA). But don't plan to rely on this power. If you expect a development which will trigger a need to search a place, consider applying in advance for a General Warrant under s.487.01 which authorizes you to search when the expected development occurs.

2016.01.19 Authenticating Communications - Emails and Texts

If you get a text message from my phone, does that mean I sent it?

In R. v. Seruhungo, 2016 SCC 2, the trial judge wasn't prepared to assume that the sender of a text was always the owner of the phone. The dissenting judge in the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed with him: R. v. Seruhungo, 2015 ABCA 189.  So did most of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.  You can't always expect the owner of the phone is the person who sends all the messages from it.

When your investigation leads you to text messages and emails of importance, you will naturally assume that each message came from the account holder.  But the court may need evidence to support this inference. A text from a phone number proves only that the phone sent the message, not whose fingers did the typing.  If you receive an email from someone, then you know which account sent it, but not who typed it.

If you case stands or falls upon emails or texts, look for evidence which authenticates the message.  Does the text say something or say it in some way that establishes who typed it?

2016.01.09 Drunks -  Keep or Release?

When you arrest a drunk under the Criminal Code, how long should you keep him or her in custody?

Mr Hardy, 2015 MBCA 51 didn't just refuse to provide his breath into a screening device, he was rude and argumentative with police. They kept him in custody for 12 hours before letting him go.

At trial, Mr Hardy claimed that the police kept him in custody as punishment for refusing to blow. He said the officers should have called his girlfriend to come and pick him up. He asked the judge to throw out the charges because the officers arbitrarily detained him.

The answer to my question is: Drunkenness does not justify detention. The fact that the officers thought that Mr Hardy was drunk was no reason to keep him in custody.

But public safety and the safety of your prisoner does.

Because Mr Hall was an obstreperous, belligerent and unreasonable drunk, the officers decided to keep him until he became safe to himself and others. (If you do the same, keep notes, or better still, record his conduct on audio or video.)

Was it acceptable for the officers to decide at the beginning to keep him for 12 hours, or were they required to monitor Mr Hardy, and release him as soon as he became safe?  This court found that the officers did not bear an obligation to monitor Mr Hardy constantly. (I imagine waking a sleeping drunk every 30 minutes to check his sobriety would render a detention unreasonable.) However, I do not think it wise to lock up every drunk up for 12 hours and ignore them.  Some may calm down and become safe after shorter periods.  I suggest checking on them with increasing frequency after they have had an opportunity to sober up.

2016.01.08 Warrant drafting - Pedigrees of Criminal Sources

"I've got this great source," the officer told the judge. "He can be an agent. Based on what he says, you should grant me an authorization to listen to his conversations with Mr Hall."

Later, at trial, the truth about this agent came out.

The proposed agent hated Mr Hall, 2016 ONCA 13. The agent believed that Mr Hall helped torture and murder his sister. The agent had a bad drug addiction, and a horrible record of crime, and sought extraordinarily lenient treatment from police in exchange for information.

Perhaps the judge would not have been so impressed if the officer revealed these details to the judge.

Relying on the officer's affidavit, the judge issued a wiretap authorization.

When the trial judge learned the whole truth, he excluded all the evidence obtained by the wiretap.  Mr Hall beat some serious charges.

It's too easy to get caught up in what your source tells you. Before you ask for a warrant, take some time to discover and report the problems with your source.

2016.01.06 Mr Big Operations - Simulated Violence

In R. v. Hart, 2014 SCC 52 the Supreme Court decided that no jury should hear about a confession obtained by a Mr Big operation unless the Crown could first prove its reliability.  That may be done either by showing corroboration or that the circumstances of the confession rendered it unlikely that the target would lie. The court also observed that when police use outrageous tactics, courts may stay proceedings.

Defendants who confess to Mr Big often say at trial that they lied to Mr Big because they feared him, and they said what he wanted to hear because they were so dependent upon the money and friendship they received from the undercover officers.

When persuading suspected murderers to confess, these operations include scenarios of simulated violence. Going too far with this may undermine the investigation.

Mr Hart was a particularly vulnerable and needy individual. The Mr Big operation he underwent preyed upon this, leading the court to find that his confession should not be admitted.

In Laflamme v. R., 2015 QCCA 1517, police suspected that the accused murdered his wife in 1973. During a Mr Big operation in 2008, the target saw simulated violence on people outside and inside Mr Big's organization. Mr Big intimated that the target and his new friend faced the prospect of serious violence or death if the target did not confess. This went beyond providing incentives to confess, and imposed undue pressure.  The court directed a stay of proceedings.

However, in R. c. Perreault, 2015 QCCA 694, R. v. Allgood, 2015 SKCA 58 and R. v. Johnston, 2016 BCCA 3, the courts found no abuse of process in investigations in which the accused saw some pretty serious simulated violence.

Mr Allgood saw the organization remove a member from its ranks without violence, but Mr Big said that he "recently" had to "bury a friend". Mr Perreault saw what appeared to be violence as well, but the organization never directed its violence towards him.

Mr Johnson underwent a Mr Big operation in which he participated in the kidnapping of a "debtor" and his "girlfriend". While he drove the van, the officers staged a beating in the back. Later, they made it appear that they murdered the debtor and his girlfriend. He later confessed, giving details which largely matched hold-back and other evidence, but included details which contradicted some of the evidence.

As nicely summarized in the Johnston case, what distinguished the good operations from the bad were exploitation of vulnerability, and directing violence at the target.

As officers conducting these operations have always known, confirming the details of the target's confession makes a huge difference at trial.

I think that the Johnson scenarios survived judicial scrutiny because the officers collected evidence that Mr Johnston was his own man, unafraid of what he saw. It's not just that the officers directed no threats at him. The result might have differed if the police used the same tactics on a more timid target.  Therefore, continuously watch for the target's timidity or callousness, and tailor your operations in response.

2016.01.03 Laying Charges - Swearing to Reasonable Grounds

Criminal prosecutions formally start when someone lays a charge. Many of you do this by presenting the charge to the justice of the peace, and swearing or affirming that you have reasonable grounds to believe that the accused did the crime.

Don't swear because someone told you to swear the charge. Read enough of the file to know why you think that this person committed this crime. You don't need to read the entire file; summaries will do. But you can't lay a charge without knowing any of the evidence.

A retired police officer swore charges against a batch of offenders. The batch included a charge of assault against Mr Delalla, 2015 BCSC 592. The officer met the justice of the peace in a room with a computer. The officer swore that he had reasonable grounds that the whole batch of offenders did the crimes. The justice then popped each file up on the computer, and he entered his electronic signature on each information.

The court didn't like this procedure because:

There was a separate issue: should the justice or the officer sign the document first? The answer is: it doesn't matter.  What matters is that the officer swear to the reasonable grounds before the documentation gets completed. And that's what went wrong in Mr Delalla's case. The charge was falsely sworn, and so the prosecution ended before the trial began.

2016.01.03 Disclosure - Confidential Sources - Debriefing Reports and Handler's Notes

How much disclosure must the police and prosecutors must give to defence when the only issue it probes is whether a warrant should have issued?  Recent decisions considered this question in the context of confidential source debriefing reports (SDRs) and the handlers' notes (SHNs).

Trial judges all agreed that the prosecution should redact anything that tended to identify the informants.  But they made quite different orders of disclosure (subject to that redaction):

These apparently subtle distinctions have big impacts on cases. I predict that the appeal courts will have to address this question next year. (2016.04.06 Yup: McKay is under appeal.)

Lots of officers receive information from people who don't want their names revealed. It starts out simple, but can become complex and dangerous.

When you receive such information, follow your force's documentation policies and procedures for confidential source information. If you don't know what those are, learn them.  These trial decisions indicate that following formal record-keeping procedures today will make a big difference in future cases.

2016.01.02Statement-taking - Admissible Hearsay

Notebook notes are necessary, but not always sufficient.  There's a difference between information and evidence. Information tells investigators what happened, but evidence proves charges.

In 2001, someone stabbed Alexander Sanderson to death.

Three men were present: Terry Pechawis, Dwayne Badger and Curtis Nataucappo, 2015 SKCA 28.

That day, Badger told two officers that he and his friend Pechawis accompanied a stranger, and the stranger stabbed Sanderson.

He refused to provide any kind of statement.  The officers wrote notes about what Badger told them.

Mr Badger died in 2006.

At the time of the stabbing, Mr Pechawis completely refused to cooperate with the police. In 2009, he identified Mr Nataucappo as the person he and Badger accompanied.

The trial occurred in 2011.

Considering Badger was dead, could the officers tell the jury what Mr Badger told them in 2001? Such testimony is, of course, hearsay. The trial judge thought the jury should hear this information, but the Court of Appeal held that it was too unreliable to admit into evidence.

In this serious case, Badger prevented the investigators from collecting crucial evidence. But it illustrates a preventable problem that arises routinely.

When a witness tells you the answers to your questions, you write information into your notebook.  It's hearsay, and generally not evidence. Witnesses who testify in court give evidence. If it's important information, you need to do more than take notes.

For example, if an eyewitness tells you the licence plate of the culprit's car, you should write it down in your notebook. But that's only information. You can't testify that the culprit drove that car because you didn't see the culprit driving it. Only the eyewitness can testify to that fact.

If your notebook contains the only record of the licence plate, will the witness still remember it when you get to trial?  No way.

The prosecutor might ask the forgetful eyewitness whether she told the investigating officer what the licence plate was, and then ask you to testify what you wrote down. As this case illustrates, judges worry about accuracy. The judge may not permit you to testify about the licence plate you heard about.

What can you do?

This applies to much more than licence plates. For example, I've seen this arise with:

You need to record information in your notebook, so that you can give evidence well. But your notes will  preserve other people's evidence poorly, unless you take further steps.

2015 Developments in the Law

2015.12.19 Using the Evidence of Confidential Informants at Trial

Confidential informants give information on condition that they not be identified. That disqualifies them as witnesses because we require witnesses to testify in open court, where the defendant can see who testifies against him. Can we never use confidential informant information to prove a case?

Mr Gaulub wore a red shirt when he went to a friend's place for a barbeque. Two men drove up in a car.  One got out, shot him in the back while the other waited.  Then they fled. Mr Gaulub had no dispute with anybody. The investigation produced evidence that Mr Sheriffe, 2015 ONCA 880, drove the car, and Mr Ashafa pulled the trigger. But why did they kill him?

The victim wore red - the colour of a local street gang. He wasn't a member. He just put on the wrong shirt that day.

An informant told police that Mr Sheriffe and Mr Ashafa belonged to a rival street gang. The informant's information provided a motive: Sheriffe and Ashafa killed him as part of an ongoing turf war.  Could the prosecution use the source's information in the trial?

Yes ... but only if the prosecution could prove that the source was very reliable, and without giving away his identity.  In this case, the prosecution succeeded.  The trial judge permitted the jury to hear what this source told a police officer.

This is the first time I've seen a court permit a confidential source's information to be admitted for its truth in a trial. It may make prosecutors look at source information differently in future.

2015.12.13 Arrest & Detention - Detaining for Interviewing

A police officer in Victoria, B.C. gathered sufficient grounds to arrest Mr Viszlai, 2015 BCCA 495 for a sexual assault committed upon a boy scout.  When she learned that he would attend a scout jamboree at Sechelt, she asked police there to arrest him, and hold him until she could arrive. Because of the ferries involved, getting from Victoria to Sechelt takes time.  They held him overnight, so that she could interview him in the morning.

Defence complained that the overnight delay violated his right to be free from arbitrary detention. Section 503(1) of the Criminal Code requires police to give him a bail hearing "without unreasonable delay".

The court re-affirmed its earlier ruling (Viszlai, 2012 BCCA 442) that you may delay the bail hearing up to 24 hours if you need the prisoner for investigative purposes such as interviewing.

Beware.  This case does not say: "after an arrest, you can hold prisoners up to 24 hours". The combination of s.9 & 11(e) of the Charter and s.503 of the Criminal Code means you need good reasons to detain prisoners after arrest. This decision says that interviewing the prisoner is a good reason for delaying a bail hearing.

2015.12.11 Interviewing Skills

Don't tell people what to say.  Not ever.  Except if you have to. In which case do it carefully.

For decades, Mr Viszlai, 2015 BCCA 495 led scouts.  One former scout complained of sexual abuse in the 1990's.  An officer took a statement from that witness, and then researched Mr Viszlai on the computer.  She discovered an uninvestigated report that he abused another scout around that time.

She learned that Mr Viszlai would soon participate in a scout jamboree. Fearing more abuse, she arranged for his arrest at that event.  (It was done in a manner that would attract as little attention as possible.)  She interviewed him.  He admitted abusing the scout that recently complained.  She pressed him about the other one, telling him she believed that he did it.  He admitted sexual acts with that kid too.

The officer then located and interviewed the other scout.  He denied anything occurred.  She suggested some details of the abuse.  He denied it. A few weeks later, of his own accord, that former scout returned, and told the officer that he did remember, and provided details, some of which differed from the suggestions that the officer made.

The first jury convicted Mr Viszlai, but the appeal court ordered a new trial. (Viszlai, 2012 BCCA 442)

At the second trial, defence complained that the officer told Mr Viszlai and the second witness what to believe: by suggesting what the truth might be, the officer rendered Mr Viszlai's statement, and the second witness's testimony, unreliable and inadmissible. Defence brought a renowned psychologist to testify that telling people the answers can change their memories. He condemned "The Reid Technique" as an interrogation method capable of causing false confessions, and identified features of the officer's interrogation of Mr Viszlai which matched how a Reid interrogation should proceed.

Despite this, the trial judge let the jury hear former scouts' testimony and watch the video-recording of Mr Viszlai's statement. The jury convicted.

Mr Viszlai appealed.

The court agreed that police should avoid suggesting answers to witnesses during interviews.  But this complainant remembered things differently from the suggestions that the officer made.  That showed that he had independent recall.

I am not a psychologist, but I can comment on the optics in court.  If your witness doesn't remember, and you think that his memory needs jogging, it looks better if you:

The same general principle applies to suspects. Don't put words in their mouths unless you have to.  But often, they don't want to tell you everything, and so you often have to.

In Oickle, the Supreme Court of Canada described which techniques are lawful in Canada, and which are not.  Some of the techniques originally taught by John Reid comply with Oickle, and others techniques, such as aggressive accusation, can amount to oppression in Canadian law. So don't oppress your suspects.  This officer made sure that Mr Viszlai got food, rest, access to counsel, and decent treatment. No oppression.

Read, understand and obey Oickle.  When defence accuse you of applying the Reid technique, you can respond that where Oickle and Reid differ, you follow Oickle.

2015.12.02 Preservation of Exhibits

Mr Neidig’s, 2015 BCCA 489 vehicle crashed. His friend Ian Shepherd was in the car, but died when his body flew from the car.
Who drove?
Another motorist found Mr Neidig walking on the road at the scene.  Mr Neidig said “My truck, what have I done to my truck?”  When asked if he was driving, at first he said he didn’t know, and then said it wasn’t him. At the hospital, when doctors checked out Mr Neidig, he had bruising on his left shoulder, as if he wore the driver’s seatbelt during the crash. Afterwards, he commented to a friend that a seatbelt “saved my fucking life”. Officers who examined  the vehicle, found stress marks on the driver’s seatbelt, as if the driver wore it during the crash.  There were no stress marks on the passenger seatbelt.
Three different experts photographed and examined the vehicle for evidence.  Without telling Mr Neidig, the police released the vehicle to the insurance company which eventually destroyed the vehicle.
At trial, the defence complained that police breached Mr Neidig’s right to full answer and defence: a defence expert testified, saying he would probably have found more evidence in the SUV if it had been preserved. Defence argued that police should have notified Mr Neidig of their plans for the vehicle, so that he could take steps to arrange an examination of the vehicle.
The trial judge agreed.  So did the Court of Appeal.  The trial judge was so outraged that police would destroy evidence that he stayed the case.  The Court of Appeal disagreed with that solution: instead, the trial should proceed, but the trial judge could consider that the lost evidence undermined the strength of the prosecution’s case.
Does this mean you must keep every possible shred of evidence forever? No.  But when you’re considering disposing of important exhibits, you should write to the suspect(s), and explain your intentions.

2015.11.30 Search Warrants - Telewarrants - "Impracticable" does not require "Urgency"

During a night-shift, Cst Marshinew finished preparing an application for a warrant to search a residence where Mr Clark, 2015 BCCA 488 lived. No justice of the peace worked in his vicinity at that time of night. Must he stay up until the morning to apply in person, or could he apply at night by telewarrant?

Defence argued that there was no urgency.  The investigative plan involved assembling the search team in the following afternoon.  Therefore, the police didn't need the warrant immediately.

The trial judge accepted the idea that telewarrants can only be granted where there is a need for the warrant to be issued before a personal application could be arranged.  The appeal court disagreed. At para 68, Frankel J.A. said:

"The telewarrant procedure was designed to make it possible for law enforcement officers to apply for a search warrant 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Whether the application is made in-person or by fax the reasonable-grounds standard must be met before a warrant can be issued.  The impracticability-requirement is concerned with whether it is practicable to make an in-person application at the time the application is brought; it does not require that an immediate need for a warrant be demonstrated."

Do other provinces agree?  I did a brief search.

Boussoulas, 2014 ONSC 5542 considered a related question: urgency may establish the impracticability of in-person warrant applications.

There are, doubtless, other decisions on the question.  If you have one which you think should be added to this list, feel free to email it to me, and I'll share it here.

What does appear in the cases which discuss the pre-requisites to telewarrants is the need for applicants to state the circumstances that make it impracticable for you to appear personally before a justice in the ITO.  That generally means explaining how you know that no judge or justice of the peace (in B.C., a "judicial justice") is not available.  Some provincial courts like BC issued directives from which you can quote when explaining why a Justice is not available to hear your application in person.

2015.11.30 Search Warrant applications - Note your Conversation with the Justice

When Cst Marshinew first applied for a telewarrant to search a residence where Mr Clark, 2015 BCCA 488 lived, he forgot to explain how he knew that no judge was available.  The justice to whom he applied talked with him, and explained what was missing from the application.

So he fixed it, and re-submitted his application.

Was it proper for the justice to talk with the officer about the application? Defence said it looked like bias. The appeal court disagreed.

Talking with a justice about the application does raise a legal concern.  The ITO should spell out everything you tell the justice.  A conversation with the justice after you draft your ITO suggests that the ITO could omit something the justice relied on to issue the warrant.

It appears that Cst Marshinew took notes of the conversation, so that he could explain all that they discussed.

That was a good idea.

When applying for judicial authorization:

2015.11.23 Note-taking and Record-Keeping

Daylight savings time creates confusion. The clocks change. Sleeping patterns change. It's easy to get sloppy.

Around daylight savings time, the officers involved in the investigation of Mr Thompson, 2015 ONCA 800 screwed up their record-keeping.

A tipster said Mr Thompson dealt drugs from a fast food restaurant. Police arrested Mr Thompson's cousin, who emerged from the restaurant, and found drugs. They got a warrant and busted Mr Thompson. At trial, two stories emerged.

On the police version, the cousin had drugs on his person when he emerged from the restaurant.  That information justified the issuance of a search warrant.  But the ITO went on to say that the cousin told the police that he got the drugs from Thompson.

The cousin said that there were no drugs on his person. Heck, the police didn't arrest him when he emerged from the restaurant but after he went home.

Defence got really excited about failings in the officers' documentation.

Although Mr Thompson's conviction stood, this case reminds us that you can avoid embarassment by:

2015.11.23 "Statutory Rape" - s.150.1 survives constitutional scrutiny

Mr A.B., 2015 ONCA 803 met Miss MB at a dance studio when he was 17 and she was 11. They danced well together for 4 years. After they left the studio, they started dating.  He was 21 and she was 15.  She asked him for sex; at first, he resisted, then he relented. Her mom died.  Her dad started seeing someone new.  She moved out.  Mr A.B. impregnated her. She had an abortion, which caused her an emotional breakdown.  Authorities investigated, and he was charged with sexual assault.

Obviously, she consented: sex was her idea.  Section 150.1 of the Criminal Code removed consent as a defence because of the age difference between them.

The trial judge acquitted him, because he felt that s.150.1 went too far in criminalizing this relationship. The prosecutor appealed, and got a conviction.  He appealed.  The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the conviction.  Even if the child wanted the sex, the adult must not engage. Children are too vulnerable. The legislation is constitutional.

Did Mr AB go to jail? No. The trial judge discharged him after conviction.

But this reminds us that adults having consensual sex with kids under 16 are - if the age difference exceeds 5 years - committing a crime in Canada.  For kids under 14, an age difference of 2 years of more renders the sex a crime.

2015.11.13 Detention or Conversation - Formally Describing Casual Encounters

At 3:00am, a police officer in a cruiser rolled down the window and addressed a pedestrian on the street.  The officer asked him his name, and his date of birth. Adrian Poole, 2015 BCCA 464 told them who he was.

The computer system told the officers that a judge or justice had issued a warrant for Mr Poole. The officer and his partner arrested him. That's when they found the loaded handgun concealed in his waistband.

It was cocked and ready to fire.

At his trial, Mr Poole complained that the police officers detained him, and they should have told him about his rights to counsel.  The two police officers had to account very precisely for a conversation which started in the most casual way.  Unsurprisingly, everyone remembered the conversation a bit differently. Especially Mr Poole. He assured the trial judge that the officers told him "stop".

The trial judge didn't believe Mr Poole.  It would have been easier if the two officers had recounted the conversation more precisely.

Because you may be called upon to provide precise accounts of banal conversations, your record-keeping matters. Finding a loaded handgun in someone's pants provides you a big clue that it's time to take out your notebook, and write what occurred before you discovered it. Recording devices in cruisers can record enormous quantities of banal material ... and some crucial stuff.

Mr Poole's arguments didn't impress the appeal judges either. If you address a suspicious person in a public place, you can trigger a detention - or not - depending upon what you say and how you behave. A fellow might reasonably believe that he's detained if you say "Stop right there. Keep your hands where I can see them." But he may well feel quite differently if you address him: "Hey buddy, I don't think I've met you here before.  What's your name?"

2015.11.07 Informants - Reliability

Someone told police that Ms Nguyen, 2015 ONCA 753 sold pot. Police arrested her, and found her in possession of plenty of pot.

At trial, the defence complained that the police should have been more suspicious of the tipster: The tipster's past tips resulted in drug-related arrests, but did those arrests result in convictions?

The court dismissed this concern: it takes a long time for some tips to result in convictions. Police should not wait that long before relying on the tipster's next tip.

But you should be careful of acquittals.  Courts don't like that kind of information. You should check to see if arrests based on your tipster's tips resulted in acquittals.  And you should reveal that information when applying for a warrant.

2015.11.07 Facebook Evidence

I just read the case of R. v. Luceno, 2015 ONCA 759.

A 25-year-old guy met a 13-year-old girl over Facebook.  They met and had sex.

Their Facebook profiles might have contained some useful evidence.

It's an offence for someone that old to have sex with someone that young. But it's not an offence if he took reasonable steps to learn her age.  Both said the other lied about his or her age. Did his profile say he was 18 or 19, in the hope of attracting younger girls?  Did hers claim she was 19?

Many questions could have been answered by capturing their Facebook profiles and messages.  She deleted hers.

Other complainants might not delete theirs. Ask for their consent to preserve evidence from Facebook. You want:

As it turned out, in this case none of this information mattered much.  The accused denied having sex with the complainant, and the judge didn't believe him.

2015.11.03 Search and Seizure - Automobile Crash Data Recorders

The law around the searching of data recording devices in automobiles remains confused.

Last year around this time, I wrote about Hamilton, 2014 ONSC 447 and Fedan, 2014 BCSC 1716.  In Ontario, police need warrants to obtain the data from these devices.  B.C. officers do not.

There's another Ontario decision which affirms that Ontario police need warrants: Glenfield, 2015 ONSC 1304.  For the rest of you, I know of no developments.

As a rule of thumb, the more data that the devices contain, the more likely you're gonna need a warrant.

2015.11.03 Impaired Driving - Breath Demands - "Are You Gonna Blow?"

After you demand that a drunk driver provide you a breath sample, don't give him a choice whether or not to blow. Act like the driver will provide a sample until he makes it absolutely clear he won't. The idea of refusing to blow should come from the driver, not you.

Mr Bagherli, 2014 MBCA 105 crashed his car and ran away before police arrived. They found and arrested him.  He told the officers he wanted legal advice.  An officer made a breath demand:

"I demand you provide samples of your breath necessary to determine the concentration, if any, of alcohol and to accompany me for that purpose.  Should you refuse this demand, you will be charged with the offence of refusal.  Will you provide samples of your breath?"

He replied: "No".

Thereafter, he never blew.  Nor did he talk to a lawyer - he kept passing out.

At trial, he beat the charge of refusing to provide a breath sample.  The problem arose with the emphasized words.  Those words elicited evidence from Mr Bagherli after his arrest, but before he had an opportunity to exercise his right to counsel.

To be clear, when you read a screening device demand, the driver must provide breath samples forthwith. No right to talk to a lawyer unless your screening device isn't ready within minutes.

When you read a breath (or blood) demand, you must hold off eliciting evidence until the driver exercises or waives the right to counsel. Don't go asking whether the driver will blow.  If the driver wants a lawyer, then you're eliciting evidence before the driver gets legal advice.  And even if the driver doesn't want a lawyer, it suggests to the driver that he has a choice.  The idea of refusing to blow shouldn't come from you.

2015.10.25 Exigent Circumstances

What circumstances justify freezing a residence?

Confidential sources told police that Mr Nguyen sold cocaine wholesale to a drug dealer named Shae Hunter, 2015 BCCA 428. They watched Mr Hunter visit local known dealers and members of a criminal gang. They understood that Mr Hunter would soon "reload". They saw a Mr Pham visit his house carrying a duffel bag, and leave only minutes later. There were other people at home.  When they arrested Pham at the Nanaimo ferry terminal, they found $50,000 in cash in the duffel bag.  This, their observations and the source information led them to believe Mr Hunter just bought lots of cocaine.

They also feared that someone might have observed the arrest, and tipped off Mr Hunter, who would then hide his drugs.  So without a warrant, they entered and cleared his place of people, relying on s.11(7) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  Once they had the scene under control, they got a warrant and found the drugs.

That section authorizes police to search for drugs in residences, without a warrant, if they have

Defence argued:

  1. even after the arrest of Pham the police lacked sufficient grounds to search Mr Hunter's house;
  2. the police created the crisis by arresting the guy with the duffel bag in a public place. They didn't need to.  They could have waited and arrested him somewhere else more private.
  3. the officers had sufficient grounds to get a warrant before they arrested Pham. They should have applied for the warrant before arresting him.

(Doubtless you noticed the conflict between (1) and (3)).

The judges accepted none of these arguments, but they spent some time thinking about the second one.

Judges restrict your use of "exigent circumstances" powers. You can't create exigent circumstances as an excuse for avoiding judicial pre-authorization. But these officers had no control over the location and timing of Mr Pham's arrest.  He was about to board a ferry, and leave the area. Mr Pham forced their hand. The money proved their suspicions. Police did not know whether Pham or Hunter had accomplices who might have observed the arrest and tipped off Hunter.  The officers had to act.

If you can control the situation, you can get a warrant before you search.  If you can't control the situation, then you can act before asking for judicial permission... if you have reasonable grounds.  Follow the example of this team.  If you rely on exigent circumstances to justify a search without judicial authorization, search no more than is necessary to end the emergency.  These officers cleared the house of people.  Once you have things under control, post a guard and get your warrant.

2015.10.17 Impaired driving - Breath Techs

I just ran across a decision from January of this year.  I think that qualified breath technicians should know about it.

What makes you a breath tech? After your course, you received a certificate which says you know how to operate the instrument. When testifying, you might get asked who designated you to be a qualified technician. That's what happened to the breath tech in R v Lange, 2015 SKQB 15.  He said that the national breath tech coordinator signed his certificate.

Unfortunately, s.254(1) defines a breath technician as:

"...a person designated by the Attorney General as being qualified to operate an approved instrument"

Because the technician testified that somebody other than the Attorney General did the designating, the court found that it could not rely on the breath tech's certificate of analysis.  Mr Lange beat the charge.

The legal issue was not whether the technician knew how to operate the instrument properly.  The national breath tech coordinator doubtless taught him well.  The legal question was whether the Attorney-General had designated him as a "qualified technician".

Quite probably, the Attorney General did make that designation.  But the technician didn't know how to say it.  Check your own documents.  If someone asks you who taught you how to operate the instrument, then tell them about the expert who taught you.  If someone asks you who designated you as a qualified technician, then tell them about the name of the Minister who designated you.

2015.10.17 Impaired Driving - British Columbia's Administrative Roadside Prohibition Programme

In B.C., police officers process most drunk drivers under provincial legislation instead of the Criminal Code. The penalties are immediate, expensive and inconvenient.

Yesterday, in Goodwin v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles), 2015 SCC 46, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the original version of BC's immediate roadside prohibition programme violated s.8 of the Charter by reason that a single screening of a driver's breath risked imposing serious consequences without sufficient safeguards against error. Screening devices can give false results, depending upon calibration or mouth alcohol.

But in 2012, the legislation changed, requiring officers to give the driver a second chance with a different screening device. The changes also expanded the driver's opportunity to challenge the prohibition by way of an administrative review. The court hinted pretty strongly that the new regime would pass constitutional muster.

The appellants challenged the administrative regime by pointing out that it has virtually replaced the Criminal Code provisions in B.C.. A majority of the judges replied: "A provincial enactment that allows police to make a discretionary decision about whether to enforce the Criminal Code or the MVA in particular circumstances is not one that 'compromise[s] the proper functioning of the Criminal Code'".

This means B.C. police can use their good sense to determine when to proceed by way of a criminal investigation, and when to solve the case by way of an administrative prohibition.

Use this discretion for the protection of the public.  Administrative prohibitions are easy. Effective criminal investigation of impaired drivers is difficult. Check the history of the driver you're investigating. If past administrative measures failed to deter him, then perhaps its time to try criminal measures instead.  B.C. officers should practice their criminal investigation skills, lest they forget what to do to investigate a fatality caused by an impaired driver.

The court rejected another challenge to the legislation. Wilson v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles), 2015 SCC 47. Under s. 215.41(3.1) of the act a police officer may inflict a roadside prohibition on a driver only if the officer has:

"reasonable grounds to believe, as a result of the analysis, that the driver’s ability to drive is affected by alcohol".

That means you need to know:

  1. the screening device worked properly;
  2. it did not give a falsely high result by reason of a burp or a recent drink; and
  3. the "warn" or "fail" result means that the driver's ability to drive is "affected by alcohol".

Mr Wilson argued that police officers should require independent evidence confirming that alcohol affected the driver before they can prohibit a driver.  The court rejected this idea.

But the court agreed that the screening device does not decide a prohibition.

Be clear about this: You should never prohibit a driver because they blew a fail or a warn.  You should only prohibit a driver if the fail or warn caused you to believe that alcohol "affected" the driver's ability to drive.

The legislation requires you to think for yourself.

The screening device does not know whether it was calibrated properly, nor whether that calibration was recent.  But you can find out.  The screening device does not know whether the driver recently burped.  But you can watch for this.  The screening device does not know what a "warn" or "fail" tells you about a driver's ability to drive. But during your training, you should have learned from toxicologists what those results mean.  If you don't remember, then before you do another roadside prohibition, go back to your materials and find out.

2015.10.15 Strip Search at the Scene of Arrest

Police searched Mr Parchment, 2015 BCCA 417 at a residence during a drug raid.  They found drugs in a baggie attached to his penis by a rubber band.

Mr Parchment complained that police should not do strip-searches in the field without good reason. That's what the Supreme Court of Canada said in Golden, 2001 SCC 83. Therefore the drugs should be excluded.

The judges agreed with Mr Parchment that the officers needed good reason, but in this particular case, the officers had sufficient reason, and furthermore, they followed the appropriate steps.

What were the reasons? What were the steps?

The officers burst into the house - I guess they had good reason before they got there to fear that evidence would be destroyed if they knocked and announced.

They saw Mr Parchment toss something to the floor near a refrigerator. Under the fridge they found rock cocaine. They patted him down, and found two knives in his clothing. He wore two trousers.  They removed the outer one. They laid him on the floor, where he squirmed in an odd manner. A supervising officer authorized a further search. Male officers stood him up, and took him to another room where the other occupants of the house could not watch. An officer patted him down again, and felt something hard in his groin area. The officer pulled the waist of his trousers away from his body, and looked down. Mr Parchment wore no underpants; and the officer could see the baggie.  The officers pulled his pants to his knees, removed the baggie, and dressed him again. They couldn't remember whether they put on fresh gloves to search him.

In Golden, the court adopted an English test to determine when a strip-search is appropriate in the field:

  1. Can the strip search be conducted at the police station and, if not, why not?
  2. Will the strip search be conducted in a manner that ensures the health and safety of all involved?
  3. Will the strip search be authorized by a police officer acting in a supervisory capacity?
  4. Has it been ensured that the police officer(s) carrying out the strip search are of the same gender as the individual being searched?
  5. Will the number of police officers involved in the search be no more than is reasonably necessary in the circumstances?
  6. What is the minimum of force necessary to conduct the strip search?
  7. Will the strip search be carried out in a private area such that no one other than the individuals engaged in the search can observe the search?
  8. Will the strip search be conducted as quickly as possible and in a way that ensures that the person is not completely undressed at any one time?
  9. Will the strip search involve only a visual inspection of the arrestee's genital and anal areas without any physical contact?
  10. If the visual inspection reveals the presence of a weapon or evidence in a body cavity (not including the mouth), will the detainee be given the option of removing the object himself or of having the object removed by a trained medical professional?
  11. Will a proper record be kept of the reasons for and the manner in which the strip search was conducted?

If you supervise other officers, you might find it useful to compare this checklist against what the officers did in this case. I found four points on this checklist on which these officers were vulnerable to criticism. Read the decision. See what you think.

If you need to strip-search in the field, follow the checklist. How will you remember it? Well, the exercise I suggest might help.

Mr Parchment testified that the search was done improperly, and without good cause. These judges didn't believe him. But in your next case, your suspect may present better than him. Number 11 matters. After the bustle and excitement of a search, everyone should take detailed notes of what happened and what they saw.

2015.10.09 Detention - Triggering s.10

Ms Wong, 2015 ONCA 657, a 26-year-old university graduate, called police to report the theft of her car.  An officer attended her apartment. She invited him in. It smelled of marijuana. In the kitchen, the officer saw some “Zigzag” cigarette papers and a digital scale on the counter. He suspected drugs. He asked her for insurance documents and other documents relating to the car.  She moved to the den, where he saw "two tin boxes with drug markings, rolling papers and metal screen filters that he knew were commonly used to smoke marijuana". He started asking questions about drugs.  He told her she didn't have to answer his questions.

He picked up a box, sniffed it, and said "I smell marijuana, what's up with that?" She said it was her boyfriends, and she did not know what it was.  The officer asked "Well, okay, I can go with that. What else is here that’s not yours, that’s your boyfriend’s?"

She pointed to a drawer, and opened it. It held bags of marijuana.

He cautioned her again on her right to silence, and kept asking questions.  She told him she was scared.  He told her: “I believe you’re not a bad person, so if you cooperate with me I’m sure you’ll be fine, but if you lie to me and I find out, you’ll be in trouble.” she led him to the bedroom and pointed out a black duffel bag, which he opened.  It contained lots of drugs.  Police later got a warrant and found drugs, guns and id.

The trial judge sentenced her to 6 years. I don't know if she recovered her car.

Ms Wong appealed. She complained that before she showed the officer any drugs, he had detained her. And because he did that without telling her that she could get legal advice, all the evidence should be excluded.

The appeal court agreed. She beat the rap.

The court did not say "asking questions triggers detentions".  Asking questions can trigger detentions.  The test is whether "a reasonable person in her situation would conclude that she no longer had the freedom to choose whether or not to cooperate with the police."

I think you may find reading this case challenging and instructive.  It's worth debating with your peers how this officer might have handled the two investigations without breaching the Charter.

2015.10.07 Alternate Suspect

Somebody robbed a bank.  And the next day, someone looking just like him, and wearing the same clothes, robbed another bank. This time he presented a demand note. The hoodie and the sunglasses he wore made identifying the robber difficult.  But just after the second robbery, police found a matching hoodie in a nearby garbage bin, along with a written demand "have gun give me all money".

The officer who first examined the sweatshirt did not record finding anything interesting in the pockets.

An investigator thought that the robber looked like Victor Wolynec, 2015 ONCA 656. He asked Mr Wolynec's parole officer to look at the bank security video stills. The parole officer said the robber looked like Brian Bush.  The investigator did nothing to investigate Mr Bush's whereabouts at the time of the robbery. Instead, he pursued the idea that Wolynec was the robber. A different parole officer looked at stills from the security video, and concluded that the robber was Wolynec.

The investigative team sent the hoodie to the forensic lab to see if they could get DNA from it.  By luck, the forensic lab found a crumpled tissue containing Wolynec's DNA inside a pocket.

Defence pointed out that the investigator had tunnel vision.  He did not accept any evidence which disagreed with his theory.  Defence suggested that the investigator was so biased against Wolynec that the investigator planted the DNA-laden tissue into the pocket of the hoodie before sending it to the lab. What gave that theory credibility was that the police could not fully account for the continuity of the sweatshirt from seizure to analysis at the DNA lab.

The trial judge did not like the investigator who ignored evidence of an alternate suspect. 

The DNA evidence did persuade the trial judge of Mr Wolynec's guilt.  The appeal court agreed.

Lessons for police officers in this case include:

2015.10.02 Traffic Stop off the Highway

When investigating motor vehicle safety, you don't need reasonable grounds to suspect that a driver committed an offence before you can pull the driver over.  But the legislation empowers you to do that only on "highways".

But what about private property? The Saskatchewan Traffic Safety Act did not authorize police to stop a vehicle in a pub parking lot for the purpose of checking whether the driver had a licence and insurance. Lux, 2012 SKCA 129.

What if you see the vehicle driving on a public road, and then it pulls into a parking lot? According to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, in R. v. Heer, [2013] O.J. No. 6432, 2013 ONSC 7257, Ontario police can still investigate traffic safety issues on a parking lot even without grounds to suspect an offence, so long as they saw driving on a highway, and decided to pull the driver over before the driver reached the parking lot.

Your mileage may vary. The relevant legislation varies from province to province to province. In B.C., a mall parking lot is a "highway".  Cyr v. Koster, 2001 BCSC 1459.  In Ontario, a restaurant parking lot is not. Tresham, 1998 CanLII 14756.

I did not provide a link to R. v. Heer because it's not available on any free websites.  I asked CanLII to add it to their database. I hope they will.

2015.09.29 Right to Counsel - Uncertain Suspects

When you arrest or detain someone, you must tell them that they can retain and instruct counsel. When you ask them what they want to do, some answer ambiguously. That's a trap for you.

For example, when asked if he wanted a lawyer, Mr Wydenes 1999 BCCA 202 said “No, I guess not.  I don’t know.”  The court found that triggered a duty on the officer to inquire further.

Mr Owens, 2015 ONCA 652 said "No, not right now."  Many Ontario provincial court judges held that required the officer to read the secondary Charter warning.  Yesterday, the Ontario Court of Appeal straightened them out. The obligation to read the secondary Charter warning arises when a prisoner suggests that he wants to talk to a lawyer and then appears to change his mind.

Mr Bishop, 2013 BCSC 522 also said "not right now".  The BC judge came to the same conclusion as in Owens.

Although you arrest people routinely, many of the people you arrest find the process unfamiliar.  They may respond hesitantly. Know that judges will scrutinize this interaction carefully.  Therefore listen to what your prisoner says, and react to what they say.

Usually, you arrest people and then take them to the police station. I think you should always ask again about access to counsel when you reach the police station.  It gives the suspect an opportunity to think about his/her situation, and it shows good faith on your part.  Always makes notes of this second interaction.

2015.09.22 Search and Seizure - Warrant Drafting - "Step Six" review at trial

Confidential informants told police that "Jen" Crevier, 2015 ONCA 619 ran with a bad crowd, trafficked drugs and possessed firearms in a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto. Police officers drafted an application for a warrant which explained the sources' information, along with what the police knew about the sources, and what other information they had which matched what the sources said. A justice granted a search warrant. Police who executed it found drugs and guns in the apartment.

In order to give Ms Crevier full answer and defence at trial, the prosecution provided defence with copies of the applications, with redactions to prevent Ms Crevier (or anyone else) from figuring out who informed on her. But the remaining information did not sufficiently explain why the justice could have granted the warrant.

The defence challenged the warrant.  Ordinarily, in such a challenge, the trial judge sees only the material which the defence received. But this time, the disclosed information could not support a warrant. The prosecution gave the judge the original application, and summaries of the redacted material.  The summaries identified the kinds of material in the redactions, without identifying the confidential sources. The trial judge checked those summaries against the redacted material to ensure they were accurate, and then gave the summaries to defence.

Defence didn't like the idea of the judge deciding their challenge to the warrant based on information they could not see. But because those summaries sufficiently equipped the defence to probe the weaknesses of the application, the judge could then look at the original material without redaction.  That material persuaded the judge that the warrant could properly have been granted. The judges in the appeal court approved of the procedure and agreed that the warrant properly issued.

The Supreme Court of Canada proposed this complicated procedure in the case of Garofoli, [1990] 2 SCR 1421 (SCC) as the last of a six step process for examining judicial authorizations. Few prosecutions tried "step 6" until recently. This decision re-affirms the procedure.

This means when drafting applications for warrants or wiretap, you must:

You should structure what you write in expectation the trial process will involve redaction and disclosure to defence. This link illustrates some concepts, but I provide it only to demonstrate structure, not as a precedent.  Don't copy and paste from it into your applications.

2015.09.21 Prisoner Privacy redux

If your cell block contains cameras which view and record prisoners using the toilet, consider making changes now. Several Ontario judges found that those setups violate s.8 Charter rights.  Mok, 2015 ONCA 608

2015.09.07 Facebook Identification

Mr Emam stood outside a nightclub with a friend, when a stranger shot his friend to death.  Two days later, he was recounting what happened to another friend when that friend showed him some Facebook pictures, and pointed out the face of Mr Mohamed, 2014 ABCA 398. Mr Emam recognized him as the shooter.

Pretty good lead.  Pretty crappy lineup.

The investigators didn't just take Mr Emam and his friend at their words.  The investigators made a point of downloading the Facebook pages which Mr Emam saw.  Not just the image of the suspect, but all the photos that Mr Emam saw during this informal identification process.

Defence unsuccessfully argued that this identification procedure was so flawed that it should not be admitted into evidence. I suspect that part of the reason they failed was that the witnesses could show other faces that Mr Emam saw on Facebook before identifying Mr Mohamed. That identification evidence combined with other evidence (Mr Mohamed had a dispute with the deceased), led to Mr Mohamed's conviction.

Where evidence comes from Facebook, get screen dumps of the crucial evidence immediately.  But don't just get the information.  Try to get the remaining context.

This decision came down last year. I'm sorry that I didn't notice it until now.

2015.09.06 Authenticating Exhibits - What Made this Video and When? Who Downloaded it?

How hard is it to get a conviction for assault if you have a video of the attack?

Pretty hard, if you can't prove the authenticity of the video.

Mr Bulldog, Mr Geiser and Mr Joe, 2015 ABCA 251 attacked Mr Keepness. They did it in a jail, where security cameras recorded the whole thing. Being a "good" con, Mr Keepness refused to testify.

You might think that the video proves the case. But exhibits prove nothing until people testify about them.

For example, suppose you find a cardboard box labelled "moon rocks" on your desk.  You look inside and see rocks.  Do you believe that they came from the moon?

Only if you're gullible.

Suppose instead, Buzz Aldrin gives you a box containing rocks, and says "I collected these on the moon. Take a look." Those rocks became more interesting because personal testimony authenticated them.

Judges want the same thing: testimony which explains the exhibit.

The investigators in this case made the same mistake investigators make all over the country. They took no time to establish who downloaded the video. (The prosecutor also made a mistake by failing to ask the guards whether the video accurately recorded what occurred. Lucky for them, the witnesses provided just enough evidence that the judge could infer that the video was authentic.)

It would have been much easier if the person who downloaded the video testified about it.

Avoid this mistake. When collecting a security video, don't expect that the video will testify for itself. Identify who downloaded it from the security system.  That person should make notes about what they give you, in case they must testify.

And check the date and time settings on the system, if you possibly can. People often forget to check the settings, especially when the clocks change in the spring and fall.

2015.09.05 Exigent Circumstances Search - Freeze the Scene or Apply for a Warrant?

A good confidential source told police that "TJ", a gangster, just got out of jail, and was moving lots of cocaine into town. He told them where "TJ" lived and what car he drove. "TJ" appeared to be Mr Kim, 2015 ABCA 274, a gangster with a record for trafficking, who just got out of jail and drove that car. Police officers watched Mr Kim meet someone for 30 seconds in a dark spot behind a gas station. They saw more suspicious activity with friends at a restaurant.  They arrested Mr Kim and some of his friends.  One of the group (not Mr Kim) possessed 7 rocks of cocaine wrapped in cellophane.

Next officers rushed to his house.  The lights were on, but nobody answered the door.  Without a warrant, they entered it, and searched for people. They found none, but noticed a drug scale and lots of cash. Officers stood guard at the door, while others applied for a search warrant. When it arrived, they searched more carefully and found more cocaine and more cash.

Mr Kim complained that the police violated his rights by entering his house without a warrant. The officers explained that they had reason to fear that someone inside the house might destroy evidence before they had time to get the warrant. Some of their reasons included:

  1. The source described large quantities of cocaine; but the officers seized only a little.
  2. The arrest occurred where friends of Mr Kim could see.  A friend might call his home and tell occupants there to destroy evidence before police arrived.
  3. The lights were on, suggesting that someone might be home.

Mr Kim accused the police of creating an avoidable emergency. Police should no be allowed to circumvent the obligation to get a warrant by manufacturing exigent circumstances.

The court sided with police this time:the officers didn't know what they would see until they watched Mr Kim.

If you have real concerns that evidence will be destroyed if you don't freeze the scene, then you may - without a warrant - enter a residence to preserve the evidence. In CDSA cases, you rely on s.11(7) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  In criminal cases, you rely on s.487.11 of the Criminal Code.

But don't manufacture unnecessary emergencies. Apply for your search warrant in advance, if you can.

2015.09.05 Warrant Drafting - Full, Fair and Frank

The officer who drafted the application for a warrant to search Mr Kim's house failed to mention that Mr Kim possessed no drugs when arrested.

The trial judge didn't like that.  Nor did the appeal judges.

An application for a search warrant resembles a trial. The justice reviews evidence, and then makes a decision.  If you don't tell the justice both sides of the story, then the justice may reach the wrong conclusion.  If you possess evidence suggesting that the drugs aren't there

If you know of evidence which suggests that the warrant should not issue,

2015.09.05 Documenting your Search

Mr Dhillon 2015 BCCA 375 drove a truck through the border.  A compartment contained 30 bricks of cocaine worth $1.5 million. Defence suggested that Mr Dhillon might not have known of the drugs because someone could have opened a panel in the roof, and dropped the cocaine into the compartment.

Someone took good pictures. Those pictures showed the cocaine neatly stacked, which would be impossible from the roof.  Mr Dhillon was convicted and the conviction stuck.

If you find something interesting, photograph it before you move it.  And write notes in case the photos don't turn out.

2015.08.29 Report to a Justice - Redux

The Ontario Court of Appeal reminds us again that you violate Constitutional rights when you fail to report to a justice what you seized.  United States v. Mathurin, 2015 ONCA 581

2015.08.28 Expectation of Privacy - Fraudulently obtained Internet Service

Mr Feltham signed up for internet service.  Mr Caza, 2015 BCCA 374 fraudlently took over his account, and used the service himself to download child pornography. Police officers noticed his activity, and asked his internet provider, Shaw, for subscriber information. Shaw gave them personal information which led them to Mr Caza.  Mr Caza complained this breached his reasonable expectation of privacy, citing Spencer, 2014 SCC 43.

The court found that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy because he obtained the internet service by fraud.

This resembles the argument that a car thief can't complain that you violated his privacy by searching his car, because it's not his car.

The difference between cars and internet service is that you can't usually tell whether your target is fraudulently using internet service.  The investigators were lucky that time.  Post Spencer, you mostly need to get subscriber information by way of the new production orders.

2015.08.26 Writing - Warrant drafting  - Active Voice

Police work involves writing. Some prosecutions stand or fall on the quality of police drafting. Writing well can make the difference between success and failure.

A confidential informant told his/her handler that "Marvin" (later identified as Michael Green, 2015 ONCA 579) packed a pistol. Another officer drafted an application for a warrant. Confidential informants won't talk if they think that their identities will be discovered.  The drafter wisely separated the source's information into material he thought would not tend to reveal the source's identity (Appendix B), and the highly specific material from which Mr Green might identify who ratted him out (Appendix C).

The warrant issued, and police busted Mr Green with drugs and a loaded semi-automatic pistol.

When it came to trial, the defence challenged the warrant: did the appendices really convey enough information to justify issuing the warrant? To protect the source, the prosecution could only rely on Appendix B - and even it needed some redacting.

Just to be clear, when you apply for a warrant application must convince the justice that he or she should grant the warrant. The justice reads everything, in private. Later, at public trial, a judge reviews only the redacted material, but asks a different question: Could a justice lawfully issue the warrant based only on this (redacted) material?

The trial judge and the appeal judges examined only what the officer wrote in Appendix B. Because of how the officer wrote it, they nearly agreed with the defence. Judges distinguish between personal observation and gossip on the street. Try reading what the officer wrote, and ask yourself, "Does it tell you how the source knew that the target had a gun?

On January 11th, 2008, I spoke to Constable SILLS #2830 who received information from a confidential informant indicating that a male named “Marvin”, who was later identified as Michael GREEN  October 10th, 1957, was in possession of a semi automatic handgun at his residence located at 189 Queen Street East in the City of Brampton.
Michael GREEN was observed to be in possession of a semi-automatic handgun within the residence of 189 Queen Street East in the City of Brampton.

Who observed Green holding the gun?   Perhaps the confidential source repeated street gossip. By writing in the passive voice (italicized in the quotation) the officer omitted crucial information. And if that were all he wrote, the warrant would have fallen.

Later in Appendix B, the writer mentioned as an afterthought:

The C/I has [redacted] seen Michael GREEN in possession of a semi-automatic handgun.

Apparently, the source saw the gun in Green's possession after all. This information saved the case.

I find police write in the passive voice too often. Just yesterday, I reviewed a file in which an officer wrote that the contraband "was found" in the offender's possession, instead of identifying which officer found it. Because it appeared in a CSO breach report, that one poorly drafted sentence could have scuttled the prosecution. Just like the Green case.

Avoiding the passive voice takes practice. Try it. You may write better as a result.

2015.08.25 Search & Seizure - Standing - Privacy of Text Messages

Here's another cell phone case for the Supreme Court of Canada.

Police stopped Manjit Guray's vehicle, asked some questions, searched his trunk, and then arrested him for possession of drugs for the purposes of trafficking.  The trial judge found that they lacked reasonable grounds.  The officers then searched Mr Guray's cell phone, and found text messages which suggested that Mr Guray was about to complete a drug deal.  The officers continued the text message conversation, which led them to arrest Mr Pelucco, 2015 BCCA 370 and search his house.  Among other things, they found a kilo of cocaine in his car and 280 grams of heroin in his house.

Mr Pelucco complained that the police violated his privacy by unlawfully reading his text messages on Mr Guray's phone.  The prosecutor argued that Mr Pelucco doesn't have a right of privacy in someone else's phone.

Because the search occurred in the course an unlawful arrest, the trial judge agreed that Mr Pelucco enjoyed a reasonable expectation of privacy over his text messages in Mr Guray's phone.  So did two of the three appeal court judges.  But because one judge disagreed, the Federal Crown has a right (if it wants) to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal.

The lesson for police is to avoiding building your investigations based upon Charter breaches and standing arguments. Obey the law. If Mr Guray's initial arrest had been found lawful, Mr Pelucco wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

2015.08.22 Judicial Pre-Authorization - Hard Entries  - Uncertainty in the Law

A confidential source told police that Mr Al-Amiri, 2015 NLCA 37 and an associate trafficked drugs from their residence. An officer wrote to Canada Post asking them to look out for suspicious packages addressed to that home. A postal official noticed one that turned out to contain 15,300 ecstasy pills. The officers took all but three of the pills from the package, and installed a tracking device and an alarm which would alert police when the recipient opened the package. They sought a general warrant to permit the police to enter the residence and freeze the scene when the occupant(s) opened the package.  They didn't tell the issuing judge that they planned a "hard" entry.

The trial judge hated the warrant and its execution. 2013 CanLII 22340

He found a multitude of flaws, including:

The appeal court disagreed with all of these conclusions.

Like the trial judge, some police officers out there still think you need judicial pre-authorization for hard entries. As the appeal court explained, you don't need pre-authorization, but you do need good information in advance of the entry that suggests that you should omit the "knock and announce" required in normal searches.

The Canadian criminal justice system suffers an irreparable flaw - it relies entirely upon human beings. Police officers, lawyers and judges can all make mistakes. I'm human too. What you read on this website may also contain errors (though I try to avoid it).

Part of understanding "the law" means understanding that the latest decision from a trial judge - or even a court of appeal - must be respected.  But it isn't necessarily the last word. On contentious issues, the common law gropes its way dimly towards justice. And as this case shows, even settled questions may arise again.

2015.08.22 Right to Counsel in Impaired Driving Investigations - A Delicate Balance

After you demand that a suspected drunk driver provide breath samples, you must obtain those breath samples "as soon as practicable".  No wasting time.

You must also inform the driver of his or her right to get legal advice, and facilitate access before taking those breath samples. And if a driver asserts that he wants legal advice, and then changes his mind, you must give him the secondary Charter warning, making it clear that you will hold off eliciting evidence until he gets a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.

Did Mr Swaine, 2014 ONSC 7049 want legal advice before he blew? The officer who first dealt with him made an unclear note about what he said. Then Mr Swaine waffled. He wasted time. He gave no clear answer. Then he said "You know what? … fuck it" He then provided breath samples without complaint.  At trial, Mr Swaine remembered telling the police that he wanted to speak to a lawyer. 

Ambiguity ruined this case. The trial judge found that Mr Swaine waived his right to counsel.  The appeal court disagreed.

If the officer had spent time explaining the secondary Charter warning to Mr Swaine, then at trial Mr Swaine might have remembered wanting to get the breath test done promptly, without legal advice.  His lawyer would have argued that the officer wasted time: "My client didn't want a lawyer, and made that clear. The officer wasted time talking about a lawyer my client didn't want. Therefore, these breath samples were not taken 'as soon as practicable'."

You're wrong if you rush him to the instrument, and you're wrong if you push him to the phone. Scylla and Charybdis. How do you navigate this difficult territory?


Be clear about your duties: get breath samples promptly; give suspect access to legal advice if he wants it.

Be clear in your questions. "Do you want legal advice before blowing into the instrument?"

Clearly record the responses. (I like audio or video recordings.)

Put the ball in the suspect's court. If he expresses uncertainty about seeking legal advice, read the secondary warning, then encourage - but don't force - him to talk to duty counsel. Give him the choice to talk with a lawyer of his choice, and then press on with your investigation.

2015.08.15 Hidden bruises - Ultraviolet Light - Experts

In violence cases, your observations of the presence or absence of injuries on the victim or suspect can make all the difference in the case.

In my experience, people often complain of being struck, but the investigating officer sees no injuries. Some bruises take hours to develop, so the officer finishes dealing with the victim or suspect before the injury shows. One way to capture this evidence is to photograph the person the next day. Some injuries never show.

This case suggests another technique.

A woman complained that Mr Lawrence, 2015 BCCA 358 raped her, and when doing so, choked her to unconsciousness. Her neck showed no injury. Not even the doctor who examined her found injury. Sgt Gosling decided to examine her neck under ultraviolet light, and found marks consistent with bruising, about the size of fingertips, just below her jaw line.

Good thinking, Sgt Gosling!

The prosecutor asked Sgt Gosling to testify about his observations, but did not qualify him as an expert.

The appeal court said that his testimony was "expert evidence", and therefore the prosecutor made a mistake in failing to qualify him as an expert.  Fortunately, Sgt Gosling testified about his many years' experience in forensic work, and his use of this technique.  The court found that what he said in court sufficed to prove he was an expert, even though the prosecutor did not follow the formal steps. They also liked how he restrained his evidence to merely his observations, and did not express opinions about how the marks got there.

If you're in an identification section, this can happen to you. Therefore:

  1. If you use unusual light sources and make interesting observations in the case, write up your observations in a manner which identifies it as expert evidence.
  2. Include in your CV comments about your training and experience using these techniques to make similar observations.
  3. If the prosecutor forgets to qualify you as an expert, but asks you questions about a topic which requires expertise, talk lots about your experience and training in the use of the technique.
  4. Experiment with your unusual light sources in situations where you know the truth - if you suffer a bruise which doesn't show, try shining the light on it to see whether it fluoresces.
  5. Beware of articles which merely praise the technology. Learn and explain the limits of the technology. Will ultraviolet light sometimes fluoresce in places that aren't injured? If so, why? Can it fail to detect injuries that are actually there? If so, why?

2015.08.12 Self-defence and Reporting Use of Force

Cst Power, 2014 SKQB 356 patrolled downtown when he noticed Mr Stonechild, intoxicated again. Mr Stonechild suffered hepatitis and AIDS. Sometimes he cooperated with police, and sometimes he was a nasty drunk. Rather than arrest him immediately, Cst Power told Stonechild to walk to the detox unit, two blocks away. Cst Power followed in his police car as Stonechild walked there, but wouldn't go in. Cst Power got out of the car.

Because Cst Power was putting on latex gloves as he got out, he didn't notice Stonechild approaching him until Stonechild was 4-5 feet away, fists clenched and coming fast.

Cst Power kicked him in the abdomen, knocking Mr Stonechild away. Mr Stonechild fell, cracked his head and bled.

When asked about the incident by a superior officer, Cst Power re-enacted it, showing himself pushing Stonechild with his hands instead of his foot. Cst Power filed a use of force report with this explanation.

Unbeknownst to Cst Power, a security camera recorded the whole incident.

An assault charges was laid against the officer for using excessive force. A defence expert testified that Cst Power should not have distracted himself by pulling on his latex gloves while exposed to the possible danger of an angry drunk; but the kick matched standard police training for repelling the attack. After watching the video, the trial judge convicted Cst Power for using too much force. The appeal judge acquitted, observing that Cst Power had little opportunity to assess how much force to use at the instant he reacted. The matter is proceeding on to further appeal.

I suspect that Cst Power's lie about the kick caused most of his difficulty. (I am curious how it got into evidence, considering that the officer was likely compelled to account for his actions that day. But that's a separate issue.)

Several lessons can be drawn from this case:

  1. Pay attention to tactical self-defence training - avoid putting yourself at risk. Cst Power should have put on his gloves in a safe place.
  2. Practice self-defence - you are hired to handle the most unpredictable people. Keep your instincts sharp.
  3. Telling lies is dangerous for you. Police use of force attracts much scrutiny. This scrutiny creates fear in the officer who injured someone. That fear moves some people to minimize or lie. But in the long run, deceit is harder for everyone else to accept than a split-second error in judgment in the use of force.

2015.08.11 Search & Seizure - Expectation of Privacy in a Casino - Interception of Private Communication

Mr Wiwchar, 2014 BCSC 2108 walked into a casino. The signs on the door told patrons of the 24-hour video surveillance inside. Police were watching Mr Wiwchar. They asked the security staff at the casino to zoom in on Mr Wiwchar.  The cameras were pretty high quality.  They captured text messages he composed on his Blackberry, even before he sent them.

At trial, Mr Wiwchar complained that police violated his privacy. The casino's surveillance was to catch cheaters at games, not to snoop on the private lives of their patrons. The police directions resulted in surveillance which exceeded what the casino would normally do. And besides, he said, this was interception of private communications. Even a general warrant could not authorize this kind of surveillance.

The prosecution pointed out that the patrons were warned of the high level of security. This couldn't be "interception", the prosecution argued, because Mr Wiwchar hadn't sent the messages yet.

The trial judge agreed with defence. The prosecution eventually got a conviction anyway, and so they will not appeal this decision.  This is a trial decision, not an appeal. It provides you a warning of what other judges might conclude, but does not provide a final answer.

2015.08.09 Surveillance in the Cell Block - Charter Breach or Police Duty?

Does cell-block security video violate or protect prisoner's rights?

Ms Wildfong, 2015 SKPC 55 needed to pee. But police had arrested her for impaired driving. The investigating officer took her to the police station and let her pee in a cell.  He arranged for a matron to supervise, to make sure that Ms Wildfong didn't consume alcohol before the breath test.  The officer forgot that the security system would video-record Ms Wildfong. He didn't tell her she would be recorded. At trial, Ms Wildfong complained that the police gave her the impression that she enjoyed privacy, but the recording of her private urination violated that reasonable expectation of privacy. The trial judge agreed that this violated Ms Wildfong's rights.

Should you give prisoners privacy? Should you turn off or block the video cameras in your cell block?

Prisoners sometimes do strange things in police cell blocks.  Some will kill themselves, even if arrested for minor matters. You have a duty to protect your prisoners from harm.

Maybe someone should watch your prisoners even when they pee.

Some drinking drivers will consume alcohol in order to defeat the breath testing equipment. That's what Ms St. Pierre [1995] 1 S.C.R. 791 said she did when she got privacy. You have a duty to collect reliable evidence.

Maybe someone should watch your prisoners even when they pee.

Police officers and guards sometimes abuse or neglect prisoners. Video cameras can hold them to account. When prisoner Ashley Smith killed herself, prison security video was necessary to find out whether the prison staff acted properly. There is a reasonable argument that you should have no control over security video recordings of your actions.

Maybe cameras should watch you when you deal with prisoners.

The judge who decided Ms Wildfong's case referred to several similar cases in which judges concluded that surveillance violated the privacy rights of prisoners. In light of these broader issues, I question whether these judges are heading in the right direction.

I expect this issue to percolate slowly up to higher levels of court.

What can you do in the mean time?

  1. Remember your security system. What it records often provides relevant evidence. If so, put a copy in your file.
  2. Disclose your security system. When arriving in your police station, tell your prisoners that it records them. This may reduce their expectation of privacy.
  3. Prevent unnecessary violations of privacy. Aim your cameras to avoid capturing images of prisoners' genitals. Erect partial screens, to block unnecessary views. Minimize who watches prisoners pee. Seal up copies of video recordings of private activity, and limit who accesses them.

2015.08.08 Search & Seizure - Report to a Justice

To those officers who doubt the necessity of "Form 5.2", the Ontario Court of Appeal resolved your doubts: you breach s.8 of the Charter when you fail to report to a justice what you seized using your powers as a peace officer.

Mr Garcia-Machado, 2015 ONCA 569 drove drunk and crashed. With a warrant, police got his blood samples from the hospital, and later, acquired his medical records. But the investigator failed to report the seizures until 15 weeks after the crash. He thought the obligation triggered when an officer swears the charges.

The trial judge excluded the evidence and acquitted the drunk.

The Court of Appeal agreed that officers who fail to file these reports "as soon as practicable" violate s.489.1; and they breach the constitutional rights of the persons whose property they took or whose privacy they violated by seizing the evidence.

In this case, the court found sufficient extenuating circumstances that they felt the evidence should have been admitted anyway. This officer did actually file a report. Better late than never.

If you haven't read s.489.1 recently, perhaps you should. Test your knowledge with this quiz:

"I don't have to file a form 5.2 unless charges are laid."
"I don't have to file a form 5.2 if I give the thing back."
"I have 7 days to file a form 5.2."

"Filing a form 5.2 means I get to keep the exhibit for a while."
"I get to keep the exhibit for 3 months after I file the 5.2."
"Form 5.2 is just for search warrants."
"I don't need to do a Form 5.2 for documents obtained through a production order."

2015.08.07 Confessions - Voluntariness

"If I confess will you let my girlfriend go?"

Mr Heatley, 2015 BCCA 350 robbed convenience stores. His girlfriend drove. Eventually, police surveillance caught them in the act, and both were arrested. An interviewer spent four days trying to get Mr Heatley to talk about all the robberies. Mr Heatley didn't want to talk, but particularly, he didn't want his girlfriend to stay in jail.  Eventually, he talked.  Defence complained that police exploited his concern for his girlfriend, thus rendering his confession inadmissible.

The common law places many limits on what you can say to a suspect to persuade him or her to confess.  You must attend to their physical needs - feed them, let them sleep, get them the medication that they need. You must not overwhelm their ability to choose whether to speak. You must avoid offering a deal which undermines their freedom to choose.

In this case, it was Mr Heatley who proposed the deal.  Repeatedly.  And every time, the investigating officer explained that he could not make such a deal; all he wanted was the truth. He suggested to Mr Heatley that the truth might get his girlfriend and him into more legal trouble, but would be better for them both morally in the long run.  The judges concluded that this statement was voluntary.

The most important Canadian case on voluntariness is still Oickle.  If you read no other decisions, read that one. But this one's a valuable read. I recommend it to you officers who interview suspects, even if only rarely. Don't rely on my summary. Click the link and read what the judges thought. Pay close attention to the parts of the interviews which defence counsel highlighted. Language like that is dangerous.  Pay close attention to the passages that the judges highlighted.  See how to avoid trouble when interviewing.

2015.08.03 Arrest on a Warrant - Bring a Copy if you Can

While doing some basic research, I ran across this interesting decision from last year.

When a warrant issued for the arrest of Mr Gerlitz, 2014 ABQB 252, police knew they had a problem. He considered himself to be a "sovereign citizen" - not bound by any law of Canada. They expected trouble, so they organized a tactical team to assist. Mr Gerlitz acted less violently than they feared, but demanded his rights, refused to give his name, and talked over their explanations. He demanded to know why they were arresting him.

Nobody thought to bring along a copy of the warrant.

Section 29 of the Criminal Code requires you - if feasible - to bring a copy of any warrant you plan to execute, and to produce it on request.

Mr Gerlitz complained that the officers failed to explain sufficiently why they arrested him, and thereby breached s.10(a) of the Charter. The judge decided that the officers in this case did not breach Mr Gerlitz's Charter rights by failing to comply with s.29. I suspect that Mr Gerlitz's contrary nature may have helped him reach that conclusion.

You might not be so lucky in the next case.

If you plan to execute a warrant, bring a copy if at all possible.

2015.07.13 Arrest - Reasonable Grounds during a Gang War

Sources told police that Mr Sanghera, 2015 BCCA 316, stored rifles and handguns in his mother's garage. They got a warrant.

No guns, but plenty of ammunition, and the butts sawn from two long guns.

Over the days that followed, more information poured in: At a casino, Mr Sanghera got into a shoving match with a member of a rival gang. According to a source, a couple of weeks later, someone drove by Mr Sanghera's residence and shot at it. The next day, there had been more drive-by shootings at the residences of two members of the rival gangs. The day after that, police officers near Mr Sanghera's residence observed two rival gang members doing heat checks as they drove in Mr Sanghera's neighborhood. Police set up road blocks to prevent drive-by shootings.

A couple of days later, Mr Sanghera's cousin's girlfriend complained to police that two vehicles boxed in vehicle.  She escaped by driving on a sidewalk. She named one driver as the man from the casino. She was driving Sanghera's cousin's vehicle at the time.

A few days later, an untested source told police that the Sangheras were hunting for the rival gang. The source said that the Sangheras were wearing body armour and carrying firearms. The police discovered Sanghera was driving a rental vehicle.  They found him driving it slowly back and forth through a specific area. It stopped at a massage parlour. Four men went in. An hour later, they emerged.

Police arrested the men, and found handguns and ammunition.  Defence argued that police lacked sufficient grounds to arrest the men for any identifiable offence.

The judges disagreed.

Offence - Past or future?

Many officers would limit themselves to offences already committed - such as possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. But the officers who watched did not see any weapons that day.

The court found that the officers could rely on the part of s.495(1)(a) which authorizes arrest when someone "is about to commit an indictable offence".

Reasonable Grounds - An Exercise in Logic

The judges agreed that the officers had sufficient grounds to arrest.

When I ask police officers to explain why they arrested or detained or searched, they usually regurgitate all the facts, but they rarely link it together, to make the conclusion obvious. Indeed, the decision contains a quote from the testimony which shows this happening. I suspect that this officer probably prepared to give a more detailed answer, if asked.

For those who want practice constructing such an answer, the facts in this case provide an excellent exercise.

See what you come up with.  Click the button to see how I might explain it:

2015.07.10 Drunk in a "Public Place" - Detention and Arrest

A taxi driver complained to police that Mr Guray, 2015 BCCA 183 would not leave his cab. The officers told him to get out of the cab. After he got out, the officers arrested him for being drunk in public. When they searched him, they found cocaine in his pockets.

Mr Guray complained that the police broke the law by

These complaints often succeed - but they didn't this time. Consider what could go wrong, and what went right.

Suppose you pluck a drunk from a private place, and put him in a public place. You would be responsible for putting him there, not him.  Courts look unfavourably on officers who put drunks in public places and then arrest them for "drunk in a public place" (DIPP).

But these judges found that the taxi cab was a "public place". It might be a private place when a paying fare occupies it. But Mr Guray wasn't a paying customer. The cabbie wanted him out.

Was Mr Guray drunk? He mumbled incoherently, he had balance issues and glossy, bloodshot eyes.  But only one of the two officers detected any odour of liquor, and it was faint. He had good posture.  Perhaps he was just ill.  The court held that a police officer need not have proof of impairment, only reasonable grounds.  This officer had other reasons to believe alcohol caused the problem.  For example, the events occurred in the vicinity of bars, after closing time, when drunks are common.

Many officers fail to appreciate that "drunk" is not enough for DIPP. Impairment must render the drunk a danger to himself or others. You must fear for safety of people or damage to property. In this case, however, Mr Guray's intoxication appeared to be depriving the cabbie of his livelihood. He appeared to lack the ability to find his way home. Mr Guray's lawyer wisely avoided arguing this issue.

Arresting someone does not give you the right to search their person for anything you might find. You must look only for items related to the offence or the arrest. These officers sought:

  1. liquor - which would provide evidence of the offence;
  2. weapons - which could endanger the officers; and
  3. identification - so that the officers could determine who they arrested.

These are all lawfully incidental to this arrest. And that's why Mr Guray lost his appeal.

2015.07.08 Expectation of Privacy- Common Areas of a Condominium

Do police need a warrant to investigate in the common areas of a condominium or apartment?  Two similar investigations reached different conclusions.

Ontario police had reasons to suspect that Mr White, 2015 ONCA 508 sold drugs from his unit in a 10-unit condominium.  Also for good reasons, BC police suspected Mr Webster, 2015 BCCA 286, sold drugs from his apartment.

In both cases, police got into the buildings by circumventing the security system at the front door. While investigating Mr White, plainclothes officers managed to follow the postman into the building.  They discovered that the back door didn't lock properly, and entered that way on two other occasions. Mr Webster actually held the front door open for the plainclothes officers who were watching him. On another occasion, another resident let them into the building, also without knowing who they were.

These investigations led the police to seize quantities of illegal drugs from both residences.  Mr White beat the rap.  Mr Webster went down.

The Ontario courts found that by entering and looking around the building, and by watching Mr White and listening outside his unit, the officers violated Mr White's reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas of the building. Police needed a warrant to investigate in those hallways. The BC courts found that Mr Webster enjoyed no reasonable expectation of privacy in his building's common areas. No warrant required.

Is there or isn't there an expectation of privacy in the common areas of an apartment or condominium?

The facts distinguish the cases.  Mr Webster had the misfortune of sharing his building with the lead investigator of the drug team. At least one resident of the apartment wanted the drug cops there.  Mr Webster made the mistake of holding the front door open for strangers - plainclothes police. His claim to expect no strangers to wander his hallways fell flat.

This emphasis on the facts of the individual cases leaves you with little guidance.

I think these two cases illustrate a structural problem in the law: only one standard justifies the issuance of a warrant, even though the courts recognize a sliding scale of privacy. The "reasonable grounds to believe" standard can justify intrusions into the privacy of bedrooms and psychiatric records. The common areas of apartments are semi-private at best. Why should police need to meet the same standard in order to tread the hallways where Mr White's neighbours and their friends walk?

This tension will cause trouble.  We may reasonably expect the judges will struggle with this issue for a while yet.

In the mean time, what should you do to investigate in the common areas of secure condominiums and apartments?  These two cases suggest some strategies:

2015.06.27 Expectation of Privacy - Who Lives in a Condominium?

Can the building manager in a condominium tell a police officer who lives in a specific unit?

In B.C., legislation requires the building manager to identify owners and tenants of the building to the other owners and tenants.  Mr Webster, 2015 BCCA 286 lived in a condominium. Police asked the building manager for Mr Webster's information.  The manager provided it. That information led to Mr Webster's arrest for PPT.  Defence argued that police should have obtained a production order. The court disagreed. Anyone in the building could ask for and obtain the information. Mr Webster did not enjoy much privacy in it. The building manager could agree or refuse to provide the information sought; his cooperation did not make him an agent of the state.

2015.06.26 Sexual Assault - What is Consent?

You may have met some people who don't understand consent. I know in my prosecutions, I have. A colleague sent me this explanatory video. Maybe you will encounter a situation in which it would help enlighten someone.

2015.06.26 Wrongful Conviction

When is your investigation "over"?

Maxime Ditchfield died on September 22, 1970. A jury convicted her partner, Mr Salmon, 2015 ONCA 469 of manslaughter, relying largely on the evidence of an expert that her brain injuries resulted from "blunt force trauma". The judge sentenced him to 10 years.

Mr Salmon always maintained his innocence. 30 years later, his lawyer found some experts who reviewed the evidence.  They concluded that Mr Salmon didn't hit her on the head.  The brain injury was more likely the result of a fall or a series of falls.  The prosecution found an independent expert, who agreed with the defence experts.

Last week, almost 45 years after the death, another court acquitted him.

Experts aren't always right.  Your investigation is never really "over".

2015.06.20 Murder & Manslaughter - Intoxication defence

If you're too drunk to understand that what you intend to do next will kill someone, should you be convicted of murder if you do it?  At law, the answer is "no".  To be guilty of murder, you must expect that someone will die as a result of your action.  Intoxicated people don't always forsee what sober people would see.  If so, they might be guilty of manslaughter, but not murder.

Therefore, investigate the suspect's impairment.  Officers who deal with the suspect immediately before or after the killing should record notes or video of the suspect's symptoms of sobriety and impairment.

Ms Arjun 2015 BCCA 273 hacked a friend to death over several hours.  She had a drinking problem, and had consumed some alcohol. Several hours after the killing, police attended.  She had no difficulty with balance or speech, but did seem shocked.  This evidence did not suffice to establish the kind of impairment by alcohol that would be required to deprive her of the understanding that hacking someone repeatedly with a large knife would kill him.

2015.06.07 Search & Seizure - Detention Orders

Mr Weatherill, 2015 BCSC 566 didn't like the new digital power meters that the electric company wanted to install in his house. Things must have turned ugly, because the police attended and gave him a promise to appear to attend court regarding an assault. That complaint ultimately resolved as a peace bond. But in the mean time, police seized his guns. Among those firearms were some prohibited handguns for which Mr Weatherill had no licence.

Once the assault charge settled as a peace bond, Mr Weatherill wanted his guns given to a properly-licenced friend - perhaps to sell on his behalf. Police wanted them forfeited.

The Crown persuaded a provincial court to order the guns forfeit, but the BCSC saw a problem with that.

Because the police never reported the seizure of the firearms to a justice ("Form 5.2"), and the justice never ordered the firearms detained, the provincial court never took jurisdiction over the firearms. When the time came to dispose of them, the provincial court lacked jurisdiction to make the forfeiture order which the Crown sought. Although the case doesn't say, I suspect that Mr Weatherill's friend got the guns in the end.

Reporting what you seize to a justice is bothersome. Getting extensions is inconvenient. In cumbersome language, s.490 of the Criminal Code requires it. Failure to comply with that legislation can lead to embarrassing results. For example: Raponi 2004 SCC 50.

2015.06.05 Search & Seizure - Cavity Searches and Doctors

Mr Johal, 2015 BCCA 246 sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer for $100. The officer detained him, and asked him who he was. The officer arrested him and asked him if he'd like to speak with a lawyer. Mr Johal declined it for the moment, but indicated he might want to make a call from the police station.

At the police station, in a private place, police strip-searched him. They saw blood in his underwear, and what appeared to be a white powder around his anus.

The investigating officer knew that drug traffickers usually carry more than one sale of drugs, and they often hide drugs in their rectums.  He worried that drug packaging may have broken, exposing Mr Johal to a dangerous overdose.  He took Mr Johal to a hospital. He explained his concerns to a doctor, but did not direct or ask the doctor to take any particular action. He also offered Mr Johal another opportunity to talk to a lawyer, which Mr Johal declined.

The doctor told Mr. Johal, in the presence of the police officers, that Mr. Johal had to submit to an internal search.

The officers left the room, and the doctor searched Mr Johal's rectum. The doctor reported this to the police.  The doctor then X-rayed Mr Johal, and again found nothing.

Defence complained that the police and the doctor violated Mr Johal's right not to be searched unreasonably.

The trial judge and the court of appeal found that the officers acted properly. Both decisions make good reading on a variety of issues. (And the judges kept their decisions mercifully short.)

  1. Strip searches are tricky to do correctly. Notice what steps these officers took to minimize the violation of privacy in this one.
  2. Two officers saw the white powder around Johal's anus.  You should minimize the number of eyes (and videocameras) that observe the suspect's nakedness; but you should avoid leaving an officer alone and unsupervised during a strip-search. Having a second witness observe the powder provided corroboration for an important piece of evidence.
  3. Detention triggers the right to counsel. The investigating officer took a little longer than he should have to offer access to counsel. Luckily, that did not result in any prejudice to the accused.
  4. The right to counsel applies regardless where you are.  At the hospital, the investigating officer offered Mr Johal access to counsel before the doctor examined him.  That was smart. Had the doctor found evidence, it would have been excluded if the officer had not offered prior access to counsel.  Taylor, 2014 SCC 50
  5. When you ask or direct someone to help you do your work, the law calls them your "agent".  Everything they do thereafter must comply with your duties under the Charter. Even though the doctor searched Mr Johal's rectum for drugs after the police brought him to the hospital, the doctor was not a police agent because the officers took care not to tell him what to do.
  6. The court observed that Mr Johal could have declined the medical treatment.  What would you do then?
  7. The officer testified that he "suspected" that there Mr Johal's anus contained illegal drugs.  For a cavity search for evidence, you need reasonable grounds to believe that the anus or vagina in question contains evidence. Golden, 2001 SCC 83. However, this officer also had real concerns for Mr Johal's health, which should justify searching on the lower standard of belief.

2015.05.29 Spousal Privilege - Statutory Amendments July 22, 2015

Spouses are complicated.  But the law surrounding their testimony will become simpler on July 22, 2015.

Before then, with various exceptions, the prosecution could not compel a husband or wife to testify against his or her spouse nor could the court accept such testimony. Courts reached differing conclusions whether these rules applied to common-law relationships. Nguyen, 2015 ONCA 278; Legge, 2014 ABCA 213. Section 52 of the Victims Bill of Rights Act sweeps much of the confusion away by amending s.4 of the Canada Evidence Act. When it comes into force on July 22, 2015, all spouses can be compelled to testify in all cases.

But spousal communication privilege continues. The Canada Evidence Act will still provide:

4.(3) No husband is compellable to disclose any communication made to him by his wife during their marriage, and no wife is compellable to disclose any communication made to her by her husband during their marriage.

This protects an accused's person's spouse from revealing communications made in private.  If the communication were overheard (or read) by some third party in circumstances where the couple could not expect privacy (such as overtly recorded jail cell conversations), then the third party can come to court and testify about what he or she overheard the accused say to his wife.  Siniscalchi, 2010 BCCA 354; Meer, 2015 ABCA 141.

So the Crown can compel the wife of the accused to testify about the events of the crime - what she saw - but the Crown can't compel her to reveal what her husband told her in private about the murder. If the Crown does ask her what the accused said about the murder, she can decide to answer the questions if she wants.  If she and her husband discussed the crime in places where they expected to be overheard, the Crown can ask her to repeat those remarks in court without her consent.  Meer, 2015 ABCA 141 at para 69.

In Nguyen, 2015 ONCA 278, the accused's common-law partner was near the murder when it happened.  The partner told a friend some things that the accused said before the murder. As admissible hearsay, the Crown asked the friend to repeat the partner's remarks. Whether or not s.4(3) of the Canada Evidence Act applies to common law spouses, it didn't apply to this testimony because the Crown did not compel the partner to testify about the communication.

As pointed out in that case, s. 189(6) of the Criminal Code creates another exception.  The prosecutor can't tender electronically intercepted private communications between husband and wife. But the prosecution can tender the intercepted communications of common-law spouses. Nero, 2014 ONSC 1896

Spousal privilege does not extend to common-law partners. Martin, 2009 SKCA 37.  But in Ontario, it does.  Masterson 2009 CanLII 36305 (ON S.C.).

2015.05.28 Identification by Acquaintances

Over a couple of months, three Tim Hortons stores in Oshawa suffered four robberies.  In each, the robber held out a Tim Hortons cup, and required the clerk to put money into it. In each, the robber covered his face and hands. In each, the robber wore generally similar clothing.

Police prepared a poster which showed images from the store security videos.  A woman who worked at Tim Hortons believed that she recognized the robber as Mr Olliffe, 2015 ONCA 242, a former boyfriend.  Police got a search warrant for his house, and found several things which generally resembled what the robber wore: blue hospital gloves, sunglasses, bandannas, and shoes. None clearly matched the clothing of the robber.

Because of the generic nature of the items found in his house, the case depended upon the strength of her identification.

She did not recognize his clothing, only the style.  At trial, she conceded that she would not have believed that the robber was her ex-boyfriend if she had been told that the poster showed robberies in Alberta.  This evidence showed the robber appeared similar to Mr Oliffe, but that she did not specifically recognize him from the photographs.

This kind of identification evidence won't support a conviction all by itself.

Witnesses don't always articulate this difference.  You can always ask:

Are you saying you know that the guy in this picture is your ex-boyfriend, or are you saying the guy this picture looks like your ex-boyfriend?

2015.05.24 Street Checks - Detention

Street checks walk the fine line between conversation and detention.  Try to stay on the right side.

Police in the area knew Mr Fountain 2015 ONCA 354 and his brother to be involved in crime and to carry guns. When a constable saw this Mr Fountain walking on the street, he remembered learning not long before of a warrant for the arrest of one of the brothers, but he did not know which brother this was, nor whether the warrant had yet been executed.  A recording device captured the conversation:

Officer: "Fountain, come here, Guy? What's going on, man? Which one are you?"
Fountain: "What do you want?"
Officer: Which one are you?
Fountain: Fountain.
Officer: I know. Are you -- there are two brothers. Keep your hands down. Which one are you? What's your first name?

It's worth reading the decision for the rest of the conversation.

The conversation continued until a stranger intervened. Mr Fountain reacted to the stranger by blading his body and pressing his left arm to his side as if he possessed a gun.  Suspecting a firearm, and believing himself at risk, the officer touched Fountain's left side, and felt something hard like a gun. He yelled "gun!"  Fountain fled, and dropped a handgun. Police later caught him and charged him with firearms offences.

At court, the officer conceded that he did not believe that he have sufficient grounds to detain Mr Fountain. The judges found that he did detain Mr Fountain, and he did so arbitrarily.

Was the gun admissible?  The court held it was. Even though police discovered it during an arbitrary detention, the police did not create the circumstances which caused the officer to discover the gun.  The stranger did. The search was lawful, for officer safety.

The Crown and defence agreed that the officer arbitrarily detained Mr Fountain, but they disagreed when the detention became arbitrary. Factors which turned this conversation into a detention included:

  1. the officer focussed on identifying Mr Fountain for a warrant (instead of general conversation);
  2. the officer ordered Mr Fountain to talk to him, giving him the impression he had no choice but to comply;
  3. even after they identified him, they kept pumping him for information without telling him he could go; and
  4. the officer used coercive words "keep your hands down".

The appeal decision and the trial decision discuss the differences between a lawful and an unlawful street check. You may find them helpful, in order to walk on the right side of the line.  There's an even clearer discussion in Papilion, 2014 SKCA 45

2015.05.22 Child Pornography - Exploitative Relationship

When is recorded consensual sex with a young person child pornography, and when is it "self expression"?

Mr Barabash 2015 SCC 29 was over 60.  Mr Rollison was 41. They recorded videos of explicit sex with two runaway 14-year-old girls.  The girls, motivated no doubt by the food, shelter and drugs these men provided, consented to the activity, and never asked the men to destroy the recordings.  Because the age of consent at the time was 14, the trial judge found that none of the participants committed any offence.  The Supreme Court pointed out that the sexual activity might have been unlawful under s.153 of the Criminal Code if the relationship between the men and the girls was "exploitative", and ordered a new trial.

Making and possessing child pornography is lawful "where these recordings do not depict unlawful sexual activity, are held only for private use, and were created with the consent of those persons depicted."

2015.05.22 Child Pornography - Undoing Youthful Indiscretions

What should you do if a young person repents of her sexting? The answer appears to be that she should request that the recipient(s) return or destroy the images. If he/they don't, he/they may be committing an offence.

Can you arrest her abusive ex-boyfriend for possessing videos of their passionate sex together? Perhaps you can, if he persists in retaining them after she demands their destruction. And for sure, you can, if the abusive ex-boyfriend threatens to embarrass her by showing the recordings to others.

In an aside, in the Barabash 2015 SCC 29 case, the court suggested that young persons might be able to demand destruction or return of the child pornography they created. This may terminate the consent necessary for lawful possession of the child pornography.  The abusive ex-boyfriend who fails or refuses to comply with the young person's demand may then be committing the offence of possession of child pornography.

Mr Dabrowski, 2007 ONCA 619, aged 28 video-recorded himself having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend.  Sometimes his friends attended and helped.  After they broke up, he threatened to show the videos to her family and friends.  If he did, then he no longer held the recordings for private use, and could be convicted of possessing child pornography.

Parliament could act. They wouldn't need to write much. How about this:

"163.1(8) Lawful possession of child pornography which depends upon the consent of a person recorded or depicted in it terminates when that person withdraws his or her consent."

2015.05.18 Bail - Tertiary Ground - Public Confidence in the Justice System

Busting crooks resembles fishing for steelhead in B.C.. Mostly, it's catch-and-release. That's because s.11(e) of the Charter guarantees people charged with offences reasonable bail except where detention can be justified.

Most people understand the "primary" and "secondary" grounds for detaining a suspect.  If buddy won't return for court, or if he will likely commit more crime, then the justice should detain him.

But the tertiary ground confuses people. Even the appeal courts across the country disagreed about when to use it. The Supreme Court of Canada explained that the legislation means what it says.  Section 515(10)(c) provides:

(c) if the detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice, having regard to all the circumstances, including:
(i) the apparent strength of the prosecution’s case,

(ii) the gravity of the offence,

(iii) the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, including whether a firearm was used, and

(iv) the fact that the accused is liable, on conviction, for a potentially lengthy term of imprisonment or, in the case of an offence that involves, or whose subject‑matter is, a firearm, a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of three years or more.

Mr St-Cloud, 2015 SCC 27 and his buddies attacked a bus driver. A video security system recorded it. The bus driver suffered serious long-term injuries. Even though Mr St-Cloud's family posted sufficient bail to ensure his return to court, and he proposed plans which would remove him from criminal conduct, the judges agreed that he should remain in jail pending trial.

Don't use the tertiary ground for protecting the victims from a future violence. Although the prospect of releasing such a suspect undermines the victims' confidence in the justice system, concerns that your prisoner will retaliate against the complainant are good secondary ground concerns.

The tertiary ground solves the problem of releasing a suspect when everyone knows that after trial, he will return to jail for a long time. The court proceeded on the assumption that Mr St-Cloud would commit no more crime, and would return to court for trial. Use it when the evidence of guilt is overwhelming, the offence is really awful, and the accused is looking at many years in jail for the crime.

2015.05.17 Search & Seizure - Consent Search

"Would you permit me to search your vehicle?"

Mr Sebben, 2015 ONCA 270 had just passed a roadside screening test, but the officer had concerns that he might be carrying drugs.  The officer asked Mr Sebben to consent to a search.  Mr Sebben replied:  "You can look in the back if you want, 'cause all I've got is tools and Christmas presents."

The officer did not accept that as sufficiently informed consent.  Instead, he remarked, "I'm looking for things like drugs or marijuana."

At that, Mr Sebben produced a bag of marijuana.  The officer arrested him, and found more marijuana in the car.

At trial, Mr Sebben's lawyer argued that the question was effectively a detention and a search.

Because the officer intended to explain consent more fully, but got cut off by the presentation of the bag, the court found that the officer's question wasn't a search, and therefore did not breach Mr Sebben's rights under s.8 (unreasonable search), s.9 (arbitrary detention) or s.10 (right to counsel after detention).

It won't always be this easy.  When asking for consent to search a car, make a habit of explaining what you want to do, and give the suspect a real choice to say no. After you find interesting things, defence will challenge the consent.

2015.05.14 Exigent Circumstances

Around 4:00pm, a crying woman called 911 from a cell phone and asked for an ambulance.  She didn't complete the call. Police investigated.  The owner of the phone told them that she gave it to her daughter. The mom called her daughter's employer, who reported that the daughter didn't show up for work.  Mom speculated that her daughter might be in the nearby apartment of her boyfriend, Mr Paterson, 2015 BCCA 205.  Mom told the police that Mr Paterson had a shotgun, and there was "previous history" between him and her daughter.

The officers inquired at the apartment building.  The manager told them that an ambulance took the girl from Mr Paterson's apartment to hospital with unknown injuries. No other officers were available to investigate at the hospital.  The officers wanted to make sure nobody else in the apartment was hurt or in need of assistance.  They testified that after 911 calls, they often found more than one victim .

Mr Paterson didn't answer the door when they knocked. They could see a light under the door, but could hear no sounds inside.  Eventually, they obtained a master key from the apartment manager.  As they slid it into the lock, Mr Paterson opened the door.

He was fine, but the air around him smelled of raw and smoked marijuana.  His cell phone rang continuously. When the officers commented about the smell, he denied that there was a smell of marijuana.  Then he said he smoked some.  Then he said that the still had some roaches lying around.

The officer had several choices:

  1. Do nothing about the marijuana.
  2. Leave Mr Paterson there and, get a search warrant.
  3. Arrest Mr Paterson for possessing a few roaches.  Get a search warrant.
  4. Detain Mr Paterson temporarily, enter the residence, and seize the roaches.

He testified that #2 wouldn't work, because he believed Mr Paterson would destroy the evidence.  He believed #3 wasn't practical, and besides, he had no intention of charging Mr Paterson for possession of a few roaches. He still wanted to ensure that nobody in the apartment needed help. He chose #4.

He entered the residence with another officer.  They saw a handgun, a bullet-proof vest, and lots of drugs and cash. They arrested Mr Paterson, got a warrant, and seized the evidence. But they forgot something: for several months, the investigation team neglected to file a report to a justice (Form 5.2) listing what they took.

Defence complained that the warrantless search of the residence was unlawful: there weren't exigent circumstances. And if there were, the police created them.

The court found that there was reason to believe that evidence would be destroyed.  This justified immediate action.  The judges observed that #2 was impractical: arresting Mr Paterson and holding him for the preparation of a warrant would have significantly deprived him of liberty; a quick search was more practical.

The judges didn't say it, but I suspect that concern for public safety probably helped tip the balance.

The judges did not, in this case, find that late filing of the report to a justice necessitated exclusion of evidence.  Don't forget in future to submit these reports promptly.

2015.05.13 Experiments as Evidence

In the Schertzer, 2015 ONCA 259 case (see below), a key question was whether an accused police officer could receive a search warrant in his office, drive across town in 13 minutes and deliver it to at the door of the 14th floor apartment, and then return in 9 minutes.  The officer in question claimed to have driven the trip at high speed in an unmarked car, without lights or siren.

An investigator made the trip twice, driving at the speed limit, and walking.  He took 27 minutes the first time and 20.5 minutes the second time.

At trial, defence objected because driving conditions must have changed in the 14 years between the event and the experiment.  Defence complained that by driving the speed limit, the investigator did not replicate what the accused officer did.

The court admitted the evidence anyway, because it measured the distance and approximated the driving time.  It wasn't perfect, but it helped understand timing.

Travelling time is difficult to replicate.  If you need this kind of evidence, not only should you travel the route yourself more than once, but you should map it, and identify any features which will affect travel time. If it's really important, you might consider  investigating traffic patterns at the time of the incident under investigation. There are limits on how hard a vehicle can accelerate, brake or turn. Engaging an engineer might, in some cases, establish a more rigorous maximum and minimum travelling time.

But sometimes, just going for a drive answers many questions.

2015.05.11 Noble Cause Corruption - Every Lie Leads to Another

Most of you will nod your heads, and say "I know this already". But a few of you may find yourselves pulled off course by the desire to succeed in your investigations. This piece is for them.

Last week, five members of Toronto's drug squad lost their appeals.  17 years ago, they busted a heroin dealer and searched his apartment.  But they lied about when they got the warrant. Did they get the warrant first, or did they search first? To make the lie work, they wrote false notes. Those notes didn't jive with other time-stamps.  They claimed that an officer rushed from the police station to the scene in an unmarked police vehicle to deliver the warrant in time. If it were true, this story suggested hopelessly irresponsible behaviour.  But the jury found it was false too.  Schertzer, 2015 ONCA 259

A much bigger controversy swirls around the case.

The rules which constrain your ability to catch criminals may cause you endless frustration. But it's your job to obey the law while upholding it.  To stop crime, these officers apparently got used to bending the law. Temporarily, it may have worked, but in the long run, it undermined public respect for police and the justice system.

After decades of studying it, I think criminal law is complicated. For police officers, obeying the law is complicated, but telling the truth is simple. Bending the rules may seems simpler, but the lies and moral relativism are more complicated.

But for the protection of the law, police commit crimes all the time.  Seizure of property without lawful authority is theft.  Arrest without lawful authority is kidnapping. Even if you commit these offences for a noble cause - like catching criminals - you're committing crimes yourself. Lying in an ITO or in the court room is perjury.  I don't think that's why you signed up.

The public pay you to take the high ground. It may be slower and less efficient, but their political system chose the laws that you uphold. 
Stay on the high ground.  It's harder work, but the view is clear.

2015.05.01 Disclosure - Civil Liability for Prosecutors

Prosecutors became more vulnerable to getting sued.  The Supreme Court of Canada decided today that:

"a cause of action will lie where the Crown, in breach of its constitutional obligations, causes harm to the accused by intentionally withholding information when it knows, or would reasonably be expected to know, that the information is material to the defence and that the failure to disclose will likely impinge on the accused’s ability to make full answer and defence."

Say what?

Okay.  Here's what happened.  In the early 1980's, women in Vancouver complained of similar rapes. Police suspected either Mr McRae or Mr Henry, 2015 SCC 24.  Some victims picked Mr Henry out of an awful photo lineup.  (Mr Henry was shown as the only guy engaged in a struggle with a police officer.)

Mr Henry was charged.  During the trial, the prosecutor disclosed few of the witness statements that police collected, and no information about the alternate suspect.  The trial judge convicted Mr Henry and declared him a dangerous offender.  The rapes continued for 6 more years after Mr Henry went to jail. 14 years later, further investigation into those rapes found that DNA identified Mr McRae as the culprit. Finally the Crown disclosed all it knew to Mr Henry's legal team. He appealed his conviction, and finally beat the charge.

Could Mr Henry sue the prosecutor for failing to disclose all of the police file? The answer turns out to be more complicated than one would think. If the answer were "sure", then every convicted criminal would immediately sue the prosecutor in the hope of finding some shred of evidence that wasn't disclosed. Prosecutors would spend more of their time defending nuisance civil claims than actually proving guilt.  For that reason, the court said that the convicted person can only sue if they say they can prove:

Does this matter to police?

If prosecutors can get sued for non-disclosure, then police can too.  Make sure you disclose all relevant evidence.

And there's another lesson: the alternate suspect turned out to be the real culprit. The lineup should have contained both suspects.  In most cases, the alternate suspect is innocent.  Investigating his guilt feels like a waste of your time.  But it isn't.  Investigating the alternate suspect makes the case.  Last week I prosecuted a case in which there was an alternate suspect. I needed (and eventually received) clear evidence which proved that the alternate suspect was in another province at the time of the offence.

2015.04.29 Confessions - Non-custodial Interviews

In the 1970's, Richard Bach's story "Jonathon Livingstone Seagull"  preached that you can be anything you want to be.  Some people thought it was brilliant.  Some people called it banal.  It inspired one man to change his name.

Maybe you can be anything you want to be, but law sets limits on what you can do.

Mr Jonathon Livingston Seagull, 2015 BCCA 164 had sex with his ex-girlfriend's sons.  At the time, the boys were close to 14, the legal age for consent at the time.  But if he were in a position of trust or authority, then the age for consent would have been 18.

Years later, the boys, now men, complained to police.  An officer invited Mr Seagull to the police station for an interview.  Mr Seagull accepted.  When he arrived, the officer told him he could leave any time; he was not under arrest. She told him what he said could be evidence against him.  She did not offer him any opportunity to speak to a lawyer.

Mr Seagull played dumb.  He admitted some sexual activity, but mostly, the conversation went in circles.  The officer pressed him with questions.  He asked what would happen if he answered them.  The officer explained that three things could happen: nothing, more investigation, or court.  He asked what was most likely.  She said "very likely a charge of sexual exploitation".  But still she didn't arrest him.  She kept explaining that she needed to know about what happened.

Eventually he raised the idea of getting a lawyer.  She asked "do you wanna speak with a lawyer?"  He replied "no".

She kept questioning, but he answered few of his questions. He said he knew that he had a right to silence.  Eventually, he decided the interview was over.  She let him leave.

At trial, the defence complained that the police deliberately avoided arresting Mr Seagull, in order to avoid the dampening effect legal advice would have on the conversation.  The officer partly agreed: she wasn't entirely sure she had reasonable grounds.  Defence complained that the discussion of possible outcomes was the same as holding out a promise: it implied that no charges would follow if Mr Seagull would just answer the questions.

The trial judge and the appeal court rejected these arguments. The officer never suggested by words or actions that Mr Seagull was ever detained or arrested, and therefore she never triggered the right to counsel. She never prevented him from getting legal advice. And the way she explained the possibilities (charge, more investigation, or no charge) held out no promises of better treatment if he answered her questions.

The "non-custodial interview" still lives. But be careful trying it.

And one more thing. If you're going to invite someone for a non-custodial interview, expect to field lots of questions in court about the invitation. Because it's the only part of the conversation which isn't video recorded, 0take lots of detailed notes.

2015.04.17 Impaired Drivers - Fatal Collisions

Car accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries occur sufficiently rarely that when they do, some officers do not know what to investigate.  Here in British Columbia, so many officers give drinking drivers administrative penalties that their investigative skills on impaired driving offences are withering away.

Your first duty is to preserve life. To the extent that duty causes you to lose evidence, prosecutors can not criticize your work.

But after preserving life, capture evidence.

On a summer's evening, out in the country, Mr Saul, 2015 BCCA 149 crashed his car going around a bend on Highway 1. His passenger died.  An officer attended.  Mr Saul had watery eyes, a flushed face and slurred speech but the officer did not smell any odour of liquor on his breath. Mr Saul stumbled and limped. Mr Saul told the officer he had been fishing - an activity the officer associated with drinking. There was a bottle of vodka in the car. The officer could not at first tell whether the accident or alcohol caused his symptoms, but eventually developed sufficient grounds. He demanded a blood sample.  Mr Saul went to the hospital, and got treatment. The doctor drew blood before the driver got legal advice, which prevented the prosecution from relying on that evidence. Later, by way of a production order, police obtained his medical records. It turned out that 2 hours after the accident, Mr Saul still contained over 160mg% of alcohol in his blood.

The trial judge acquitted Mr Saul on the possibility of "bolus drinking". It was theoretically possible that Mr Saul consumed a large quantity of alcohol just before crashing. After he crashed, the alcohol in his stomach moved into his blood-stream, resulting in the high readings.

The appeal court ordered a new trial. Such a speculative defence required more evidence to support it.

At a crash scene hat evidence do you investigate and preserve?

What do you do if you think he was impaired? Make your demand as soon as practicable.  Make sure the suspect gets legal advice, even at the hospital, before the doctor takes blood samples.

The law around investigation of impaired drivers may seem confusing. If you can figure it out, you will discover valuable principles of general application. Here are some basics.

2015.04.15 Impaired Drivers - Reasonable Suspicion

After police set up a roadside check stop in Saskatoon, Cst Comley saw Mr Synkiw's , 2014 SKQB 362 vehicle make a U-turn about half a mile back from the police cars.  Cst Comley pursued and stopped Mr Synkiw's car.  Cst Comley explained that the U-turn was not only illegal at that location, but also he suspected that the driver was driving drunk, and did not want the police to catch him.  Cst Comley's suspicions later proved accurate: Mr Synkiw blew 130 and 110 mg%.

Defence complained that the vehicle stop was arbitrary - Mr Synkiw might have made the U-turn because he remembered something that he left behind.  The court agreed that there were other possibilities than criminality which caused Mr Synkiw to make the U-turn; but there remained the real possibility that he was committing an offence.  That justified a detention.  Mr Synkiw was convicted, and his appeal denied.

It's just a fundamental principle that you already know: To detain a suspect, you need a real possibility that the person committed a crime.  But you don't need proof.

I don't think a U-turn, by itself, justifies a screening device demand. You'll need reason to suspect that the driver consumed alcohol. For example, Mr Synkiw provided several reasons: odour of liquor, glossy eyes, poor balance.

2015.04.14 Social Workers' Powers to Seize

When Mr R.M.J.T., 2014 MBCA 36 abused his step-daughter (see below) and made voyeuristic recordings of her, a social worker prevented him from removing the recordings from the home.  Furthermore, the social worker instructed the mother to collect the recordings and give them to the police.

Do social workers have powers of search and seizure like police?  Was the social worker acting as an agent for the police?

Because the police did not ask the social worker to do anything, the social worker was not an agent of police.

However, social workers are government agents, and therefore subject to the Charter. Social workers can't rely on s.489.1 of the Criminal Code to seize evidence; what authority did this one have to stop Mr R.M.J.T. from taking his recordings away, or to direct the mom to grab them?

The social worker testified that she had originally prevented the accused from taking the discs from the residence because she believed they contained child pornography involving the complainant. She agreed that seizing them had the effect of preserving the evidence for the police, but she said that she acted pursuant to her authority under Manitoba's Child and Family Services Act, to protect the complainant from further harm or abuse.

The court agreed. Even though the act does not explicitly spell out a power of seizure like s.489(2) of the Criminal Code, the child protection legislation allowed her to seize the objects because, in the hands of Mr RMJT, they constituted ongoing harm to the child.

Did this power to seize comply with the Charter?  The court found it did, but declined to say whether the legislation would authorize a search for child pornography.

What about turning the recordings over to police? The court found that was merely appropriate cooperation between agencies.

I suspect that courts in other provinces will interpret their child protection legislation similarly.

How does this affect police officers?

Suppose this social worker called you during during her visit saying that she believes that the suspect is about to take his voyeuristic recordings away with him. What should you tell her?

2015.04.13 Search & Seizure - Using s.489(2)

Mr R.M.J.T., 2014 MBCA 36 married a refugee claimant, Ms S.  He sponsored her and her 14-year old daughter to come to Canada. But they discovered a problem with his sponsorship.  The daughter found a hidden webcam observing her bedroom.  She complained to him, but not to the authorities.  A year later, the girl complained to her mother that Mr T took sexual liberties with her.  Mom sought the advice of a counsellor, who alerted a social worker.  The social worker spoke to the girl, who complained of another webcam in her bedroom. Mom went to the police.

The police asked mom for permission to seize the computer which she shared with her husband.  She agreed.  She let them into the house and they took the computer.

Mom sought and obtained an order in family court which removed him from the house.  A social worker attended while he collected his belongings.  She stopped him when he attempted to remove some CDs.  The social worker told the mother to gather CDs and video-recordings for the police.  The next day, mom delivered a cardboard box of recordings to the police.

A couple of months later, police sought and obtained a warrant to search the computer and the recordings. They found evidence that Mr T covertly video-recorded his stepdaughter naked, and sent her emails discussing his sexual acts with her.

Defence complained that police lacked authority to seize Mr T's computer: no warrant, and no permission from him. Defence argued that Ms S's consent didn't suffice. Although Ms S told police it was the "family computer", and that she had the password, at trial, she said she knew only how to play a few games on it. She didn't use the computer to access Mr T's private information. Therefore, he enjoyed an expectation of privacy over it, and her consent to seize the computer did not suffice to overcome his privacy rights in the information in the computer.

Maybe so. Or not.  The court didn't need to decide.

Mom certainly had authority to let police into her home, and into the places in the home that Mr T shared with her.

Once you are lawfully in a place, s.489(2) of the Criminal Code says you can seize things if you reasonably believe that they were used in the commission of an offence or contain evidence of an offence.  It's stronger and broader than the "plain view" power.

The judges all agreed that the seizure was lawful.

S.489(2) only permits seizure.  It doesn't authorize search.  The officers were wise to get a warrant to search the computer.  Given what mom said at trial, her consent to search might not have sufficed. If you propose to search a shared computer relying on the consent of one of them, ask your cooperative witness how much access s/he has to the data of interest.  Record her/his answers. Explain how much you plan to search. Give the witness the freedom to say no.  Record the consent.

One more thing.  If you seize something using s.489(2), write a report to a justice.  s.489.1.

2015.04.07 Preventative Policing after a Riot - The Limits of Civil Liberties

On June 26, 2010, riots broke out at the G20 summit in Toronto. The summit continued the next day, and protesters flocked to the centre of town to air their varied concerns.

How should police respond?

On the first day, police observed the worst agitators to hid their faces with ski masks, goggles or balaclavas.  These people tended to wear black and carry backpacks.  After the violence they changed their clothes and mingled with the crowd.

On the second day some officers tried searching the backpacks of protesters approaching the downtown core.  Mr Figueiras, 2015 ONCA 208 and his colleagues carried signs and pamphlets which proclaimed animal rights.  One carried a megaphone. Mr Figueiras wore a black cap, reflective sunglasses, a black shirt and blue jeans.  He and his friends carried backpacks. The officers refused to permit Mr Figueiras to approach the protest zone unless he allowed them to search his backpack. His friends video-recorded what the police did.

Mr Figueiras complained that the officer violated his civil rights.  The officer unfortunately responded "This ain’t Canada right now" and "There’s no civil rights here in this area."

No struggle broke out, but Mr Figueiras didn't get to demonstrate in favour of animals.

Mr Figueiras brought the events to the attention of the courts.  The trial judge sympathized with the police, finding that the violence of the previous day justified taking these extraordinary steps.

The appeal court disagreed.  The judges declared that the officers violated Mr Figueiras' freedom of expression.

In doing so, they discussed two legal pathways of analysis to determine when a police officer may limit a citizen's civil liberties. An old English case R. v. Waterfield, [1963] 2 All E.R. 659 suggested that an officer may do so only when it is necessary in order to perform his or her duty, and the officer takes only the steps that are reasonable in the circumstances.  The other way to approach the question is by consideration of s.1 of the Charter, which permits limitation of civil liberties only if the limitations are "prescribed by law" and can be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".  Curiously, these boil down to roughly the same thing: when doing your duty, only violate civil liberties if it's clearly necessary; and when doing so, limit civil liberties as little as possible.

In this case, the officer claimed to be searching the packs for weapons.  The events of the previous day showed that the violent protesters did not bring weapons, but seized and hurled loose objects around them, like stones and mailboxes. The court opined that a search for weapons wasn't going to do much good.  (But finding balaclavas might have changed the conversation.)  Turning people back from this point did little good because so many alternate routes to the protest were available. It found that the means chosen to protect the public violated civil liberties more than necessary, particularly considering how ineffective they were.

This case and the videos provide plenty of fodder for armchair quarterbacks to discuss.  Here are some basic principles.

2015.03.21 Production Orders for Stored Text Messages

Last year, I reported that in Croft, 2013 ABQB 640, police obtained a production order against a telephone company to get text messages that the company stored in its servers after they were sent.  The court found that this constituted "interception of communication", and therefore is unlawful.  In January, I observed that a different judge reached the opposite conclusion: Carty, 2014 ONSC 212.

This week, in Belcourt, 2015 BCCA 126, the BC Court of Appeal agreed that production orders may lawfully compel telephone companies to divulge stored text messages. The officers who drafted this production order took care to include conditions on the order: messages protected by solicitor-client privilege should not be disclosed; nor should text messages which were still "in transit" and not yet delivered.

Because this decision comes from the appeal level, it will likely persuade most judges in Canada to agree - except those in Alberta, who may well side with Croft.

PS: the BCCA re-affirmed its view in Webster, 2015 BCCA 286

2015.03.21 General Warrant - "Sneak 'n Peek" or "Wait 'n Take"?

General warrants may authorize a "sneak & peek" - a covert search for information about the offence.  If that's what the judge authorizes, then when you're done looking, you must leave.  Sometimes, waiting for someone to walk in may give you more information.  You can do that, even in a residence, if the judge grants you authority.

Good information suggested that drug dealers stashed their drugs in an apartment on Leslie St.  Some information suggested that the apartment belonged to Mr Shin, 2015 ONCA 189. The investigators sought and obtained a warrant authorizing them to sneak into the apartment and search for and seize the drugs.

They were right.  When they snuck in they found and seized drugs and evidence of trafficking.  And the place looked like nobody lived there.  When they finished searching and seizing, the officers decided to wait to see who might turn up.  Half an hour later, at 9:01pm, within the time allowed by the general warrant for the covert entry, Mr Shin unlocked the door and walked in.  The police arrested him.

At trial, Mr Shin complained that the police overstayed their authority.  By staying longer than permitted they breached his rights under s.8 of the Charter.  The judge agreed.  But the judge let the evidence in anyway: Mr Shin didn't live there - nobody did.  The general warrant authorized police to enter the apartment for the purpose of gathering information about the offence. Staying a little longer allowed the police to gather valuable proof that Mr Shin had access to the stash house.

If you want to stay and arrest after your covert entry, ask the judge for authority to do that.  Many warrants "authorize and require" peace officers to do what the warrant specifies.  You might want the judge merely to "authorize" this latter technique, but not "require" it, so that you have the choice to stay or leave after the sneak and peek.

2015.03.20 Immunity & Sweetheart deals in exchange for Testimony

Beware of offering immunity or light sentences to criminals in exchange for evidence against your primary target. Some recant.  If they do, they will accuse you of threatening or intimidating them into making false allegations. In the robbery-kidnapping prosecution of Alexander, 2015 ONCA 167, in exchange for their testimony the prosecution dropped charges against one witness and agreed to a reduced sentence against another.  Both recanted during the trial and blamed police and prosecutors for making them lie.

Sometimes, these deals are unavoidable. Engage in them only after consultation with management and Crown.

2015.03.19 Possession of Data in a Computer - Breadth of Search

Mr Villaroman, 2015 ABCA 104 brought a Macintosh computer to a computer store for repairs.  Technicians found child pornography in the computer, and called the police. Police seized it, got a warrant and searched it for child pornography. By examining the child pornography files, an expert found reason to believe that someone using the one account on the computer used Limewire - a file sharing program - to download them from the net.  Links in the file system suggested that someone viewed the files too.  The two people who lived with Mr Villaroman did not put the files there.  But was it Mr Villaroman?  The trial judge thought so, and convicted him.  The appeal judges weren't so sure.  The one account had no password. They said.

"If there had been evidence that only the three people lived in the residence, and that the computer never left the home, we might have had less concern. Had there been that evidence and also further evidence that other persons did not come and use the computer, nor use the room where it was located, probably we would not interfere with the conviction. Other possibilities would then be too remote. But there is no such evidence."

Even after reading the trial decisions (2012 ABQB 630, 2013 ABQB 279), I can't be sure I know just how much evidence the investigators actually discovered which linked the accused to the pornography.

It's clear that they sought judicial authority to search the computer for child pornography.

With the benefit of hindsight, I see that searching for probative non-criminal data might have helped.  For example, I don't think they looked for emails with similar date stamps as the pornography.  If Mr Villaroman emailed his friends on the same nights as his computer downloaded child pornography, one may infer he did the downloading.

Can you snoop through the emails?  Only if your warrant authorizes it. In Fearon, 2014 SCC 77, the court emphasized that a lawful searches should pursue only relevant evidence, and they want clarity about the breadth of an officer's search.  Therefore, your ITO should spell out what kind of data you want to snoop through and why it's relevant.  And the warrant should explicitly grant you that authority.

Playing armchair quarterback, I suggest that the investigator in this case could have sought authority "to search emails, stored communications and documents in the computer bearing date stamps close in time to the date stamps associated to the child pornography for evidence of who operated the computer at the times when the child pornography was downloaded, viewed or accessed."

Postscript: The Supreme Court of Canada found that the Court of Appeal erred in their re-assessment of the case. Villaroman 2016 SCC 33. But they also held that reasonable minds can differ on whether this evidence sufficed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  I stand by my suggestion that a little extra would have been worth obtaining.

2015.03.18 Search & Seizure - Production Orders, Tracking Devices

Production orders changed, starting March 9.  The sections numbers changed, and the Criminal Code provides standard forms for the orders and the ITOs.  If you write applications, read the new legislation!

Here is a summary.  You can find more detail on the warrant toolbox page.

Order Basics Reasonable grounds to...
Preservation demand
A peace officer may require a person or organization to preserve computer data.  In most cases, the obligation lasts only 21 days, after which you must get a production order, or the data will be destroyed.  You can't extend your order.

If you want your target to keep your investigation secret, you need
487.013 A justice or judge may require a person or organization to preserve computer data.  This obligation lasts 90 days, after which you must get an extension or a production order. Believe
487.014 A justice or judge may grant "General production order" - In the past, a production order could get original documents.  Now it produces only copies, but the copy is deemed as good as the original. Believe
487.015 Production order to trace a communication from relay to relay through the devices of people or corporations whose identities will only be discovered as you go.
487.016 Production order to known persons for transmission data - if you do trace a communication, you will probably start with a known recipient.  You'll apply for orders under 487.016 & 487.015 together. Suspect
487.017 Production order for tracking data - to find things or people, not communications. Suspect
487.018 Production order to identify accounts in a "financial institution": to produce the name if all you have is an account number; or to produce an account number if all you have is a name. This section differs only a little from the old s.487.013. Suspect

No 5.2s

Section 487.0192 exempts all but the tracking production order from the obligation to write a report to a justice.  This makes logical sense: s.490 addresses returning property to owners.  Information differs because the order doesn't deprive the owner of anything.  However, the legislation does not require officers to inform those people whose privacy the order affected that their information is now in the hands of the police - and may fall into the hands of defendants. Expect defence counsel will attack the legislation on this basis.  I suggest that you notify the people whose privacy the order affected, and disclose to defence that you did so.

Destruction of Data

Curiously, s.487.0194 requires the people who have data of interest to police to destroy their copies "as soon as feasible" after complying with the order.  Suppose a cell phone provider normally kept cell tower logs for 30 days.  A week after a significant offence, you demand that the company preserve the logs for that day.  But you fail to get your production order within 21 days.  After 21 days, they may destroy the data, but for sure, after 30 days, they must destroy the data, despite your interest in it.

Even more curiously, if you do get a production order for that data in time, and they comply, they must destroy their own copy.  Don't lose what you get with a production order.  It may be the only copy.

Nationwide jurisdiction

Parliament finally fixed a jurisdictional issue: production orders are now effective across Canada, even if only a justice of the peace issues them.

Still no Telewarrant

My sources tell me that the legislators intended to include telewarrants for production orders, but they "forgot".  Grrr.  They hope to include it "next time".

Preservation Demand

Police officers can now demand that organizations (or people) who possess computer data preserve it if the officer suspects that the data may assist an investigation.

Transmission data recorder

The old DNR warrant 487.092 is replaced by a new "Transmission Data Recorder" warrant - which does the same thing for a wider array of communication devices.  Emails, texts, chats may all be captured by this.  You don't get what the target says, but you do discover to whom they say it.

Tracking devices changed

Tracking device for objects and vehicles - 492.1(1) an offence has been or will be committed, and tracking the location of one or more transactions or the location or movement of a thing, including a vehicle will assist in the investigation of the offence Reasonable grounds to suspect
Tracking device for apparel and cell phones - 492.1(2) tracking an individual’s movement by identifying the location of a thing that is usually carried or worn by the individual will assist in the investigation of the offence Reasonable grounds to believe

As before, tracking orders last 60 days, except in criminal organization and terrorism investigations in which you can get a full year.  The section now provides for a 90-day supplementary order to remove tracking devices covertly after the original order expires.

Dialled Number Recorder becomes a Transmission Data Recorder

Now, a judge or justice can order any telecommunication provider to tell you who your target communicates with, whether by phone, internet or other telecommunication technique.  It's not just telephones.  The section remains the same: 492.2.

2015.03.09 911 Calls - Power to Enter - Power to Arrest

At 4:00am, someone called 911 but hung up before the operator could talk. Nobody answered when the 911 operator called back. Two officers went to the address associated to the phone, to investigate.  They saw and heard, through the living room window, Mr Alexson, 2015 MBCA 5 screaming at a woman and a child, that he was “pissed off.”  The woman and child clung to each other as if terrified.  The officers immediately banged on the window and door.  The woman let them in, saying “please take him away.”  Without asking her whether she had authority to let them in, the officers entered.  The man smelled strongly of alcohol and looked drunk. Wearing only underwear, he became verbally abusive to both the officers and his wife.

At the officers' request, the woman brought the man some clothes. He continued to swear at the officers while dressing. The officers urged him to calm down, but he clenched his fists and stood ready to fight. The officers arrested him, and he fought back, injuring an officer.

Did the officers lawfully arrest Mr Alexson, or did they unlawfully assault him in his home?

As far as these officers knew, Mr Alexson committed no offence before they arrived.  The trial judge found that they lacked reasonable grounds to believe that he was going to commit an offence, and therefore acquitted Mr Alexson of assaulting a peace officer.  The summary conviction appeal judge agreed.  The Court of Appeal saw it differently.

It wasn't the 911 call that got the officers lawfully into the house, but the possibility of a person in peril.  A 911 hangup call can reasonably raise that concern, even without evidence of an angry drunk yelling at a woman or child.  The judges said: "there can be no question that the officers in this case had the authority to enter the home to investigate the reason for the 911 call, irrespective of whether the person that let them in had the authority to do so."

Having entered to prevent harm to people, the officers found an unreasonable man who got angrier as time passed.  As an ordinary civilian, I can walk away and think of better ways to solve the problem.  But you peace officers swore to serve and protect. You must act in the heat of the moment.  The trial judge thought the officers could have waited to see if the man would cool down.  The appeal judges said "Second-guessing is not helpful."

These officers arrested.  They could do so lawfully only if they had reasonable grounds to believe that an assault or a breach of the peace was about to occur.  (A breach of the peace involves someone or something getting hurt or broken, not just an unhappy argument.)  The lower court judges didn't think the police had such grounds.  The Court of Appeal saw clear reason to arrest.

In such cases, you must explain afterwards what perils you feared and why. (Take good notes, even after the guy kicks or punches you.)  The judge discusses the legal reasons why the officers acted correctly, and that's what makes this decision a worthwhile read.

I thank James Paulson at the Pacific Regional Training Centre for bringing this decision to my attention.

2015.03.05 Third Party Suspects

Blaming someone else is a great way to avoid responsibility, especially when the identity of the perpetrator isn't clear.

Someone abducted a 13-year-old girl, tied her up and left her in a shed to die in the cold of a Manitoba winter.  Decades later, police accused Mr Grant, 2015 SCC 9, based on small traces of DNA.  At his trial, he tried to present evidence of a similar assault on a schoolgirl, committed when he was in jail.  He wanted to argue that the similarity suggested that the same guy committed both offences, but because Mr Grant was in jail at the time of one of them, he couldn't be that guy.  The trial judge wouldn't let him.  The appeal judges held that the jury should have heard this evidence, and granted him a retrial.

For police officers investigating "whodunnit" cases, this reminds you that alternate suspects matter. To prove that your main suspect did the crime, you must investigate alternate suspects thoroughly.

2015.02.21 Search Warrants - When to get Another Warrant

Police got a warrant to search Mr Galbiati's, 2014 BCCA 5 residence for a marijuana grow operation. What they found suggested that they arrived in the nick of time. The grow rooms were empty and the marijuana was packaged for sale. They also found an arsenal of firearms and ammunition - some of which was unsafely stored. They found income tax returns which suggested that Mr Galbiati could scant afford the lifestyle his residence suggested.  They saw what looked like stolen property.

They started investigating proceeds of crime and stolen property. That breached Mr Galbiati's rights, because the warrant authorized a more limited search.

The officers should have got a warrant.

Interestingly, the trial judge felt that the officers could lawfully examine the serial numbers of apparently stolen property in plain view, and check those numbers on a database, even though the warrant itself did not authorize this. But examining his tax returns to assess his income went beyond the search for "documents of residency" which the warrant authorized, because the focus went beyond residency and into income.

When searching pursuant to a warrant, you may search for what the warrant describes. In so doing, if you encounter evidence of other offences, you may seize it.  But you can't change your investigation, and start searching for items not described in the warrant. If you want to search for other stuff, get a new warrant.

2015.02.19 Impaired Driving - Drug Recognition Evaluations - Right to Counsel

Mr Fogarty, 2015 NSCA 6 crashed his Crown Victoria into an oncoming Mustang. The occupants of the other car died. An investigating officer figured that drugs impaired Mr Fogarty's ability to drive.  That officer made a DRE demand, and told him about his right to counsel. He called a lawyer and got advice. After the evaluation, the DRE officer demanded a blood sample, but didn't offer him any further opportunity to call a lawyer. Mr Fogarty complained that this breached his rights: any time an investigation changes, police should give the suspect fresh access to legal advice.

The trial judge disagreed.  Consider the legislation:

An officer who forms reasonable grounds to believe that drugs impair a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle may demand that the driver undergo an evaluation by a Drug Recognition Evaluation. s.254(3.1)  If that officer reaches the same conclusion, that officer may demand a blood sample for analysis. s.254(3.4).

Because a lawful DRE may logically lead to a blood demand, the court held that the blood demand was not a new or unexpected investigative tactic.

The appeal court judges agreed with the trial judge.

But they sounded a cautionary note: "Mr. Fogarty said nothing to indicate that his initial legal advice was inadequate or to request a re-consultation with counsel."

What if your suspect complains that his initial legal advice didn't cover what to do if the officer demands blood?  I suggest that you give the suspect an opportunity to get further advice.

2015.02.12 False Complaints to Police

Sometimes, people report crimes that never happened commit.  If they do it with intent to mislead, and you act on it, then they commit public mischief (Criminal Code - s.140).  People like me can prosecute them.

But can they be sued?

Apparently, police investigated Mr Caron 2015 BCCA 47 because young Miss A. told police that he raped her.  He sued her for defamation.  His claim explained that the police investigation proved he was working in another province at the time of the alleged rape.

Her lawyers asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing evidence. They argued that allowing such a lawsuit might frighten true complainants.  Who wants to complain to police about being raped if you might get sued for it?

The court allowed the trial to proceed: she could be found liable if the evidence showed that she acted maliciously, but not if she made an honest mistake.

I am not an expert in civil law. There may be nuances in this decision which I missed.

But the decision does identify dangers in sexual assault complaints.

Sometimes people make false complaints.  Such allegations can do terrible harm, especially sexual complaints. Be wary of our natural human tendency to sympathize with complainants.

Sometimes, true complaints come from vulnerable, inarticulate people who omit parts of the story because of shame or fear.  Ignoring, dismissing or lecturing them can do terrible damage too.  Not long ago, I worked with a woman who deeply distrusted police.  She had good reason.  Officers ignored or dismissed her complaints both times she was sexually assaulted. The jury believed her second complaint. But she won't ask police again to investigate the first one. Beware of dismissing a complaint too quickly.

Damned if you believe her.  Damned if you don't.  Investigate sensitively. Keep in mind the possibility of innocence.

2015.02.05 Testifying about the Law

Professional witnesses, particularly police officers and experts witnesses, usually know some of the law which applies to their field.  Sometimes these witnesses know the applicable law better than the lawyers who question them. Pride can lead to a fall - exercise some humility.

Dr Steven Hucker knows more about mental disorders than most folks. He's a smart guy.  Ms Campione, 2015 ONCA 67 murdered her children.  At her trial, the defence presented evidence that she was "Not Criminally Responsible by reason of Mental Disorder" (NCRMD).  Dr Hucker disagreed. While explaining to the jury why he disagreed, he discussed the complicated legal rules which determine whether a person qualifies for this defence.

The jury found Ms Campione guilty.  Evidently, they accepted Dr Hucker's opinion.

Defence appealed, complaining that Dr Hucker got the law wrong, and therefore he misled the jury.

The appeal court rejected this complaint. Dr Hucker got the law right. It's good to know the law that pertains to your work.

But Dr Hucker did another clever thing which you can emulate.  When he testifying, he claimed no authority in interpreting the law.  When discussing the leading case, he explained it "... as I've understood it".  He emphasized that law is not his area of expertise: "That's obviously using my lay professional’s understanding of what the case law tells us."  He left the job of explaining the law to the judge.


When testifying, never tell the judge, the lawyers or the jury what the law is -- even if you know more about it than anyone else in the room. Instead, qualify your testimony: "As I understand the law...".  Law is the judge's job.  Take the humble path: "Well, you're the experts on this, but I understand that..." If it turns out you're right, you look brilliant and unmotivated by ego. If you're wrong, your humility earns forgiveness.

The law changes too. For example, the rules around searching cell phones incidental to arrest changed. If it changes between investigation and testimony, you can say "As I understood the law at the time of this search..."

2015.01.29 DNA needs Context

In the women's washroom of a restaurant a black guy quietly peered over the wall between one stall and another, so that he could watch a woman use the adjoining toilet.  When she noticed him, she ran screaming from the washroom. Police attended.  They found a pop bottle on the tank of the toilet in the stall where the man had been. A swab of the mouth of the bottle contained DNA matching Mr Mufuta, 2015 ONCA 50. Case proved, right?

Nope. Not with the DNA alone.

Maybe Mr Mufuta drank from he bottle, and someone else moved the bottle from his table to the washroom.  Maybe the felon took his drink.  Maybe a waitress took a detour from clearing his table, and left something behind in the washroom.

An officer watched the restaurant security video and saw three black men attended the restaurant.  One black man entered the washroom area minutes before the woman, and left three minutes later. Too bad the officer didn't get a copy of the security video right away. Within three weeks, the system overwrote the video.  The recording was unavailable for court.

The trial judge convicted Mr Mufuta, and the appeal court upheld the conviction, not because of the DNA alone, but because of the DNA in the context of other evidence, including:

This case offers several lessons:

2015.01.26 s.10(a) of the Charter - Should you Name the Victim?

When you arrest a suspect, you must identify the offence, so that the suspect can decide whether to cooperate with your investigation, or keep silent.

The law does not require you to provide detail. Quite often, at the early stages of an investigation, you don't have much information. Quite often, the suspect knows more than you. Therefore, it generally isn't wrong to arrest for "murder" without identifying the victim. (2005 ABCA 430)

How much information should you give a suspect about the offence? As a matter of tactics, giving the bare minimum can produce evidence.  For example suppose you tell your suspect "You're under arrest for murder", and the suspect replies "Mabel's dead?" Whether or not you were investigating the death of Mabel, you now know that your suspect knows something about harm that came to her.

But there's a downside to being coy. It can look cheap and unfair.

In W.L., 2015 ONCA 37, the investigating officer arrested the suspect for "sexual assault". The officer did not identify the complainant - the suspect's step-daughter - until long into an interview.  In that interview, the suspect admitted touching the girl, but at trial, he explained that he did so only to check her for pinworms. Why didn't he tell police that explanation during the interview? He blamed police. By arresting him for assault, and keeping him in the dark, the officer scared and confused him, so that he did not think to give the exculpatory explanation.

I have not watched the interview. I can not say whether the investigating officer actually treated the suspect unfairly. The appeal court focussed on a lawyer's issue. When choosing tactics, remember that it can look unfair if you don't identify who you say the suspect hurt (MacLean, 2013 ABQB 60) or what the suspect did (J.S.W., 2013 ONCA 593)

2015.01.24 Fingerprint Experts - What to Expect when the Attack Comes

When stealing plastic-wrapped dolls from a residence, a burglar left a single fingerprint behind on the plastic. Ripples in the plastic distorted the print.  Whose finger matched the print?

At first, AFIS - the Automated Fingerprint Identification System - produced no potential matches for the prints.  But almost a year later, the people at AFIS reported a possible match with fingerprints taken from Mr Bornyk in 2006 and 2010.  Curiously, those prints would have been in the system all along. Something made this match difficult.

A fingerprint examiner manually compared the print from the plastic with a photocopy of the prints taken from Mr Bornyk.  He concluded they matched. According to standard protocol, he passed his work to a peer for "verification". She reviewed his work, and looked at the fingerprint to see if she agreed with his conclusion. She did.

The trial judge acquitted Mr Bornyk, 2013 BCSC 1927.  He researched scholarly criticisms of fingerprint analysis techniques, and asked the lawyers to comment on the articles he found. During arguments, the defence lawyer pointed out differences between the known print and the print on the plastic. Without asking the fingerprint expert to comment on the articles or discrepancies, the judge concluded that they raised more than reasonable doubt about the fingerprint identification.

The Crown successfully appealed. Mr Bornyk 2015 BCCA 28 faces a new trial. But the appeal court did not vindicate current fingerprint analysis techniques. Instead, it criticized the trial judge's procedure. The trial judge was not a fingerprint expert, and a little research does not make him into one. He should have asked the expert for his comments. Could the expert answer the complaints of the scholars? Could the expert explain the discrepancies which defence counsel identified?  Because the trial judge trusted his own expertise more than the expert, the appeal court found that the trial judge erred.

But this litigation points the way forward in fingerprint litigation. Fingerprint experts should prepare to respond in future trials. They should read the trial judge's list of concerns. Some will return to a court room near you. I think that the important points in that list are:

  1. By RCMP policy, if any two fingerprint experts ever disagree, the one who turns out to be wrong loses his or her job. This policy was intended to make fingerprint evidence reliable. But the community of fingerprint experts is small. Their collegiality raises concern that the verification process will lack rigour. Who wants to get their workmate fired? The policy also prevents experts from keeping open minds when presented with challenges to their opinions. Who wants to admit they made a mistake, if doing so gets you fired? Finally, the verification process looks unscientific: it's not a double-blind test nor even blind to the expected answer.
  2. Disclosure of bench notes of the fingerprint analysis can easily break down because:
If you have more than one set of known prints, you should disclose them all to defence.
  1. Some known errors in fingerprint identifications came from partial prints and prints with poor detail.
  1. On difficult matches where you have multiple 'knowns', consider using the other knowns to confirm your opinion.

2015.01.22 Tactics for Prosecuting Multiple Accused

Prosecuting several people at once is cheaper than running separate trials against each one.  But the law requires us to prosecute youth separately from adults.  Indeed, the Crown may choose to prosecute adults separately too.  This leads to interesting legal and tactical considerations for prosecutors and police.

The Crown can require one defendant to testify at the separate trial of another defendant.

But section 13 of the Charter and section 5 of the Canada Evidence Act prevent the prosecution from using the accomplice's testimony against him at his own subsequent trial.

For example, Mr P.C., a youth, helped several adults beat a man to death.  The Crown served him with a subpoena to testify at the adults' preliminary hearing.  His lawyers didn't want him to give his version of the event before his trial. They argued that the subpoena violated his right to silence. The court disagreed, because of the legal protections he enjoyed. P.C., 2011 ONSC 1824.

After his conviction, Mr P.C., 2015 ONCA 30 complained again that at his trial the prosecutors cross-examined him on topics they had asked him about at the other defendants' preliminary hearing. The appeal court accepted the prosecutor's explanation: at Mr P.C.'s trial, they only cross-examined him using information they got from other sources than his testimony at the prelim. For example, at the prelim he said he knew in advance that there would be a beating. At the trial, the prosecution suggested that same fact to him. But the prosecution already knew the answer, because they knew he previously told his sister that fact.

There are limits to this strategy. The Crown can not use this tactic directly or indirectly to develop the case against the witness. In R. v. Z., 2001 CanLII 8539 (ON CA), the prosecution used the same general tactic. The Crown called Mr Z at the preliminary inquiry of other defendants. Later, defence counsel called a witness B. During the cross-examination of B, the prosecutor pressed him to explain Z's behaviour during the offence, and used Z's testimony to push B into incriminating Z. Then Mr B. testified at Mr Z's trial, and repeated the incriminating testimony. Mr Z successfully appealed. Because the prosecutor used this Z's testimony indirectly against him, the prosecutor violated Mr Z's rights.

If the Crown chooses to proceed like this, your investigation against the witness must be complete.

If - after the Crown compels the accomplice to testify - you produce new evidence against the accomplice, it will appear as though you used his testimony at the preliminary inquiry to identify investigative leads against him.  And that could cause problems at his trial.

2015.01.19 Testifying - Dos and Don'ts - Credibility Assessments

At a trial, the judge or jury decides whom to believe. Not the witnesses. For this reason, avoid expressing opinions on whether or not you believed what witnesses told you, unless specifically asked.

Evangeline Billy drowned in the Yukon River. Her sister and another woman told police that Alicia Murphy, 2014 YKCA 7 confessed to killing her.

At trial, the prosecutor asked the officers who interviewed them to describe their demeanour:

Q         What was her -- what sort of shape was she in when you got there?

A         She was very emotional.  I would say under the influence of alcohol, but not to the point where she wasn’t -- and she was giving a story that was credible, with detail, believable.  She was emotional.  She -- she was quite -- quite emotional and somewhat under the influence but not heavily so.


Q         And could you describe her demeanour during that interview?

A         Again, she -- she was upset by the whole situation.  But she was much more composed, less emotional than the previous evening, and she gave a pretty coherent and detailed statement

As you can see, the officers went beyond demeanour, and into credibility.  After the jury convicted, the appeal court overturned the conviction, and ordered a new trial.

When testifying, listen to the question asked, and answer it.

2015.01.17 RCMP Labour Relations

Here are links to the SCC's decisions yesterday on the RCMP members' challenges to existing labour relations and remuneration structures. Because I know I have no expertise in labour law, I am not foolish enough to express any opinions about them.

Meredith v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 2
Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 1

2015.01.13 Search & Seizure - Detention

At 2:30am, someone called 911, but hung up before speaking to the dispatcher. The call came from a troubled part of town. Police attended and knocked, but nobody inside responded. Fearing that the occupants may have suffered harm, they called building security to let them in. As they waited, police saw Mr Peterkin, 2015 ONCA 8 walk along the street, into the fenced back yard of that unit. There, he used his cell phone. The officers approached him and asked him what he was doing, and whether he knew the occupants of the residence.

He looked startled to see police.  No, he didn't know the residents.  He was waiting for a ride, he explained. And indeed, his girlfriend shortly arrived.

The officers found this odd. If he expected someone to pick him up, surely he would stand nearer the street, where the driver would see him, rather than duck into a yard near a house.  One officer detained him, but made incomplete notes as to why. Nor did he explain to Mr Peterkin all his reasons for detaining him.  The officer's testimony in prelim on this point conflicted with his testimony at trial. The officer did tell him about a right to counsel, but did not mention immediate free legal aid.

Mr Peterkin stood strangely. He held his right arm against his chest, and stood sideways to the officers. The officers called this "blading". They obtained his driver's licence from him, and gave it back. He accepted it in his right hand, but did not extend his arm.  Instead, he turned his body so that his arm remained against his chest.

The officers suspected that he carried a weapon, and told him they wanted to search him. He attempted to flee. The officers stopped him, searched and found money, drugs, a loaded handgun and ammunition.

Defence complained that the officer:

In his reasons trial judge admitted the evidence because the officers gave good reasons for detaining and searching Mr Peterkin. Failure to explain the reasons for the detention and the right to counsel did not cause the discovery of any evidence.

Mr Peterkin appealed unsuccessfully.  Meanwhile, a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada muddied the law of safety searches in a case called MacDonald, 2014 SCC 3.  The majority seemed to say that you need reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect posed you a danger before you could search for officer safety.  The minority identified flaws in their logic, and concluded all you need is suspicion that the suspect possesses a weapon that poses a risk to you or the public.

The Court of Appeal relied on the officers' clear explanations for why they suspected Mr Peterkin carried a weapon, and upheld the conviction.

The defence arguments identify the important issues for police:

  1. Identify and record the reasons why you suspected or believed someone did something wrong.  It often feels like instinct, but if you take time immediately after the event to record your observations of the scene and suspect, you can explain logically why your suspicions arose. Defence counsel will pounce on gaps in your notes, and accuse you of making things up on the witness stand. You'll be glad in court that you wrote a full explanation in your notes.
  2. Explain to the suspect why you detained / arrested him. At trial, this officer offered two reasons for the detention. At the preliminary inquiry, he offered only one. On the street, he didn't really explain at all. I imagine the cross-examination wasn't fun. Some traffic cops like to ask speeders "Do you know why I stopped you?" It's a cute tactic to elicit an admission of speeding. But it violates s.10(a). You must tell people why you stopped them. You are not obliged to explain every reason, but you must explain at least one lawful reason for detention.
  3. On "detention", your suspect is entitled to counsel, and the full explanation of the right to counsel.

2015.01.07 Search & Seizure - Text Messages - Production Orders or Wiretap? - Update

A few months ago, I reported that in Croft, 2013 ABQB 640, police obtained a production order against a telephone company to get text messages that the company stored in its servers after they were sent.  The court found that this constituted "interception of communication", and therefore unlawful.

This suggests that you should stop using production orders to get text messages from Telus.  If you have a case that did, let your prosecutor know about this decision.  The judge extended the reasoning in R. v. Telus Communications Co. 2013 SCC 16 beyond what the SCC decided.

However, a recently-published decision suggests otherwise. In Carty, 2014 ONSC 212, the police did the same thing - several times in a row. The judge reached the opposite conclusion. Production orders for stored text messages are a lawful method to obtain them.

Judges disagree. Get advice before choosing the easier route.

2014 Developments in the Law

2014.12.30 Presence isn't Participation

Mere presence at the scene of an offence isn't evidence of participation.

An undercover officer called a drug dealer, and met to purchase drugs. A guy named Santino answered the call, and gave instructions which the officer followed. The officer went to a hotel and knocked on the door of a room. Inside, the officer met Santino and another guy named Nyuon, 2014 ABCA 130.  The officer asked Nyuon "What's going on?"  Nyuon replied "not much...just hanging." Spread out on a table in the room were pieces of crack cocaine. Nyuon must have known what was going on. The officer bought crack from Santino in Nyuon's presence.

Mr Santino was trafficking in drugs for sure.  But what about Nyuon?

One may reasonably infer that Santino would not possess or traffick drugs with Nyuon present unless he trusted Nyuon. One may reasonably infer from the dangers of the drug trade that Santino needed Nyuon to provide security, and therefore Nyuon knowingly assisted Santino in the transaction. These facts lead to a reasonable inference that Nyuon was a party to the offence.

Therefore, you might lawfully arrest Mr Nyuon in these circumstances.  But does the evidence prove guilt?

No way.

The case against Nyuon is circumstantial. There are other possible inferences. He may have just been Santino's trusted customer who was "just hanging" around.

Presence at the scene of a crime may suggest participation, but you need more evidence than mere presence to prove guilt.

2014.12.19 Warrantless Arrest - Out of Province Warrant

When you find a guy who has a warrant outstanding in another province, can you arrest him?

An officer found Mr Marges 2012 YKTC 102 driving in Whitehorse.  Because Mr Marges smelled of liquor on his breath the officer investigated his sobriety, and eventually made him blow into a screening device.  Meanwhile, over the radio came information that a Saskatchewan justice issued a warrant for his arrest for trafficking.

Could the officer arrest Mr Marges?

It's easy to get this one wrong.

Because a Saskatchewan justice enjoys jurisdiction only in Saskatchewan, his or her warrant lawfully authorizes arrests only in that province.  The officer couldn't arrest Mr Marges because of the warrant.

The existence of the warrant suggests that a judicial officer heard enough evidence to decide that probably the accused committed an offence.

That could persuade you that the accused probably committed an offence.  And if you believe that the suspect committed an offence, then maybe you can arrest him.

But what kind of offence?

You can make warrantless arrests for indictable offences.  s.495(1)(a).

Trafficking is strictly indictable, right?  Nope.  Section 5(3)(a.1) of the CDSA allows for summary conviction prosecution for trafficking in some substances.

Therefore, the existence of the warrant for trafficking did not, by itself, establish reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Marges committed an indictable offence.

The judge found that this officer jumped the gun.  He should have made some radio calls to find out a bit more about the warrant, and the facts behind it.  (He actually did, but he got conflicting information as to whether the warrant would be extended beyond Saskatchewan.)

As a matter of practice, when you're deciding whether to arrest someone on the strength of a warrant from out of province, you want to know whether the prosecution will be by indictment, and it helps to know some facts about the case.  This judge found nothing wrong with detaining the suspect while you check out the details.

2014.12.13 Search and Seizure - Search of Cell Phones Incidental to Arrest

The Supreme Court of Canada finally explained what searches of cell phones police may do after an arrest.  In a 5:4 split, they decided that you can search a cell phone incidental to arrest, but set some limits and conditions which represent a compromise between the various different conclusions past judges reached.

Two men robbed a jewellery merchant at gunpoint and fled in a black car.  Eyewitness descriptions and the licence plate led the police quickly to locate and arrest Mr Chapman and Mr Fearon, 2014 SCC 77.  But they didn't find the jewellery or the gun.  In his pocket, they found a cell phone.  They checked the text messages and found an unsent text (“We did it were the jewelry at nigga burrrrrrrrrrr”).  In the photos, they found an image of a handgun.  At trial, the officers explained that they were in a hurry to find the missing items, and thought that the phone might provide leads.

Mr Fearon and various civil liberties organizations argued that police needed a warrant to search in his phone.  Three of the judges agreed.  But four decided that where an investigation requires prompt examination, you may search without a warrant - within limits.

What are those limits?

  1. Lawful arrest - as with all searches incidental to arrest, the search depends upon a lawful arrest.  A lawful arrest requires reasonable grounds to believe (and belief) that the suspect committed an offence for which s/he may be arrested without a warrant.
  2. Search truly incident to arrest - you can't poke around in a cell phone just because you arrested someone.  You need reasons connected to the arrest, such as protecting people, or preserving or discovering evidence relevant to the offence.  Even if you can justify looking at the suspect's texts or photos, you can only look back so far in history as is truly relevant to the offence.  You can't prowl through the whole phone.
  3. Serious offence - "a search of a cell phone incident to arrest will generally not be justified in relation to minor offences."  When you stop a distracted driver, you can't snoop through his or her phone for evidence to prove they were texting and driving. Robbery, rape and murder plainly qualify.
  4. Pressing investigative need - although the court rejected the notion that warrantless searches of cell phones should be done only in exigent circumstances, it introduced a requirement of "immediate investigative purpose".  You should get a warrant unless the circumstances render it impractical. For example, if you need to look into the phone immediately for fear of losing evidence during the time it takes to apply for a warrant, then you can look.
  5. Detailed documentation - if you do search using this exception, you must take very detailed notes of what you searched in the phone and why.  If you're going to operate the phone, I suggest video-recording the process including your explanation of what you're looking for and why.

In Mr Fearon's case, the court found that the officers met the first three conditions, but not the last. The majority found that the failure to document breached Mr Fearon's rights, but not so much as to justify excluding the evidence. 

I found the third point the most confusing.  The majority rejected the notion that police can search only in "exigent circumstances".  But the judges created a pre-condition which closely resembles exigent circumstances.  The court rejected the notion that searches of cell phones incidental to arrest must require police to have reasonable grounds to believe that evidence will be found.  But in the many cases where there is no urgency in searching the phone, police must get a warrant.  To get a warrant, they'll need to meet that standard - even though it's a search incidental to arrest.

2014.12.10 Reasonable Grounds - Articulating your Beliefs

Tipsters told Cst Emberley that Mr Day, 2014 NLCA 14 was trafficking drugs.  Cst Emberley applied for and obtained a warrant to search Mr Day's house, but he didn't write all the information he knew into his application.  After obtaining the warrant, but before searching the house, surveillance officers saw Mr Day walk out of a bar with two young women in a manner that looked like a sale.  Cst Emberley directed the officers to arrest Mr Day.  They found drugs.  Although Cst Emberley later searched the house, the prosecutor withdrew all charges relating to what he found there.  The prosecutor didn't think the warrant would survive judicial scrutiny.

At trial, defence threw a clever question at Cst Emberley:

If the judge had refused your warrant, would you have arrested my client?

If the officer said "yes", defence could argue that the officer was an undisciplined rogue, who would arrest people even after a judge told him he lacked sufficient grounds.  If the officer said "no", then the defence could say that the officer didn't really believe that he had reasonable grounds to arrest.

Cst Emberley deflected this question:

He declined to speculate what he would have done.
He tried to point out that judges may refuse to grant a warrant for reasons other than the sufficiency of grounds.

Based on this, the trial judge found that at the time of the arrest, the officer didn't actually believe that he had sufficient grounds to arrest.  The judge excluded the evidence.

The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the trial judge's findings because they had no foundation in the evidence.

The officer never said he wouldn't have arrested.

An officer may arrest when s/he believes that the suspect is probably guilty, and the evidence available to the officer makes this a reasonable conclusion.  You must take a judge's opinion about the sufficiency of your grounds very seriously.  But if you have information that the judge did not know, you may reasonably reach a different conclusion.  In this case, Cst Emberley had more information than the judge.  He was entitled to reach a different conclusion.

Cst Emberley failed to recite all of the information available to him in his application for a warrant.  That caused trouble.  When applying for warrants, recite or summarize all the evidence in favour and against issuing the warrant.

But Cst Emberley's answers in court were accurate and fair.  He declined to speculate on what he would have done if things had gone differently.  That's appropriate.  When testifying you can decline to speculate about things that never happened.

2014.12.07 Wrongful Conviction - The Harm of Non-Disclosure

In a big investigation, leads and minor bits of evidence can sometimes fall by the wayside. That can lead to problems.

In a basement suite in Surrey in 2004, a woman was raped.  She said three men were there, but only two assaulted her; and one of those two owned the place.  Mr Dhillon, 2014 BCCA 480 owned the place.  Police found him naked and intoxicated in the suite, only hours after the rape.

The woman said that one of the rapists fathered her child.

The judge convicted Mr Dhillon of the rape. After he served his sentence, he was deported.

Although police disclosed to the Crown that some DNA turned from the forensic examination of the victim, some DNA results never reached the prosecutor.

After the conviction, DNA sampling of the accused went to the DNA databank.  Nobody noticed it failed match either of the male profiles from the victim.  Only when one of those two male profiles matched some other guy, years later, did police re-examine the case.  Mr Dhillon's DNA didn't match either profile, nor the baby's DNA.

He could possibly be innocent.

The court granted him a new trial, and then stayed those proceedings.  He had already served his sentence, and the likelihood of conviction was low.

Full disclosure matters, even when it seems obvious that the right guy is charged.

2014.12.06 Search and Seizure Incidental to Arrest - Genital Swabs & Fingernail Clippings

I argued this case and I think it's interesting.  Perhaps that's why this summary goes longer than usual.

Early one morning, a naked woman screamed for help from the third floor balcony of an apartment building.  A neighbor called police, who attended and found her outside in the parking lot.  She said a stranger in the building raped her.  She said he used no condom.  She wasn't sure if he ejaculated. About 3 1/2 hours later, when Sgt Santosuosso knocked, Mr Harasemow, 2014 BCSC 2287 came to the door of the apartment in question.  Sgt Santosuosso noticed:

Mr Harasemow made a comment which reasonably led Sgt Santosuosso to believe he found the rapist, so he arrested Mr Harasemow.  After reflecting and conferring with a forensic identification member, he directed his team to seize DNA evidence from the suspect.

Before Mr Harasemow got to speak to a lawyer, the officers:

  1. seized Mr Harasemow's clothes,
  2. swabbed his hands and his penis for the victim's DNA, and
  3. took fingernail clippings.

The woman went to a hospital.  She permitted a forensic nurse to swab her genitals for DNA evidence.

The forensic lab found traces of male DNA in the swabs from her body, but not enough to identify him.  At trial, a DNA expert testified that before ejaculation, men often leave too little genetic material in the woman to allow for identification.

But they found her DNA on the swab from his penis.

Mr Harasemow didn't want that evidence admitted.  He argued:

The judge rejected all of these arguments:

The judge let the jury hear the DNA evidence.

Swabbing the genitals of the suspects of recent rapes can provide crucial evidence.  After being raped, not every victim will permit forensic sampling from her body.  According to the DNA expert in the case, even if she does permit it, many attackers leave insufficient genetic material in their victims to identify them - especially if he does not ejaculate.

Some judges in Canada think police need warrants to do genital swabs: R. v. Laporte, 2012 MBQB 227; R v Saeed, 2014 ABCA 238 (per Watson & Bielby J.A.)

Others don't: R v Saeed, 2014 ABCA 238 (per McDonald J.A.);  R. v. Amey, 2013 ONSC 5108; Harasemow, 2014 BCSC 2287.

I think you don't need a warrant.  But I do think that these searches raise specific concerns:

Rape victims endure forensic examinations of their bodies which last an hour or more.  Swabbing a rape suspect's penis takes seconds.  You may find the latter task distasteful, but you may recover valuable forensic evidence.  The expert in this trial testified that this kind of evidence perishes quickly - 4-24 hours.

This case suggests that in B.C., officers may proceed with some confidence.  The Ontario decisions suggest that police should give access to counsel before swabbing genitals.  In Manitoba and Alberta, genital swabbing without a warrant remains controversial.  I hope they re-litigate the issue there.

2014.11.28 Arrest and Detention - Getting your Grounds - Dispatcher Error

Someone shot Mrs Stevenson in the head.

Near the end of her messy divorce, she was just stepping out of her new residence to go to work.  Her new paramour found her moments later, dying.  He called police.

The Brockville police attended quickly, and asked him who might have done this.  He said that Mr Stevenson 2014 ONCA 842 was a "possibility", and that Mr Stevenson had the kids in Malloryville, 25km down the road.  This information did not provide reasonable grounds to believe in Mr Stevenson's guilt, but certainly reason to suspect him.

The officer radioed his dispatcher, who conveyed the information to the dispatcher responsible for Malloryville.

Unfortunately, the information changed as it travelled.  The officers in Malloryville received radio broadcasts that identified Mr Stevenson as the shooter.  Relying on that information, they arrested him.  They bagged his hands, and took him to Brockville.

By the time Mr Stevenson arrived in Brockville, the Brockville police had gathered sufficient evidence to justify arresting him: he drove a car similar to a vehicle which left the area at the time of the shooting; he threatened the complainant, and was serving probation for it; he had been in town that day; they learned of the messy divorce.  But they didn't arrest him, because the Malloryville officers had already done that.

The Brockville officers swabbed his hands, and found gunshot residue (GSR).  An expert explained to the jury how this suggested that he recently fired a gun.  They convicted him.

Defence complained that the police obtained this evidence as a result of an unlawful arrest.  Reasonable suspicion justifies detention, but not searches of the person for evidence.  Was the GSR admissible?

The court found that the original arrest breached Mr Stevenson's right to be free from arbitrary arrest.  The court could have excluded the GSR evidence.  Instead, the judge admitted the evidence, in part because:

Mr Stevenson's conviction for murder survived appeal.

This case shows why courts dislike hearsay: people can garble information as they hear and repeat it.

Grounds to arrest or detain often rely on hearsay.  Police officers can't operate like judges: to act quickly, you must rely on some information that comes to you second hand.  But even dispatchers get information wrong sometimes.  Double-checking the hearsay evidence you receive when drafting search warrant applications can save you loads of trouble later.  If you have time to double-check hearsay before arrests, you may avoid the embarrassments of this case.

For dispatchers, this case illustrates the importance of relaying information accurately.  Nobody wants to be the person whose error resulted in the release of a murderer.

2014.11.21 Possession - Willful Blindness & Innocent Possession

Mr Farmer 2014 ONCA 823 shared an apartment, and computer and a bed with Mr M.R..  Although M.R. had his own laptop, he used Mr Farmer's desktop computer extensively, often when Mr Farmer wasn't there.  On the authority of a search warrant, police seized both computers, searched them and found lots of child pornography on both of them.

Mr M.R. claimed full responsibility for the material.

Mr Farmer told the police that he knew, or at least had a good idea, that there might be child pornography on his computer, but that he had not downloaded or accessed it and had no interest in it. He said that he knew M.R. accessed child pornography in relation to M.R.'s diaper fetish, and that he had seen M.R. looking at images of teen males dressed in underwear on the desktop computer.  He put two and two together.  But he condoned it because M.R. was his partner for whom he cared.  He took no steps to confirm his suspicion or to delete all the child pornographic images to prevent further access.

Was Mr Farmer guilty of possession of child pornography?

The trial judge found that Mr Farmer was willfully blind to the presence of unlawful images in his computer.  In his view, that sufficed for "possession".  But he acquitted, relying on the doctrine of "innocent possession".

The Crown appealed.

The appeal court judges disagreed with the trial judge's reasoning, but upheld the verdict.

Innocent Possession

They rejected "innocent possession".  What's that concept?

It's like this.  Suppose I found a bag of cocaine in a playground. I decide to remove it, to protect children who might discover it.  But if I pick it up and take it home, knowing what it is, then at law, I "possess" a controlled substance.  Should I be convicted or congratulated?  If I take it home for the purpose of calling police and disposing of it safely, then I am in "innocent possession".  I possess it without any intention to exercise control beyond that needed to destroy it or otherwise put it permanently beyond my control.

Mr Farmer did not possess the pictures for the purpose of destroying them or removing them from his computer.  Innocent possession did not apply.

Wilful Blindness

The judges rejected "willful blindness" too.  Let's consider that.

wilful blindness imputes knowledge to an accused whose suspicion is aroused to the point where he or she sees the need for further inquiries, but deliberately chooses not to make those inquiries”, “an actual process of suppressing a suspicion.”

These judges felt that the facts fell short of establishing that Mr Farmer actively turned a blind eye to what his lover was doing.

And besides, they reasoned, accessing differs from possessing.  Mr Farmer was charged with possessing.  What he ignored was the possibility that his partner was accessing child pornography.

I dunno.  If the evidence in this case failed to establish willful blindness, it came awfully close.

For police officers, when you have enough evidence that you figure that the suspect should have known about the contraband in his control, knowledge is a great topic to discuss.  Many of these folks will say "I didn't know, and I didn't want to know what was there."  Not wanting to know is wilful blindness.  Try asking him: "You're a smart guy.  You knew enough to know that whatever was in the package was trouble?"  "You decided not to look into it because you didn't want to see, and be sure of your suspicions."

2014.11.16 Right to Counsel - Internet Access and Google

A young impaired driver, Mr McKay, 2014 ABQB 70 got legal advice he didn't like.  At trial he complained that the police had failed to give him access to the Internet, to allow him to research lawyers to give him legal advice he might have liked better.  The trial judge agreed with this complaint, suggesting that police get with the times, and let prisoners use Google.

In this case, Mr McKay never asked for internet access, and never complained about the legal advice he got.  The officers could hardly be blamed for a problem they didn't know about.  The appeal court ordered a new trial.

But the appeal court agreed that police should permit prisoners to find their lawyers using modern information systems.

In my opinion, if your prisoner requests internet access in order to locate his or her lawyer, you should try to provide it - if you have the means.  However, you should supervise the prisoner's efforts to locate a lawyer because web pages can be used for many purposes other than research.  An impaired driver should not waste time playing Farmville on Facebook before providing breath samples.  After an assault, you should not let your suspect send threatening gmail to the victim.

If you can not allow the prisoner to use computers available to you (many police computers contain very sensitive information), then you might ask the prisoner what searches s/he wants to do, run those searches yourself, and give him or her print-outs.

You have a constitutional obligation to provide a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.  The Yellow Pages have yellowed greatly since the passage of the Charter.  According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, 85% of Canadians connect to the Internet.  Google and other search engines provide us access to information like telephone numbers.  If you have that access at work, and a prisoner says he wants to use it instead of the Yellow Pages to identify a lawyer, you may find it difficult to explain to a judge why you turned him down.

2014.11.15 Search and Seizure - Reports to a Justice

"Do we really have to complete a Form 5.2?"

If you're a peace officer, and you took something away from someone without their permission by "seizing" it, then yes, you have to complete a report to a justice.  Read s.489.1 of the Criminal Code.

Mr Garcia-Machado, 2014 ONCJ 81 crashed his car, injuring himself and his passengers.  Police obtained his medical records by means of a search warrant but did not file a report to a justice for 4 months.  Those records established that drugs and alcohol impaired Mr Garcia-Machado.  Because the officer failed to report those records promptly, the trial judge excluded the evidence.

Here are the usual objections I receive.  Here are the answers:

The officer who investigated Garcia-Machado thought he had several months. The section requires reporting "as soon as practicable".  Telewarrants require reporting "as soon as practicable" and within 7 days.

Save yourself embarrassment later.  Do the paperwork now.

PS: The Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial.  They agreed that the police breached Mr Garcia-Machado, 2015 ONCA 569 s.8 rights, but didn't feel that it was serious enough to justify excluding this evidence.

2014.11.15 Search and Seizure - Automobile Crash Data Recorders

When modern cars crash, an electronic device records the car's speed and braking activity in the last few seconds before the crash.  Do drivers enjoy sufficient privacy in that data that police officers require warrants to read and analyze the data?

Two recent decisions do little to answer the question.

Hamilton, 2014 ONSC 447, an off-duty police officer, crashed his truck, killing someone.  Without obtaining consent or a warrant, an investigator downloaded the data from his "Airbag Control Module", which showed that he accelerated through an intersection instead of braking.  At his dangerous driving trial, Hamilton asked the trial judge to exclude the data.  Hamilton testified that he believed the data in his ACM was private to him.  The trial judge agreed, but admitted the evidence under s.24(2), in part because the law had been unclear whether this search required judicial authorization.

That judge seemed to treat these devices like personal computers or cell phones.

Mr Fedan, 2014 BCSC 1716 also crashed his car.  Again, without a warrant, police downloaded the data from his "sensing diagnostic module", without benefit of a warrant.  Section 8 of the Charter protects reasonable expectations of privacy.  These have two parts: what the claimant actually thought, and what the reasonable judge thinks about that belief.  Unlike Hamilton, Mr Fedan did not testify that he thought the data was private.  This trial judge found no subjective expectation of privacy.  The trial judge hinted that she did not agree with the judge in Hamilton's case that there should be a reasonable expectation of privacy in this data.

This judge distinguished crash data recorders from computers and cell phones.  The latter usually contain much more personal information.

For all police officers investigating accident scenes, remember that s.489(2) authorizes you to seize evidence if you are:

All Canadian cops can seize the car.

But that doesn't authorize Ontario police officers to search the crash data recorders.  Apparently, they need warrants now.

In British Columbia, we still don't really know.

In the long run, if the electronic devices in vehicles retain significant information about the habits of their drivers, such as the routes and times that they drive, officers will need judicial authorizations.  In the short term, while these devices retain only a few seconds of driving data, reasonable people will disagree whether warrants are required.

2014.11.11 Search and Seizure - Strip Search

I like the way Mr Justice David Watt writes:

"Bart Alec Muller got arrested. And then he got searched. Twice. First, a frisk search. Three cellphones. Some money. No drugs. Second, a strip search. A plastic bag between his buttocks. Crack cocaine. Cocaine. Oxycodone tablets."

The trial judge convicted Mr Muller, 2014 ONCA 780, but Watt J.A. ordered a new trial.

Two confidential sources identified an apartment where a big guy sold crack, and they described him.  Police got and executed a warrant.  They found four people, but no drugs.  Just as the search team entered the building, officers outside the building saw Mr Muller - a big guy - leave the building.  He generally matched the informants' description. And he dropped an electronic scale as he walked away.

The officers arrested him for trafficking. 

Defence complained that the officers lacked grounds to arrest him: there are lots of big guys in Windsor.  The judge found that the timing of his departure, his similarity to the sources' descriptions, and the electronic scale together tipped the balance in favour of arrest.

The officers frisked Mr Muller, and found three cell phones and some cash but no drugs.  The search team found no drugs in the apartment.  The officers decided to strip-search the four people in the apartment, and Mr Muller.  They found the drugs between his buttocks.

A strip search requires you to believe you will probably find evidence. Mr Muller's counsel complained that the police lacked sufficient grounds.  Officers admitted that they find crack cocaine in underwear or between butt-cheeks only 5% or 7.5% of the time.  The mere possibility that police would find evidence of an offence may justify a frisk search, but it won't justify a strip-search.

The judge concluded that the officers had sufficient grounds for this strip search.  The last alleged drug transaction occurred only hours earlier.  The electronic scale bore apparent cocaine residue.  Strip-searches of the other occupants of the apartment located no drugs.  By process of elimination, if there were any drugs, they had to be on Mr Muller somewhere.

If the search was lawful, why did this smart judge order a new trial? Because the officers did the strip search badly.

Strip searches violate privacy.  When performing one, you should minimize the violation of privacy as much as possible.

In addition, the officers who strip-searched the other suspects kept no notes and destroyed all video of their searches.

Watt J.A. writes well.  You should read his decision.  Some lessons to draw from this case about strip searches include:

  1. Second thought: If you're considering whether to strip search a suspect, you should first ask yourself whether you will likely find evidence of the offence for which you arrested.
  2. Second opinion: Ask a senior officer to take responsibility for the decision to strip search.
  3. Private places for private searches: Minimize the impact on the prisoner's privacy: minimize the number of eyes that watch; let him/her cover some parts while you search others.
  4. Be aware of cameras: You become so accustomed to working under video cameras, you easily forget them.  For strip-searches, you need an objective record of the search process.  But recording a suspect's nakedness preserves it for future eyes to watch.  Therefore, I suggest erecting a narrow modesty screen - such as a high-backed chair - between the suspect and the camera.  If the suspect chooses to expose himself or herself to the camera - that's their choice.  But you offer as much privacy as you can while still preserving an objective record of the incident.
  5. Minimize distribution: After the strip-search, whether it obtained evidence or not, preserve the recording in a sealed envelope.

2014.11.04 Confessions - Person In Authority

Canadian courts developed a hard rule that the prosecution must prove the voluntariness of all confessions given to a person in authority.  In the peculiar case of Mr J.J., 2014 ONCA 759, this led to a curious result.

Mr J.J. formed a relationship with a police woman.  Her 14-year-old daughter alleged that he had sex with her.  He denied it.  The mother kicked him out, but wasn't sure who to believe.  She called him and told him she would reconcile with him if it was her daughter who initiated the sex.  He admitted sex with the girl.

Ordinarily, if the mother were not a police officer, the trial judge would admit such a confession into evidence without question.  But this trial judge found that she acted as a police investigator at the time she made the offer.  She was a person in authority.

Therefore, the appeal court found that there should have been a voir dire to determine the voluntariness of Mr J.J.'s confession.  The appeal court hinted that they weren't sure that the mother was really acting as a police officer at the time.  But given the trial judge's findings, they had to order a new trial.

As police officers investigating offences, you should not offer inducements to suspects for the purposes of obtaining confessions.  The usual mistake involves intimating to the suspect that you, the prosecutor or the judge might treat him more leniently on bail or a trial if he would admit the crime.   This is the first time I've encountered a police officer offering to sleep with the suspect if he would just confess.

If you police officers, in your private lives, find yourselves discussing a possible crime with a potential suspect, beware of your role as police officer.  You may not be able to do what a private citizen could do in eliciting a confession.

2014.11.01 Right to Counsel - Taking it Seriously

After Mr Wood, 2014 BCPC 13 crashed his car, he acted as if he were in shock.  An officer also noticed that he smelled of liquor, and got him to blow into a screening device.  It registered a fail.  The officer read him his rights, and asked if he wanted to talk to a lawyer.  He said "no".  Ambulance attendants took him to hospital to see if he needed treatment.  The officer accompanied him in the ambulance, and turned on a recording device to capture conversation.

The officer followed these wise steps with some unwise remarks:

"So, Scott, I've already ah read you, your rights, that was all of the jabber before. Ah, ahum, before we took off there from scene. Do you have any questions for me? Do you understand all your rights and all that jazz?"

When they reached the hospital, the officer accidentally missed reading a small portion of the blood demand.  It might not have made any difference.  But the judge disliked the officer's attitude towards this suspect's Charter rights.  It wasn't "jabber" nor "jazz".  The judge excluded the blood test results.

By all means, record your conversations with your suspects, before and after you explain their rights.  But always take their rights seriously, because judges do.

2014.10.20 Wiretap Disclosure

Section 193(1) of the Criminal Code prohibits anyone from disclosing the content of - and even the existence of - intercepted communications.  A Part VI authorization would do you no good whatever if investigators couldn't discuss what they've overheard.  Therefore, s.193(2) provides exceptions to the general rule, one of which permits disclosure of lawfully intercepted communications "for the purpose of any criminal investigation".

Another exception permits disclosure "for the purpose of giving evidence".

In Imperial Oil v. Jacques, 2014 SCC 66, a majority of the Supreme Court appears to have rewritten that phrase to mean "for the purposes of preparing to litigate in any proceeding".

The Competition Bureau of Canada investigated price-fixing in Quebec's retail gas industry.  Its investigators obtained authorizations to record conversations, and gathered enough evidence to lay charges.

Meanwhile, a public interest group launched a class-action suit against gas retailers.  They applied under civil rules for disclosure of the intercepted communications.

If intercepted communications ought to be kept private, should the dozens of civil litigants involved in this case obtain the private conversations of the business people involved?  What if their conversations stray from the price of gas, to more personal topics, such as their problem children or their love lives?

The court found that the need courts to obtain the truth allows for such disclosure even in civil cases - subject to controls to prevent more dissemination than necessary to litigate.

This should not usually affect police investigations.  But it reinforces two concepts:

Detention and Search

An officer stopped Mr Christie, 2013 NBCA 64 for driving with an expired registration sticker.  Mr Christie couldn't produce a licence or registration.  Seeing a hunting knife in a sheath in the driver's door pocket, and an open wine bottle on the floor behind the driver's seat, the officer detained Mr Christie, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of the police car.  The officer then searched the car for liquor and weapons.

When you detain a suspect, you may only search for weapons if you have reason to fear that weapons might harm you.  Generally, you can't search for evidence.

Unsurprisingly, the judges disliked this search, and excluded the evidence.  But they also disliked the detention.  In the absence of evidence of any threat to the officer, they found no need to handcuff Mr Christie or secure him in the back of the police car.  They found those actions "arbitrary", and therefore a violation of Charter rights.

Don't handcuff suspects or imprison them in your car for your safety unless you actually have reasons to fear for your safety.


Canadian weather can freeze or overheat people.  Sometimes, you should put people in your police car for their comfort or safety.  Some of those people may become suspects - such as the driver of a car involved in a terrible crash.  Because the judges see such significance in putting people in the backs of police cars, you should tell people who aren't detained that they aren't detained.  Check on them frequently, in case they want to get out.

Searching Cell Phones incidental to Arrest

Ten months after busting Mr Vye, 2014 BCSC 93 for dealing in drugs, police searched his cell phone "incidental to arrest".  The officers examined everything except the ring-tones.  This included the photographs he apparently took of a naked woman, and his texts about her.  Defence challenged this search.

You can't search incidental to arrest unless there's evidence you think you might find.  No evidence explained what the officers thought they would find when they searched the phone.  A search "incidental to arrest" must be connected to the arrest.  The delay caused the judge to disbelieve that this search had anything to do with the arrest.

Cell phones can contain lots of data.  Because the officers did nothing to narrow the search to relevant information, the breadth of the search offended the judge too.  It was okay to duplicate the contents of the phone to preserve them, but not okay to examine everything.

2014.10.05 Search & Seizure - "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy" - Cop Ban

Mr Felger, 2014 BCCA 34 posted a sign on his store banning police officers from unless they possessed a warrant.  His lawyer wrote a letter to police demanding that they respect Mr Felger's prohibition.  Inside, Mr Felger sold marijuana to all members of the public who entered.  Undercover officers entered and purchased drugs without first obtaining warrants.  Mr Felger convinced the trial judge that by doing so, the officers violated his Charter-protected right of privacy.

The appeal court disagreed.

Section 8 of the Charter protects people, not places.  The court observed that Mr Felger's sign created an artificial distinction, which purported to make very public activities private.  They found that he did not enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy by posting this sign.

Reading between the lines, I suspect that the police got some good legal advice before challenging Mr Felger's approach.  That's a good tactic for handling outrageous interpretations of the law.

2014.09.29 Search & Seizure - Warrants and Production Orders - "Reasonable Grounds to Suspect" that an Offence has been committed

Section 487 and section 487.012 both refer to reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed or was suspected to have been committed.  Long debates have raged over whether this justifies the granting of a warrant or production order where only suspicion exists that an offence occurred.

In R v Fedossenko, 2014 ABCA 314, the majority found that suspicion suffices for production orders.  Expect a further appeal.  Maybe the Supreme Court of Canada will finally answer the debate.

Postscript: The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear this appeal.

2014.09.13 Search & Seizure - Night Search

Section 488 prohibits the execution of search warrants at night unless your application satisfies the justice that there are reasonable grounds to do so, and the justice authorizes it.  What justifies a night search?

Mr L.V.R.'s 2014 BCCA 349 stepdaughter complained that he sexually abused her.  She said he had photographs in his residence.  At 7:42pm, police arrested him at his residence and cleared the residence of people. With members standing guard to secure the contents, the lead investigator applied for a search warrant.  The Justice of the Peace rejected his first application because it failed to explain any need for a night search.  The officer applied again, this time explaining:

27.       I am re-submitting this application for a search warrant requesting night time execution for the following reasons:
a)         [L.V.R.] is currently in custody and will go before a Provincial Court Justice tomorrow (June 4th, 2008) therefore the evidence that I am seeking in this search warrant is required prior to his appearance.

b)         There are currently police officers maintaining continuity of the residence located at [address], Surrey, BC.

c)         As this is my last night shift I will be unavailable until the 10th of June, 2008 and fear that in this time there would be an opportunity for loss of evidence if the search warrant is not executed prior to [L.V.R.]'s release from custody.

The appeal court disagreed that the applicant's availability had any relevance.  Other officers could perform the search.  The prospect that L.V.R. could be released had some relevance - perhaps he could interfere with data on computers in the residence after his release.  Two things swayed the court:

    1. The residence was empty.  Section 488 protects people from unnecessary invasions of their homes at night.  Because the home was empty, nobody would be disturbed by the search.
    2. Therefore, police officers waiting until daybreak were wasting time ("idling").

The take-home lessons:

- When applying for Criminal Code search warrants to search between 9:00pm and 6:00am, always explain why you need to search at night.

- If you know that nobody will be in the place you intend to search at night (whether under the Criminal Code or the CDSA), say so in your application.

- Risk of loss of evidence is a good reason.

- Wasted time of officers is a valid reason.

- Unavailability of a specific officers is a bad reason.

Arrest & Detention - Plain Smell

Cst Moore stopped a speeding pickup truck.  He turned on a video-recording device before dealing with the driver.  After speaking with the driver, he walked towards his cruiser, and stopped mid-stride when an "overpowering" odour of vegetative marijuana struck him.  He returned to the driver and explained what he smelled.  He later recovered seedling marijuana plants from the truck.

Based solely on the smell, could he lawfully arrest the driver, Mr MacCannell, 2014 BCCA 254, and search the truck?

You may arrest people for indictable offences they committed in the past or are about to commit (s.495(1)(a)), for offences that they are committing now (s.495(1)(b)), or on an outstanding warrant (s.495(1)(c)).

Possessing less than 30g of marijuana is a strictly summary conviction offence.  Until Cst Moore looked inside, he could not know whether Mr MacCannell committed or was about to commit an indictable offence.  Cst Moore had no information about outstanding warrants.  Therefore, he could only arrest if he believed that Moore was in the course of committing an offence.

Because of Cst Moore's past investigations involving marijuana, the court found he could distinguish between burnt and fresh marijuana.  Smoke is evidence of possession of marijuana at some time earlier.  Because this smelled fresh, Cst Moore had evidence that Mr MacCannell continued to possess marijuana.

Was this enough evidence to establish reasonable grounds to believe that MacConnell was committing an offence?  Perhaps he had a medical marijuana licence.

The court found that an officer need not exclude the possibility of licences before making the arrest.

Mr MacConnell had no licence.  The court upheld his conviction.

Who is the Queen?

Mr McAteer and some friends, 2014 ONCA 578 wanted to become Canadian without pledging their allegiance to the Queen.  Some were republicans, one was a Rastafarian.  None felt any desire to promise good things for members of the House of Windsor.  The court responded that the oath is an oath to the Canadian way of governing ourselves, not fealty to a person:

"[T]he oath is a symbolic commitment to be governed as a democratic constitutional monarchy unless and until democratically changed..."

To become Canadian, Mr McAteer must swear an oath of loyalty to our Canadian system, which uses the monarch as a representative of the people and the people's way of organizing ourselves.

Search and Seizure - Courier Contracts

Mr Calkins sent a package of illicit drugs to Mr Godbout, 2014 BCCA 319 by courier.  Mr Calkins signed a standard form, which referred to the courier company's website for the full list of terms.  The website included this:

Without notice, DHL may, at its sole discretion, open and inspect any shipment and its contents at any time. Customs authorities, or other governmental authorities, may also open and inspect any shipment and its contents at any time.

Someone at the courier company suspected something about this package and opened it.  When she saw its contents, she told police.  They came and saw, and seized the package, and arranged for a controlled delivery.

Mr Godbout complained that the police violated his expectations of privacy.  The court observed that the police violated the sender's privacy.  It figured that as the recipient, Mr Godbout could enjoy no greater expectation of privacy than the sender.  The terms of the contract allowed police to examine the contents, and therefore nobody violated Mr Godbout's expectations of privacy.

What you find on a website about privacy policies may provide good evidence about a suspect's expectations of privacy.

Undercover Operations - Mr Big

Mr Hart, 2014 SCC 52 had twin daughters who drowned in a lake.  He explained to his wife that one fell off a dock.  He couldn't save her because he couldn't swim.  So, in a panic, he rushed home, forgetting the other one at the dock.  The police didn't buy this story, but he stuck to it.

Police launched a Mr Big operation, which completely beguiled Mr Hart and lifted him out of his poverty and social isolation.  He believed the fictitious gangsters were his best friends.

One undercover operator boasted of disciplining prostitutes for the gang, and hinted that he even killed them.  Mr Hart responded by claiming to have murdered his daughters.

Later, when Mr Hart met Mr Big, he gave conflicting versions of how he achieved this.  Did he push them off the wharf with his shoulder ... or his knee?

The judges agreed that this undercover operation went too far in persuading Mr Hart to talk.

Prejudicial effect: By involving the suspect in what appears to be crime, the operation creates evidence of the suspect's bad character, which the court feared could prejudice the jury against him.  After he spent every day for 4 months trying to join a criminal gang, "... it is easy to see how the jury could come to view the respondent with disdain."

Probative value: The prospects of wealth and a welcoming community can be powerful incentives for vulnerable people like Mr Hart to admit to crimes - regardless of the truth.  And fear of violence from gangsters could also encourage people to say what they think the gangsters want to hear.  Where the incentives are too strong, the court may lose trust in the confessions these techniques elicit. Of course, confessions which reveal details which only the true culprit  could know - such as the location of a murder victim's body - tend to reveal the truth of the confession.  Mr Hart lived in isolation; his confession revealed no confirmable facts.

By contrast, Albertan police persuaded Mr Mack, 2014 SCC 58 to confess to a murder by applying gentler techniques.  They gave him only modest payments for mild (apparent) criminal activity.  They didn't use scenarios involving violence.  His confessions led to remains of the body.  The judges agreed that the evidence from this undercover operation should be admitted.

Until now, the courts automatically admitted confessions elicited by this technique.  Now, they will examine the confession in a voir dire to determine whether its probative value exceeds its prejudicial effect.  If not, the jury won't hear anything about it.

This decision confirms what circumspect undercover units already know.  Beware of giving the defendant reasons (or excuses) to explain away his confession:

Perhaps for some targets, Mr Big should be a reformed gangster, whose business involves mostly lawful transactions.  Maybe he runs a slightly shady private investigations firm, in which trust, loyalty and honesty are important business practices.

Detention - Reasonable Suspicion

Police received an anonymous tip that a man wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, having dreadlocks and a "baby-face" walking on a particular street in a troubled neighborhood carried a gun.  Police attended and found Mr Williams 2013 ONCA 772 fit this description.  They told him they were investigating a firearms complaint, and asked if he was armed.  He "bladed" his body, gave no verbal response, and reached for his waistband.  The officers told him to raise his hands and turn around.  He didn't.  They grabbed his arms, and quickly found a loaded handgun in his waistband.

Defence called it an arbitrary detention.  The judge agreed that the tip - by itself - did not provide reasonable grounds for suspicion.  But Mr Williams' behaviour when the officers addressed him added more information to the tip.  This rendered a detention reasonable.

The risk of a firearm rendered a pat-down search reasonable in the circumstances.  The firearm was properly admitted into evidence.

When justifying a detention, you should explain all of the details which gave you reason to suspect that crime was afoot.

Sexual Assault Investigation

Sexual assault complainants enjoy some additional protections when they complain to police.

To defend such complaints, defence often attack the complainant's credibility.  They ask for every police report which pertains to such complainants.  The Supreme Court of Canada concluded that these reports enjoy the special protections of s.278.1-278.4 of the Criminal Code.  Defence won't receive those police reports just by asking.  They need to prove relevance.  R. v. Quesnelle, 2014 SCC 46

Right to Counsel

After a party, Mr Taylor, 2014 SCC 50 rolled his truck, injuring three of his passengers.  An officer who attended the scene arrested him for impaired driving causing bodily harm.  Mr Taylor said he wanted legal advice, and he wanted to speak with his father.  A paramedic at the scene found nothing obviously wrong with Mr Taylor's health, but recommended that the officer take him to the hospital just in case.  The officer wisely took that advice.

The emergency ward was busy that night (perhaps tending to Mr Taylor's passengers).  He waited 20 minutes with the officer before medical staff attended to him.  Medical staff checked out Mr Taylor, and took blood samples for hospital purposes.

The officer did nothing about access to counsel before leaving the hospital.  He forgot.  He called it a "rookie mistake".

Next morning, the officer got a search warrant for the hospital's samples.  Analysis of the samples proved Mr Taylor drove drunk.

Mr Taylor's counsel complained that Mr Taylor did not receive legal advice at the earliest opportunity.  Even though the officer took no part in drawing Mr Taylor's blood, the appeal courts found sufficient connection between the officer's conduct and the evidence to justify excluding the blood test results.

The prisoner's right to counsel "without delay" does not mean that you must offer a cell phone to the man you arrest before you handcuff him.  You may delay legal rights until you protect people, property and evidence from peril.

"Without delay" can mean sooner than "when we get to the police station", especially if you expect detours and delays before calling lawyers.  Don't leave rights to counsel hanging.

Community Policing - Triggering a Detention

When you encounter suspicious people on the street, you may start a conversation which becomes a detention and then an arrest.

When the interaction changes from "conversation" to "detention", you must explain s.10(b) rights.  Lawyers often disagree when that moment arrives.

At 2:30am, young Mr B.S., 2014 BCCA 257 (yes those are his initials) walked with 4 other young people in a residential neighborhood.  An officer approached them because he thought they might be underage, intoxicated, and possibly interested in mischief.  He smelled liquor, but they denied drinking.  He asked them if they had outstanding warrants.  When he asked Mr K.J. for id, K.J. tried to walk away.  The officer called him back, and looked at his id.  Then Mr B.S. started to fidget with something behind his back.  The officer became nervous for his safety, and decided to search Mr B.S. for weapons.  He found a baton and drugs packaged for sale.

Mr B.S testified that from the moment the police officer first approached the group he felt he was not free to leave.  However, another member of the group testified that she felt free to go throughout the interaction with the police.

Defence argued that by approaching the group, the officer detained them.  The officer had no reason to suspect them of any offence, and therefore the detention was arbitrary.  Defence complained that the officer failed to give any Charter rights until long after the detention.

The trial judge and the appeal court disagreed.  The detention in this case occurred when the officer decided to search B.S..

But it ain't always so.  If your actions would cause a reasonable person to believe that he or she can not leave, then you trigger a "psychological detention".  Depending on how he called Mr K.J. back, this officer could have caused the other members of the group to feel that they couldn't leave either.

At the scene, you can control your words and actions.  In the court room, counsel will urge the court to interpret them differently.  If, at the scene, you clearly distinguish between liberty and detention, then, in the court room, you can describe that clear distinction, and dispel confusion about when the conversation turned into detention.

Searching a Residence in Exigent Circumstances - 911 call

A child phoned his grandmother complaining that his parents were fighting.  She called police, telling them that the child would call only if the fight got "pretty serious".  When police attended the residence, no sound came from the house, even after 25 minutes of knocking.  When they broke in, they found Mr Depace, 2014 ONCA 519., drunk, and the child's mother.  They searched the residence more widely, in case others were in the house, injured.  Downstairs, they found drugs and scales and sheets detailing who owed him money.  Defence argued that the police should have left the house when they found the three occupants unharmed.  The court observed "the police do not need to take the word of the occupant that everything is alright."

Search of Cell Phones Incidental to Arrest

To download and examine the contents of a cell phone, you need a warrant, even if you seized it incidental to arrest.  You may still be able to do a cursory examination of it without a warrant.  R. v. Mann, 2014 BCCA 231


In Acosta, 2014 BCCA 218 the court observed that no rule of law yet requires police officers to make contemporaneous notes.  Failing to take them in that case led to a costly appeal.

"Plain smell" of marijuana

The plain smell of vegetative (rather than burnt) marijuana emanating from a vehicle may suffice for grounds to arrest the occupants.  Acosta, 2014 BCCA 218

Right to Counsel

Two children complained that their stepfather, Mr T.G.H., 2014 ONCA 460 sexually abused them for years.  Their mom didn't believe them.  The boy told police that a peculiar flap of excess skin hung over Mr T.G.H.'s anus.  When interviewed in January, Mr T.G.H. denied having such a feature.

In October, police officers got a general warrant to permit them to examine his anus and if it was there, to photograph it.  The female officer who interviewed him executed the warrant.  Because she told him of his right to counsel at the interview, she felt no need to tell him of his right to counsel before the execution of this warrant.  She carefully avoided interviewing him during the process.

The defence complained that the execution of the general warrant was a "detention", and that triggered a right to counsel.  The court agreed.  The prior exercise of the right to counsel addressed the interview.  This search addressed a completely different (and unexpected) investigative technique.  The officer breached Mr T.G.H.'s right to counsel.  (The court admitted the evidence under s.24(2).)

When you execute a warrant which allows you to search a person's body, such as a DNA warrant, give the subject access to counsel.

General Warrant

Two children complained that their stepfather, Mr T.G.H., 2014 ONCA 460 sexually abused them for years.  Their mom didn't believe them.  The boy told police that a peculiar flap of excess skin hung over Mr T.G.H.'s anus.  When interviewed in January, Mr T.G.H. denied having such a feature.

Police got a general warrant to permit them to examine his anus and if it was there, to photograph it.  A female officer executed it.

She found and photographed the flap of skin.  This evidence helped prove the case.

The idea of getting a warrant to authorize this intimate examination was a good one.  I was surprised that a female officer executed it - ordinarily, you should only do such a search upon a person of the same gender.  I think that the warrant should have authorized photographs whether or not the skin flap was present - the absence of the skin flap could have been evidence that the child was mistaken.  It would be appropriate to obtain such evidence because it would have assisted Mr T.G.H. in his defence.

Interviewing the defendant - promises

Police had reason to suspect that Mr M.S.M., 2014 ONCA 441 sexually abused his daughter.  During an interview, the investigating officer suggested that unless he confessed his daughter would not get the psychiatric she needed.  The trial judge found this inducement rendered the confession involuntary.

Ordinarily, an inducement is improper if you have control or influence over it.  Linking lenient treatment in court to confession is a classic example.  This inducement was less clearly under the officer's control. While I suspect this particular case is close to the line, it highlights the dangers of pushing too close to that line.  Pick your leverage carefully.

Documents in Possession

Police saw Christine Black, 2014 BCCA 192 step out of a building, lock it and walk away.  Inside, sitting on a table, they found a grow operation, and a note addressed to "Chrissy" instructing her on maintenance of the operation.  Relying on Baldree 2013 SCC 35, the defence argued that the note was hearsay, and therefore inadmissible.  The court disagreed: documents found in the possession of the defendant may provide circumstantial evidence of their guilt.

When you search a place or person for evidence of an offence, take some time to record where you found documents, and read the documents you find.

DNA Transfer - The Achilles Heel of DNA Evidence

The great advantage of DNA is its sensitivity.  And sensitivity is its drawback too.

Mr M.C., 2014 ONCA 307 played "zerbert monster" with the neighbor's 5-year-old.  A "zerbert" is blowing a raspberry on a child's skin.  The next day, the little girl said that he blew zerberts on her vagina.  With his tongue.  She was wearing a sundress over underwear.  An external vaginal swab located only her DNA.  But her underwear bore his DNA too.

The trial judge convicted him, but the appeal court ordered a new trial.  The trial judge failed to consider whether the accused's DNA could have transferred to the child's underwear innocently.

When you find the suspect's DNA in a place that suggests guilt, investigate whether it could have transferred there innocently.

Impaired driving - Breath Testing - Taking Samples "As Soon as Practicable"

After a breath or blood demand, you must take both samples "as soon as practicable", and account for delays.  When police tested the breath of Mr Singh, 2014 ONCA 293, 28 minutes elapsed between the first and second samples.  Of course, law required the police to wait 15 minutes after the first sample.  But there was no explanation of the delay for the second sample.

The Court upheld Mr Singh's conviction in this case, but it was a gamble.  If something prevents you from testing the subject promptly, explain the delays in your report.

Value in Video-Recording Eyewitnesses

In Groves, 2013 BCCA 446, police responded quickly to a homicide in the downtown east-side.  Someone in a gathering of street-people pushed a woman under a bus.  Mr Emerson gave police a video-recorded statement very shortly after the event, before he had time to discuss what he saw with other eyewitnesses.  Unfortunately, Mr Emerson was “messed up” on heroin at the time of the event and the recording of the statement.  Even worse, at trial, he retained no memory of the incident.  However, the prompt video-recording of his evidence allowed the trial judge to admit his statement in evidence, which made all the difference at the trial.

There is great value in video-recording the statements of eyewitnesses, even if the witness does not seem valuable at the time.

Searching a Vehicle Incidental to Release

An officer caught Mr Valentine, 2014 ONCA 147 driving a car 20 minutes into his curfew.  The officer arrested Mr Valentine and put him in the back seat of a police cruiser.  The officer then considered releasing him, but because CPIC indicated that Mr Valentine was on bail for violence and threats, and that he posed an escape risk, the officer thought that Mr Valentine could pose a risk to the officers immediately after release.  The officer searched the driver's area of the car for weapons.

He didn't find any weapons, but he did find cash and a smell of fresh marijuana.  He arrested Mr Valentine for possessing it.  The officer then searched the trunk and found 18 pounds of shrink-wrapped bud.

At trial, Mr Valentine complained that while secured in the police car, he posed no risk to the officer.  Therefore, the officer had no authority to search his car.  These complaints fell on deaf ears.

Because of Mr Valentine's particularly nervous behaviour, and because of his past history of violence, this "officer safety" search was justified.

That doesn't mean you can search the car of every person you arrest for breach of bail.  If you want to search for "officer safety", you better have evidence which shows a real risk.

Arrest and Detention - Right to Counsel

Mr Taylor, 2013 ABCA 342 crashed his car, injuring his passengers, including his sister.  Police figured he drank too much, arrested him for impaired driving, and told him he could call a lawyer.  He wanted to call his lawyer and his father.  Mr Taylor figured he wasn't hurt, but the ambulance attendants persuaded him to go to the hospital to be checked out.  His speech was clear.

Half an hour passed before he left the scene.  Nobody arranged for him to make phone calls from there.  He spent 20 minutes at the hospital before the nurse took blood samples for the hospital's purposes.  Nobody arranged for him to get legal advice.  After the nurse took blood samples for the hospital, a police officer made a blood demand.  Nobody arranged access to counsel.  40 minutes later, a doctor drew blood from him for police.

Of course, you should never elicit evidence from a detained or arrested suspect without first permitting him to get legal advice if he wants it.

Investigators in this case realized this mistake.  They got a warrant for the hospital samples.

The trial judge figured that was okay.  Two appeal court judges found that Mr Taylor should have received the legal advice before the hospital took the samples.  The Supreme Court of Canada may hear argument in April.

All this could have been avoided.  The officer called it a "rookie mistake" when he failed to arrange access to counsel for Mr Taylor.

Don't make that same rookie mistake.

Arrest & Detention - Explaining why - s.10(a)

Vancouver police knew Boden, 2014 BCSC 66 had a history of violence, weapons, flight from - and confrontation with - police.  They also reason to suspect him of a series of sexual assaults.  So they set up a surveillance team.  Members of that team saw him approach a woman from behind and grab her right buttock.  He then fled in the direction of a dogmaster and his dog.

When the dogmaster saw Boden, the dogmaster said:

“City Police” “You’re under arrest.  Get on the ground or I’ll send my dog”

Boden replied:

“What? What for?”

The officer repeated his words, but did not identify any offence.

Mr Boden fled.  During a protracted struggle, Mr Boden asked:

“What did I do? What did I do?”

The trial judge found that the officers did not answer the question.

Did he obstruct or assault a peace officer in the execution of duty?

The trial judge found that the officers breached Mr Boden's s.10(a) right.  When deciding whether to submit to an arrest, Mr Boden was entitled to know what the officer was alleging against him.  The appeal court found that in exigent circumstances, you can delay the explanation for later, when things are under control.  It's entirely possible Mr Boden may win on further appeal.

None of this expensive litigation would be necessary if the dogmaster had added three words to the phrase "You're under arrest" ... "for sexual assault".

Get in the habit, and stay in the habit, of identifying the reason for a person's arrest or detention.  Section 10(a) of the Charter requires it.

Search Warrants - Swearing the ITO

Two courts now say that you can swear your Information to Obtain before a Commissioner for the Taking of Oaths (such as Crown Counsel), and then submit your sworn document to a Justice of the Peace to issue the warrant. R. v. D.G., 2014 ONCA 75; R. v. Spencer, 2009 SKQB 341.

I see this as one more slow step towards giving telewarrants equal status to ordinary search warrants.

Search & Seizure - Execution of Search Warrant - Read it

Police applied for a warrant to search 3325 McQueen Road for:

marihuana, marihuana plants, [and] documents identifying ownership and/or residency of 3325 McQueen Road, West Kelowna

The justice gave them a warrant to search that address for:

marihuana, marihuana plants, [and] documents addressed to 3325 McQueen Road, West Kelowna

When searching that place, they found marijuana in abundance.  An officer also seized a birth certificate and a passport of Mr Mandziak, 2014 BCCA 41.  The passport asserted that his address was 3325 McQueen Road, but directed anyone finding it to send it to the Canadian government at another address.  The birth certificate bore no address.

So neither identification document was "addressed to" 3325 McQueen Road.  Both linked Mr Mandziak to the residence.

During testimony, the officer provided no explanation why he seized these things, contrary to the wording of the warrant.  He could have relied on s.489; but he didn't say so.

Two of three judges in the Court of Appeal threw out the conviction and ordered a new trial.  We'll see if it goes on to the SCC.

Lessons to learn:

  1. Read the warrant.
  2. If you want to seize something not named in the warrant, figure out whether you have the authority to do so.
  3. If you do seize something pursuant to s.489 or "plain view", say so when asked.


How does a traffic member know the importance of a traffic stop?  In a routine traffic stop, a police officer checked Mr Bains, 2014 BCCA 43.  His brief notes in a computer system caught the attention of a team of police investigating a major drug conspiracy.  Those officers showed him a picture of Mr Bains, to see if Bains was the driver.  The officer recognized him.  That information led to the grant of a wiretap authorization which sunk Mr Bains.

At trial, Mr Bains challenged the lawfulness of the traffic stop.  Because the officer could remember little to nothing about it, the court concluded it was an arbitrary detention.

You never know when a little matter will turn into a big matter.  Notes always matter.

Impaired Driving - Refusal & Right to Counsel

In a fairly routine impaired driving investigation after a car accident, an officer arrested Mr Bagherli, 2013 MBQB 189 and told him of his right to counsel. He wanted a lawyer.  The officer then asked him if he would provide breath samples.  He said "no".  The officer arrested him for refusal, and took him to the police station.  Instead of calling a lawyer, Mr Bagherli fell asleep in the phone room.  When asked if he'd like to speak to a lawyer, he said “No, I’ll talk to him later.”  The officer gave him the supplemental Charter warning.  He responded: “Yeah, whatever”.  He never offered to provide a breath sample, nor did the police re-read the demand or offer him another opportunity to provide a breath sample.

He beat the charge.

After he asserted that he wanted a lawyer, the officer had an obligation to hold off eliciting evidence until he got advice.  Instead, the officer asked a key question about the offence.

After you make a demand, proceed as if the suspect will comply.  Let the suspect come up with the idea of refusing.  Don't offer him a choice.

Computer analyses - Search Warrant or General Warrant?

The archaic language of s.487 raised doubts whether an ordinary search warrant could authorize forensic analysis of the contents of a computer.  Some legal minds in Alberta believed that a general warrant under s.487.01 would be more appropriate.

One Provincial Court judge there wrote an opinion that s.487 suffices.  K.Z., 2013 ABPC 203; on review to the Superior Court, the judge there agreed: R v KZ, 2014 ABQB 235.

This settles the question in Alberta for the short term.  But this is a topic on which reasonable people may reach different conclusions.

If your forensic analysis of a digital device requires more than just searching it, reconsider using a General Warrant.

This judge also required information about how long it will take to get the search done.  You might want to include such information in your ITO.

Detention - How to Cause a Detention while Trying Not To

Mr Koczab had 17 kg of cocaine hidden in secret compartments in his car.

A Manitoban police officer stopped Mr Koczab, 2014 SCC 9 as he sped east.  He had an Ontario licence but his vehicle was registered in B.C..  He explained he worked in the movie business.  The car, the driver, and his explanation seemed familiar to the officer.  He gave Mr Koczab a verbal warning, and told him he was free to go.  But the officer asked if minded answering a few questions.  Relaxed and comfortable, Mr Koczab replied "Yeah, go ahead".  His answers about the car, the movie business, and his past conviction for a couple of grams of cocaine left the officer with an ever stronger sense of deja vu.  He asked about the suitcases in the back seat, and whether Mr Koczab carried liquor, drugs, or large quantities of cash.  No.  "So what's in the suitcases?" asked the officer.  "Clothes, do you want to see?"  The officer made sure Mr Koczab was giving him permission to look for drugs.  Mr Koczab showed him the clothes, but the officer noticed something odd about the carpet that looked like a hidden compartment.

The officer thought that he might detain the accused for a further criminal investigation,  He called for back up for officer safety.  He told the accused “I just have to go to my car for a minute.”  And he did go to his car and call for back up.

The trial judge found that the officer detained Mr Koczab at that point.  He found that the officer implied by this remark that Mr Koczab should not leave.  He found that the background of the many questions and concerns about drugs established a context in which Mr Koczab would not feel free to leave.   Because the officer failed to tell Mr Koczab about his right to counsel at that point, the officer breached Mr Koczab's s.10(b) rights.  The judge excluded all 17kg of cocaine which the officer later discovered, and Mr Koczab beat the charges.

The appeal court disagreed, but the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously sided with the trial judge.

For police officers, just saying "You are free to go" doesn't necessarily make it so.  If you act like the person must stay, then the judge will find that you detained a person.

Prosecutorial Liability

Criminal defendants can only sue prosecutors for malicious prosecution.  Negligent prosecution is not a reason for prosecutors to pay defendants; negligent investigation is.  Henry v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 2014 BCCA 15

Grounds for Searching a Suspect for Officer Safety - "Suspicion" or "Belief"

Mr MacDonald, 2014 SCC 3 played music in his apartment too loud and too late at night.  His landlord complained.  Mr MacDonald swore at him, and kept the music playing.  The landlord called police.  A police officer attended and asked him to turn it down.  He swore at her too, and kept the music up loud.  She called her supervisor, Sgt Boyd.  He knocked and kicked at Mr MacDonald's door.  Mr MacDonald opened it just wide enough that the supervisor could see a black shiny object.  But Mr MacDonald hid it behind his leg, and refused to say what it was when Sgt Boyd asked.  Fearing it might be a knife, Sgt Boyd pushed the door open a bit further.  He then saw it was a gun.  He barged in and relieved Mr MacDonald of what turned out to be a loaded handgun, unlicenced for possession in that province.

Was this warrantless entry into Mr MacDonald's residence lawful?  The trial judge said "yes".  An appeal judge said "no".  The Supreme Court of Canada said "yes", but most of them used language which creates confusion.

Until now, reasonable grounds to "suspect" that life and limb is at risk suffice to justify intrusions into privacy.  If you want to search for evidence, you need reasonable grounds to "believe" that it's there.

In this case, the majority (4 judges) said that an officer safety search "will be authorized by law only if the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that his or her safety is at stake and that, as a result, it is necessary to conduct a search" (para 41).  As the minority (3 judges) pointed out, this significantly changes the law (para 65), eliminating an important protection for police.

It may not necessarily be the disaster for police described by the minority.

That's because the majority found that Sgt Boyd had the necessary grounds to justify this search.  But Sgt Boyd never testified that he "believed" that Mr MacDonald "actually" possessed any weapon, only that he "might" possess a weapon.  In my lexicon that's "suspicion".  To the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada, apparently, that's reasonable grounds to "believe" in a threat.

In my opinion, the minority decision is better reasoned and better explained than the majority.  If you read this case, read both decisions.  Because of the confusing language, this matter will doubtless return to the Supreme Court.  In the mean time, I expect confusion in the provincial courts.

Search & Seizure - Warrant Drafting - Source Documents

Mr Vuong 2013 BCCA 527 grew marijuana in a residence.

A junior officer drafted an application for a search warrant.  In it he explained that he saw window coverings, and detected a faint whiff of growing marijuana when he walked near the property (but he didn't walk all the way around it).  He recited the electrical consumption records for the residence, and observed that this residence consumed 4x more electricity than an average home in the area.  He obtained that statistic from what he summarized as a "BC Hydro document".  But the document didn't come from BC Hydro.

This gave the JJP a false sense of the reliability of the document.

On appeal, the court found that the warrant shouldn't have been granted.  The officer should have:

There is much value in attaching an exhibit to your ITO, if the exhibit explains succinctly some important evidence in your application.

Good Cop - Bad Cop - Violent Cop

A jury found that Mr Singh, 2013 ONCA 750 and his accomplice violently stole $350,000 worth of copper.  The evidence proved his guilt, but the police investigation tactics bought him freedom.

The police investigation included a tactic of assaulting him three times to get him to confess.  Because of his charges, Mr Singh chose not to cooperate with the police discipline process; the officers suffered no meaningful penalty.

The Court of Appeal found that the police tactics were so outrageous that it had to disassociate the court from the police conduct.  Mr Singh was freed.

Guilty people have rights too.  Your job includes upholding those rights.  Don't injure your prisoners.

2013 Developments in the Law

Right to Counsel - "Exigent Circumstances" - a Rookie mistake

Mr Taylor, 2013 ABCA 342 crashed his car, injuring himself and three of his passengers.  Police arrested him at the scene for impaired driving causing bodily harm.  Although they planned to make a blood demand, the junior officer with Mr Taylor waited until after the hospital drew blood for medical purposes.  While he waited, he could have - but didn't - give Mr Taylor an opportunity to get legal advice.

At trial, he admitted his error as a "rookie mistake".

An arrested or detained person enjoys the right to get legal advice without delay.  Whether it's at the detachment, the hospital, or somewhere else.

Although the officer got a blood sample for the purposes of the prosecution, the prosecutor didn't even try to get it admitted.  The trial judge admitted the hospital's blood sample, and convicted Mr Taylor.  The appeal court was less kind.  They observed that a lawyer might have advised Mr Taylor to refuse to give his blood to the hospital, thereby protecting himself from investigation.  They excluded the hospital's blood sample results.

The prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Some time in 2014, we'll see how the case turns out.

In the mean time, be clear that the right to counsel means more than a phone call from the detachment.  It means a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice, given without delay after arrest or detention.

Search & Seizure - Searches for Firearms in a Car

A wiretap unit told an officer that Mr Wright, 2013 ONCA 778 had a firearm in one of two cars.  That officer told local police that one of the two cars contained a firearm, but did not identify Mr Wright.  Those officers found both cars outside a nightclub.  They questioned the driver of one vehicle, and let him go.  Mr Wright sat in the passenger seat of the other vehicle.

The officers felt they lacked grounds to search the car for a firearm.  They noticed liquor on the driver's breath, and made him blow into a screening device.  It registered "warn", and so the officers prohibited him from driving for 12 hours.  Because of an earlier driving prohibition, Mr Wright couldn't drive either.  Therefore, the officers started talking about impounding the car.  Mr Wright's demeanour changed.  He claimed the vehicle, and everything in it, belonged to his girlfriend.

The officers searched the trunk and found a handgun.  Was it admissible?

The court suggested that the officers could have relied on s.117.02 (exigent circumstances search for a firearm) to justify their search.  They didn't.  Nor did they get a warrant.  They hadn't arrested anyone, and so they couldn't search incidental to arrest.  They had no lawful authority to look in the trunk.  The court admitted the evidence anyways, because the gun would have been discovered during an inventory search.

When searching private places for evidence, make sure you know your authority.

Prostitution Laws Unconstitutional

Ms Bedford, 2013 SCC 72, a professional dominatrix, wants to work legally, in a business place.  She and other prostitutes applied to court for a declaration that current prostitution laws violate the Charter.  The judges agreed.

Although dangerous, prostitution is legal.  But soliciting customers in public isn't.  Nor are brothels or pimps.  Talking with customers on the street permits a prostitute to assess whether a John might harm her.  Brothels provide controlled, safer places to ply trade.  And hiring muscle as security would protect prostitutes.  The court recognized that pimps exploit prostitutes, and so Parliament might want to legislate against them.  Brothels can attract nasty people to a neighborhood.  There could be constitutional laws about them too.  Therefore, the court gave Parliament a year from December 20, 2013 to fix the legislation.

Right to Counsel - Exigent circumstances

Kidnappers captured a man over a drug rip-off.  They threatened to kill their victim.  Police captured an accomplice.  They feared that he would tip off the ringleaders, who would kill their victim.  So they questioned the accomplice, Mr Sidhu, 2013 ONCA 719 without giving him access to counsel.  Was this a breach of s.10(b)?

No.  Because the officers had good reasons for their fears, the court found this was acceptable.

They didn't like how the interrogator cast aspersions on defence counsel though.

Exhibit Retention

After his conviction for sexual assault, Mr Caron, 2013 BCCA 475 took steps to appeal.  He let the 30-day appeal period expire without notifying the Crown of his intention - he was too busy trying to convince Legal Aid to fund the appeal.  Five months after the trial, police disposed of a windshield which formed key evidence in the case.  A year after the trial, they destroyed a pair of shoes which also formed key evidence in the case.

Only after that did Mr Caron's lawyers let the Crown know that he wanted to appeal.

After an appellant misses the 30-day deadline, he must ask the court for "leave" to proceed with the appeal.  Mr Caron applied for leave.  Crown objected: the prosecution no longer had the exhibits.  If the ordered a new trial, Crown wouldn't have as much evidence as before.

The judge let Mr Caron proceed anyway.  The possibility that he might be innocent trumped the prosecution's interest in a presenting a good case.

Before you destroy exhibits, I suggest that you communicate your intentions to the accused.  That gives him an opportunity to let us know if he still wants to litigate.

Confidential Informants - Redaction

A lawyer named William Mastop, 2013 BCCA 494 went to jail for a year for contributing to the activity of a criminal organization.  The conviction ended his legal career.  The Crown appealed his sentence, and the Court of Appeal increased it to 2 1/2 years.  What did he do?

For $200 a week, he collected information for a group in Vernon known as "The Greeks".  He gave them Crown disclosure that he received from his clients - who were often underlings who worked with or for the Greeks.  He gave them a poorly-redacted ITO relating to a drug warrant.  The Greeks wanted to identify the rat who informed on their drug operation.  They assaulted people related to those identified in that ITO, and murdered one, in an effort to identify the confidential informant.

When you rely on confidential informants, you play with fire.  Mr Mastop illustrates the worst-case scenario, but innocent mistakes happen all too easily.  Redact with care.

Search Warrants - Searching a Computer

Computers differ from filing cabinets.

If you want a warrant to search a house for "documents", and you think the documents you seek are stored electronically in a computer, then ask the justice for a warrant to search computers in the house for the documents you want.

If you lack authority in the warrant to search computers and other electronic devices, and you find such things during your search, then if you think they contain evidence, seized them, and draft a new warrant application to search the electronics for the evidence you think they contain.

Police thought Mr Vu's 2013 SCC 60 house consumed more electricity than the meter recorded. They applied for and obtained a warrant to search for equipment related to that theft, and “records and documentation relating to occupancy and control over the property and electrical services supplied".

When they searched, they found a marijuana grow operation and two computers. They searched the computers and found evidence that Mr Vu was responsible for the grow.

The defence also argued that computers and other electronic devices contain so much private information that police must not search them without a warrant specifically authorising it. The judges agreed.

Defence also complained that the ITO failed to explain why documents of residency would be found in the house.  This time, the court was prepared to infer from what the ITO explained that such things would be present.  Next time, you might not be so lucky.  Explain in your ITO why you think the things you seek will be found in the place where you want to search.

Powers of Arrest - Offences, not Convenience

Tips led police to apply for a warrant to search a particular residence for drugs.  While awaiting the arrival of the warrant, some officers watched the house.  Ms Frieburg, 2013 MBCA 40 drove up in one car, went in for 20 minutes, and then drove away in another car.

To prevent her from interfering with the upcoming search, a couple of police officers arrested her before she returned to the house.  When asked why they arrested her, the officers explained that she was the target of an investigation which had obtained a search warrant.  And for safety's sake, they didn't want her interfering with the search.

Other officers found drugs in the car she abandoned.  It wasn't identified in the search warrant as a place to search.  Could they search it "incidental to arrest"?


First, she wasn't in it when arrested.  A search "incidental to arrest" must involve the place where you found the suspect.

Second, it wasn't a lawful arrest.  A search warrant authorizes you to search a place for evidence.  It doesn't authorize you to arrest people.  On the other hand, if you know why the justice issued the warrant, then you will have reasonable grounds to believe someone committed an offence.  If you know who, then you can arrest them.

It would have been a great strategy.  But the arresting officers needed grounds to believe that she committed an offence.  They probably had them, but they didn't mention them when testifying.


Sniffer-Dogs give Powers to Search

Tips led police to apply for a warrant to search a particular residence for drugs.  While awaiting the arrival of the warrant, some officers watched the house.  Ms Frieburg, 2013 MBCA 40 drove up in one car, went in for 20 minutes, and then drove away in another car.

Having reasonable grounds to suspect that the first car contained drugs, an officer brought a drug-sniffing dog to the first car.  It indicated drugs.  The officers opened up the car and found 150 pills of ecstasy.

Defence complained that the search warrant didn't cover the car.  It was a warrantless search, and the evidence should be excluded.

The court agreed it was warrantless, but held that sniffer-dogs may provide such good grounds that you can seize the drugs without a warrant.

Defence applied for leave to appeal.  We'll see what the SCC thinks.

Mr Big meets Mr Small - Limits of Undercover Tactics

Someone murdered Barry Boenke and Susan Trudel on an acreage near Sherwood Park, Alberta.  That night, two troubled 14-year-old youths, N.R.R., 2013 ABQB 288 and his buddy ADS left a group home nearby, and burgled various properties on their way towards and through that acreage.  They drove away in Mr Boenke's truck.  When police caught them, ADS confessed to the burglaries, but alleged nothing which would convict either of the murders.  NRR gave a statement too, but a judge found it was involuntary, and excluded it from evidence.

Both were charged with the murders, but NRR's trial fell apart when the judge excluded his statement.  Crown stayed the case, and police launched a "Mr Big" operation to gather more evidence.

The officers took advantage of his vulnerabilities.  He needed a family; the officers became his best friends.  He needed money; the officers paid him.  He needed a home; they gave him places to stay.

Because of he was 16, the officers found themselves in compromising situations.  During a scenario, NRR asked his "friend" to buy him a beer.  To refuse would have been entirely out of character.  The officer supplied a minor with liquor.  NRR boasted of a sexual relationship he was having with an adult woman who was in a position of trust and authority.  Failure to intervene left her free to continue what appeared to be a criminal sexual relationship.  Intervention risked undermining the operation.

In the end, NRR confessed to the undercover officers and to Mr Big that he murdered the two.  He gave conflicting accounts.  Because he had sat through his preliminary hearing before the Mr Big operation, he knew all the evidence police had.  He told the undercover officers no new details than had previously been disclosed.  He testified, denying the murder, and alleging that he lied to Mr Big.  A child psychologist testified that NRR would have been deeply vulnerable and dependent.

The judge excluded the undercover operation confessions for several reasons:

  1. The officers established complete control over NRR, making their relationship to him functionally equivalent to a detention.  This idea derives from R. v. Hart, 2012 NLCA 61, which under appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  2. The officers gave such strong incentives to confess that they "coerced" him into speaking.
  3. The confession wasn't reliable because it conflicted with other evidence.

Regardless how the SCC rules in the Hart appeal, officers conducting Mr Big operations will want to investigate their target.  How much pressure will be too much pressure to talk?  What other risks must you avoid?

Dirty Tricks & Undermining Religion

Police suspected Mr Welsh, 2013 ONCA 190, his brother and his buddy of murdering Mr Oraha in revenge for a murder of one of their close friends.  Police learned that Welsh's mom was superstitious, and believed that ghost of the close friend haunted her house.

An undercover officer posed as an "Obeahman" (Jamaican spiritualist), offering to help the family escape problems with the police ... but only if the family told him the whole truth.  He established his credibility in creative scenarios involving a dead cow, and a magic handkerchief.  (Read the decision if you want to know more.)

He got important admissions from the family.  Were they admissible?

Defence complained that the police conduct shocked the community, and infringed on the defendants' right to freedom of religion.

The judges disagreed.  This family sought spiritual powers against the state, to avoid accounting for their crimes.  Judges may well exclude evidence obtained from suspects this way if the suspects earnestly seek to make things right between them and God.

Undercover officers, read this one with care before creating a persona who uses spiritual beliefs to elicit confessions.

Photographing and Handling Exhibits - Separate Bits

Police suspected Mr Pitcher, 2013 NLCA 22 intended mischief, so they tried to follow him late at night.  They watched him perform heat checks before driving into the town of Arnold's Cove.  That night, "someone" broke into the Lions Club, and stole an ATM.  Was it Mr Pitcher?

His truck left Arnold's cove, and drove into a gravel pit.  Police stopped it an hour later, at another small town.

Police found the ATM in the gravel pit, smashed open.  They loaded it into the bed of the truck, and took the truck and ATM to the police station.  There, they found broken bits of ATM in the bed of the truck.  Did the bits get there before, or after police loaded the broken ATM into the bed of the truck?

One bright officer photographed the truck bed before putting the ATM into it.  The photographs showed no bits of broken ATM in the truck bed.  That helped the judges conclude that Mr Pitcher was guilty.  An even better idea would have been bagging the ATM before transporting it.

When handling exhibits large or small, beware of cross-contamination.

Search Warrants - Personal Property of the "Found-ins"

When Thao Hoang Thanh Le 2013 BCCA 442 visited her sister's residence, police raided the place, executing a drug warrant.  Police had grounds to arrest her sister.  Ms Le prepared to leave, and reached for a purse which sat on the kitchen table.  Could police search it before she walked out with it?

They did, and found drugs.  She argued that when she picked it up, it became personal property.  Because the officers lacked grounds to arrest her, they also lacked grounds to search her person.

The judges didn't buy this argument.  The warrant authorized a search of the residence for things that would easily fit in the purse.  The purse sat on the table in the residence when police arrived.  Ms Le couldn't neutralize the warrant by picking up the purse.

Exhibit Retention - How Long do You Keep Them?

In 1984, a court convicted Ms Chaudhary 2013 ONCA 615 of murdering an 8-year-old boy.  In 2010, she wanted to reverse the conviction.  Unfortunately some exhibits were gone.  She sought a judicial declaration that after a conviction for murder, police must keep all exhibits for life, unless the defendant or the judge gives permission for their destruction.  The court refused her the declaration she sought.  But they had to think about it.

Even after the appeal periods expire, you should keep the exhibits.  Get rid of them after you ensure that the defendant no longer wants them.

Explaining the Investigation vs. Feeding Information

When you detain or arrest a suspect, s.10(a) of the Charter compels you to explain why.  But what if you don't detain or arrest your suspect, but merely question him?  What should you tell the suspect about the matter?

Mr J.S.W.'s, 2013 ONCA 593 daughter told police that he sexually abused her.  When police first questioned him, they told him only that they were investigating a sexual assault.  Instead of telling him what physical acts she had alleged (eg "finger in vagina") they asked him if he "fondled" her.  He replied "I don't think so. ... I don't believe so, no".

At trial, he blamed police for his uncertainty.  He didn't clearly understand what they meant by "fondle".  Therefore, he couldn't clearly deny the allegation.

That argument failed at trial, but succeeded on appeal.

As a tactic, omitting detail sometimes succeeds in proving guilt.  If you tell a suspect "I'm investigating you for sexual assault", he might reply "Is this about the time I had sex with Suzie while she was passed out?"  That's pretty strong evidence of guilt.

But if he has (or pretends to have) no memory of the event, asking him vague questions about it may gather no useful information.

Therefore, give the suspect enough information to understand what's at issue:

Useless "You're under investigation"
Weak "You're under investigation for sexual assault"
Better "You're under investigation for sexually assaulting your daughter"
Clearer "You're under investigation for sexually assaulting your daughter while she was in your bed at your house."
Prompting "She told us you touched her vagina with your fingers when she was sleeping."

How much detail to reveal to the suspect during the interview depends upon the progress of the interview.  You want the suspect's own memories, untainted by information from other sources.  But if the suspect can't or won't recount his version, prompting him with specific allegations may trigger or elicit memories.

"Holding" or "using" a cell phone while driving

A police officer saw Ms Kazemi, 2013 ONCA 585 holding her cell phone at a red light.  He gave her a traffic ticket because cell phones distract drivers.  She contested the ticket, explaining that it fell to the floor when she braked for the light, and all she did was pick it up.

Even so, the trial judge convicted her, and the appeal court agreed with the conviction.  The Ontario legislation prohibits a driver from "holding" a cell phone.  She did what the legislation prohibited.  Guilty.

Another police officer saw Mr Pizzurro, 2013 ONCA 584 typing or reading his cell phone.  Mr Pizzuro complained that the evidence didn't prove that the device was a working cell phone.  The appeal court found he was guilty too, on a technical reading of the legislation.

I observe that the BC legislation prohibits drivers from "using" and "holding" these devices.  Both drivers would be busted in B.C..

Reasonable Suspicion - Deploying Drug Dogs

The Supreme Court of Canada decided two cases about "reasonable suspicion", and considered the reliability of drug dogs.

Mr Chehil 2013 SCC 49, bought a one-way ticket from Vancouver to Halifax.  He paid cash -- just before the plane departed.  He brought just one piece of luggage.

When drug cops in Halifax checked over the manifest, these factors caught their attention.  They suspected that Mr Chehil might be a drug courier.  For that reason, they let "Boris", a black labrador dog trained in drug detection, sniff luggage which included Mr Chehil's suitcase.

Boris helped the officers find Mr Chehil's 3kg of cocaine.  Mr Chehil's thought that the officers lacked "reasonable grounds" for their suspicions, and asked the trial judge to throw out the evidence.  The trial judge agreed.  The Crown appealed, and all of the appeal court judges agreed with the prosecution.

Mr MacKenzie, 2013 SCC 50 didn't exceed the speed limit by much when he passed by a police officer.  He pulled over before the officer had time to signal him to stop.  He showed great nervousness when a police officer addressed him about his driving, which increased throughout the conversation.  Mr MacKenzie explained that he drove from Regina to Calgary yesterday ... no, the day before ... and was now returning to Regina.  His hands shook.  Pinkness tinged his eyes.  The officer remembered from a drug pipeline course that marijuana use can cause this effect.  He asserted that drugs tended to travel east along the Calgary-Regina route.

The officer suspected that Mr MacKenzie was delivering drugs.  The office just happened to have a drug dog, Levi, along with him.  Levi indicated drugs, and the officer found 31.5 lbs of marijuana in the car.

Like Mr Chehil, Mr MacKenzie, complained that the officer lacked reasonable grounds to deploy the drug dog.  Mr MacKenzie did better than Mr Chehil: 4/9 Supreme Court judges agreed with him.  But 5/9 found that the officer had sufficient grounds for his suspicions.

All the judges agreed that to deploy a drug-sniffing dog, a police officer needs "reasonable grounds to suspect" that the drug dog will detect illegal drugs.  They agreed this required less compelling evidence than "reasonable grounds to believe".  All agreed that an officer who acts on a "reasonable suspicion" must identify evidence, observations and knowledge which together raise more reason to think that a particular person or place is involved in crime than the innocent people or places around him / her or it.

They disagreed how much to trust police officers' experience and training.  The skeptics pointed out that officer in Mr MacKenzie's case lacked formal qualifications on which to base his opinions, and never tracked his false positives (suspicions which subsequent investigation dispelled).

When someone trains you on tell-tale signs of criminal behaviour, pay attention to their expertise, so that you can testify about it later, when you see those signs.

Serving and Protecting the Criminal

Mr Hanna, 2013 ABCA 134 drove way too fast.  When a sheriff caught up to him, Mr Hanna clipped his car and caused minor injury.  Mr Hanna eventually dumped his car and fled on foot.  A police dog tracked him.  When it found Mr Hanna, the handler released the dog, and it bit Mr Hanna in a couple of places.

At his sentencing, Mr Hanna complained that the dog handler should have given him an opportunity to surrender before releasing the dog.  He complained of remarks captured on a police video camera, in which an officer said he hoped that the dog would bite Mr Hanna, and the sheriff replied that he hoped Mr Hanna would get shot.

The court agreed, and reduced his sentence by 9 months.  Even though the dog handler had to track Mr Hanna for over an hour, there was no need to release the dog immediately.  And the angry remarks of the officers demonstrated "bad faith".  (Considering that Mr Hanna endangered the sheriff's life minutes before, another judge might have forgiven him his anger.)

Dog handlers: By successfully locating a felon at the end of a track, your dog may have earned a reward.  He probably wants to bite his quarry.  But unnecessary bites raise many problems.  Reward your four-footed star some other way.

Officers:  In-car cameras collect lots of lovely evidence against the felon, but also against you.  You won't need to watch what you say if you remember always that you serve and protect everyone, even the criminals.

Change of Jeopardy

Young Mr D.T. 2013 ONCA 166 drove a stolen car.  A police officer asked him about it.  At first he lied, but then he admitted the theft.  The officers arrested him and took him to the police station.

After properly explaining to him all his rights as a youth, an officer asked him further questions about the theft.  Mr M.T. answered everything.  The officer asked about property they found in the car.  The youth explained that he also burgled a residence.

Because the officer did not stop the interview and re-explain the rights in respect of the burglary, the appeal court excluded the latter part of the statement.

Changes of jeopardy arise unexpectedly.  You must recognize them when they come, and re-explain rights.

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy - Common Areas in a Condominium

Can you watch a suspect from the common areas of a condominium?  Judges disagree.  It's best to get the consent of someone in the building.  R. v. White, 2013 ONSC 1823

Charter Rights - "Oops" - Fixing a Mistake

What can you do to fix a mistake?

In a routine impaired driving investigation, police arrested Mr Manchulenko, 2013 ONCA 543.  Although they offered him access to counsel, he declined several times, but just before providing his first breath sample, he decided he wanted to call a lawyer.  The breath technician took him to a phone room where a poster gave phone numbers for local lawyers and legal aid.  Mr Manchulenko said that the officer gave him no assistance, and took him from the room after 40 seconds.  He then said “well, let’s get this over with”.

The officer should have given him the supplementary Charter warning.  Instead, the officer took a breath sample.

Mr Manchulenko decided to talk to a lawyer, and did.

The officer took a second sample.  The results led police to lay charges.

The trial judge threw both breath samples out because of the failure to tell Mr Manchulenko that police would hold off taking breath samples until he had a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.  The appeal court ordered a new trial because Mr Manchulenko actually did get legal advice.

If you realize that you breached a suspect's right to counsel, or made an offer which might affect the voluntariness of a statement, then you must make a "fresh start" - separating the earlier part of the investigation from the present one.  Providing access to counsel helps.  Introducing a new investigator can help, particularly when taking statements.  When eliciting further evidence, make no reference to earlier evidence.  Wittwer, 2008 SCC 33.

2013.09.01 - Website went dark on this date

I started working at the Crown Counsel, British Columbia on September 1, 2013. For a year and a month, this site remained dark.  After October 2014, I started restoring the old material, and putting out new material. - HW

2013-08-13 Crime Scene of Dangerous Driving

In a late afternoon in November, Mr Artimowich, 2013 MBCA 62 set his cruise-control for 110km/h, and headed from Winnipeg to Morden.  At the small town of Oak Bluff, the posted speed limit dropped to 70 km/h and then to 50 km/h.  Mr Artimowich didn't notice the signs, but the driver in front of him did.  Mr Artimowich didn't notice the slower vehicle ahead of him until too late.  He crashed into the back of it, causing a chain reaction which killed an on-coming driver.

Was he guilty of dangerous driving?

The trial judge didn't think the evidence proved the case, in part because he had no evidence about:

In car collision cases, the scene of the crime is not the scene of the collision.  Cars move.  The bad driving occurs before the collision.  Therefore, when you take out your cameras, get away from the collision scene, and photograph the routes which the various vehicles drove.

2013-08-10 Defence of Duress - The Wages of Sin

A gangster can't complain that his associates ganged up on him.

Mr Gilliland, 2013 BCCA 342 stole a truck.  When police tried to stop him, he almost rammed a police car.  In his defence at trial, he pleaded duress: He owed $3,000 for drugs.  The dealers threatened to kill him and his family.  He needed to steal the truck.  He was desperate.

The court offered him no solace.

"[T]hose who seek to rely on the common law defence of duress cannot do so if they knew that their participation in a conspiracy or criminal association came with a risk of coercion and/or threats to compel them to commit an offence."

Mr Gilliland's situation motivates many people to commit crime, but offers no real defence.  Some of these guys try to gain leverage using their criminal lifestyle: if you let me off, I'll tell you who's threatening me.  Usually, that's a bad deal.  You have strong evidence against the suspect.  Usually, the suspect can't give you any strong evidence against his foes.

If you suspect that your prisoner is a desperate debtor, then investigate fully, but beware of offering a quid pro quo.  Don't give him the idea that you will save his life only if he confesses to the crimes for which you arrested him.  If you do, any statement he gives will be inadmissible.

But nor should you blow off his concerns for his safety.  Your job is to investigate.  At the end of the day, saving lives is more important than convictions.

"I want to know about the threats you're facing.  But I can't make your charges go away.  So here's what I'm gonna do.  First, I'm gonna ask about the stolen truck.  You can tell me as much or as little as you want.  Then, I'm going to ask you about the dangers you're in.  They're two separate investigations.  They're not connected.  I'm going to do both. [Or I'll get someone else to do the second one.]  Even if you tell me nothing about the truck, I want to help protect you from harm."

2013-08-02 Arrest Procedures - s.10(a) - Informing the Suspect of the Reason for Arrest

A police officer who arrested Mr MacLean, 2013 ABQB 60 for sexual assault.  She interviewed him for 90 minutes before telling him who complained.  It was a 15-year-old girl with whom he had worked.  Mr McLean asked several times during those 90 minutes what this was about, and who the complainant was.  He wanted to know more before speaking with his lawyer.

The trial judge didn't like this tactic.  How was Mr MacLean to know whether to cooperate with the investigation unless he knew what transaction he must answer?  How could he get legal advice until he knew this was a matter where consent was irrelevant?

This doesn't mean you need to explain all the evidence you have before the suspect calls counsel.  But you should give enough information that the suspect can figure out what transaction is at issue.  It's better to say "you're under arrest for the murder of Jane Doe", than "you're under arrest for murder contrary to s.235 of the Criminal Code".

2013-07-29 Confidential Informers - Protecting Privilege - How much to Redact

Mr XY, 2013 ONCA 497 provided information to police authorities.  American authorities also believed he committed crimes.  They sought extradition.  Canadian court proceedings had to protect his identity from being disclosed, while also allowing the press to know as much as possible about the extradition.

The press wanted the Crown to justify each redaction of the materials: convince the court that this bit of information would identify the source, or disclose it publicly.  The court chose a much safer standard: "Will this bit of information, in the context of all the other disclosed information, 'tend' to identify the source?"

It's a nice short case which helps illustrate for you how to redact your ITOs to protect your sources.

2013-06-29 Investigative Fairness - Leaning on Witnesses

After someone executed Tyrone Downey on the dance floor of the Cheers Tavern, the investigating officers had reason to believe that Daniel Jackson, 2013 ONCA 445 pulled the trigger.  But the few people that talked didn't seem to want to tell all they knew.

They offered money and witness protection.  One witness gave a sworn statement which didn't identify Mr Jackson; the police later charged her with perjury.

Jackson concocted one alibi, and then at trial, disclosed another contradictory one.  Mr Jackson knew that the Crown would complain that he should have disclosed his alibi early in the investigation, so that police could confirm it.  Therefore, Mr Jackson attacked the investigators: how could he trust the officers to investigate his alibi fairly if they were trying to frame him?

None of this worked for him.  The jury convicted him, and the appeal court upheld the conviction.

Beware of such tactics.  When you're sure who your culprit is, and yet an eyewitness refuses to give you the information you think they have, it's natural to want to increase the pressure to loosen a tongue.  Jackson shows you how that pressure can come back to haunt you at trial. It reduces your credibility and the credibility of any information you get.

 2013-06-25 General Warrants v. Wiretap

In R. v.Telus Communications Company, 2013 SCC 16 police obtained a general warrant and assistance order which required Telus to produce every day from their stored database of customers' text messages, all text messages sent or received by two subscribers for the two weeks after the order was granted.

Three judges of the SCC thought that this activity was "interception" of private communication, and therefore, Part VI applied.  The officers should have obtained a wiretap authorization.

Two judges approached this from a slightly different angle.  Whether or not these text messages were "intercepted", they could have been obtained using Part VI, and therefore s.487.01(1)(c) prohibited police from using a general warrant.

The last two judges figured that this activity wasn't "interception", nor was it similar.

One judge suggested that where a general warrant resembles another warrant or authorization, the general warrant should require similar protections for privacy as the other provision.  (para 81)

What does this confusing disagreement between the judges mean for police?

  1. Don't use general warrants to get text messages from Telus' database every day.  (The other cell phone companies don't store text messages in their computers.)
  2. Before seeking a general warrant, look for other statutory authorities to get what you want.
  3. If you don't know which authority applies, you're more likely to succeed at trial if you meet the prerequisites of the more difficult one.
  4. Expect further litigation wiretap, general warrants and intrusions into electronic communications.  Whatever you do now may be wrong by the time the your investigation reaches trial.

2013-06-24 Informants v. Agents

Young Mr N.Y., 2012 ONCA 745 found God -- a violent Islamic God who wanted him to die gloriously, killing Canadians and Americans.  N.Y. attended jihad training camps, and shoplifted walkie-talkies and camping supplies for the cause.

Mr Shaikh, another devout Muslim, understood God differently.  He so feared the jihadist movement that he infiltrated it, and informed CSIS what they were doing.  CSIS realized that the leaders of this group were committing terrorism offences.  They passed the investigation to the RCMP.

The jihad leaders recruited Mr Shaikh to train the young warriors in the fine arts of killing Westerners.  He taught them how to handle handguns, in the course of which he committed some firearms offences.

With the RCMP, Mr Shaikh switched from informant to agent, signing documents to that effect after the training camps.

Defence complained of entrapment.  Mr Shaikh committed various criminal offences while training N.Y., and he aided terrorism.  The state's misconduct justified staying the case against N.Y. completely.

To establish entrapment, defence needed to establish that Mr Shaikh acted as a state agent, under the control of police.  Informing isn't agency.  The court found that Mr Shaikh wasn't a state agent when he went to the training camp.  His handlers encouraged him to attend the camp, but instructed him not to commit offences, but he went ahead anyway.

To establish entrapment, defence needed to show that Shaikh caused N.Y. to commit his crimes.  The evidence showed that even if Shaikh had not attended, the training camp would have proceeded anyway, and N.Y. would have attended anyway.

This case illustrates the difference between informants and agents.  Handling sources starts out looking simple, but becomes complicated quickly.  Officers who receive confidential tips from local criminals should read this decision from para 109 to the end, asking themselves "what could have gone wrong here, and what did the handlers do right?"

2013-06-23 Arbitrary Detention - Police Ruse

Undercover officers sought to worry Mr Vuozzo, 2013 ABCA 130, who they suspected of murder.  They wanted him to talk about the murder.  They arranged for a uniformed officer to pull over a car driven by an undercover officer, so that the uniformed member could tell Mr Vuozzo that the homicide squad wanted to talk with him.

The ruse worked.  Mr Vuozzo confessed to his "friends", the undercover officers.

At trial, his lawyer complained that the traffic stop was an "arbitrary detention".  The court found it wasn't.  The officers had good reason for the plan.

I liked the inventiveness of this trick.

If you try something like it, beware of s.10(a).  Somehow, you need to tell your suspect some truthful reason why he's being stopped.

2013-06-23 Right to Counsel - The Friday Arrest

In British Columbia, prisoners arrested in most towns on a Friday evening will remain in police cells until Monday morning, unless they can make bail.  For B.C. police, this offers a longer period to interview the suspect than they would get if they arrest the suspect on any other day of the week.

After Mr Bhander, 2012 BCCA 441 murdered Mr Bains, police planned a Friday arrest for this very purpose.  After the arrest, Mr Bander couldn't reach the lawyer he named, but got a 40-minute consultation with an associate of his chosen lawyer.  Police laid the charges.  The next day, by telephone, his chosen lawyer participated in a telephone bail hearing.  That lawyer specifically asked the justice to direct that police transfer Mr Bhander from police cells to a provincial lock-up.  The justice didn't make a specific order, but did recommend the move.

After the bail hearing, the officers kept Mr Bhander, and interviewed him.  They overcame his repeated assertions of silence by telling him about the evidence they had collected.  During the interview, the lawyer's student came to the police station asking to see Mr Bhander.  The police turned him away.

Eventually, Mr Bhander told police his side of the story, saying " And it’s going against for what my lawyer told me to do, and stuff like that right?"

That statement got him convicted of second degree murder.  Was it properly obtained?

Mr Bhander appealed complaining:

  1. Laying the charges is a change of circumstances.  Mr Bhander should have received another opportunity to get legal advice.
  2. Prisoners should have a right to the presence of their lawyer during police questioning, just like in the USA.
  3. After the bail hearing, police shouldn't be allowed to question their prisoners.
  4. The police should have let the student interrupt the interview.
  5. Deliberate Friday arrests are unlawful.

None of these arguments succeeded, but only because Mr Bhander got a full opportunity to get legal advice about his problems:

  1. Laying charges doesn't change jeopardy, unless the charges differ from the reasons you gave for the arrest.
  2. Your suspect can not require his lawyer to participate in the interview.  (I observe that you can allow the lawyer to attend if you think it appropriate.  This is obligatory for youths.  It may be appropriate for other vulnerable suspects, such as mentally disabled or disordered people.)
  3. You can question prisoners after the bail hearing.
  4. The right to retain and instruct counsel belongs to the suspect not the lawyer.
  5. Friday arrests are okay, if you make sure that the suspect gets all the access to counsel he is entitled to.

Ontario officers beware.  Your mileage may differ. There's an old decision from your Court of Appeal (Precourt) which reaches different conclusions from the BCCA about the consequences of a judicial remand order.

2013-06-21 Entrapment - "Reasonable Suspicion"

Mr Gingras 2013 BCCA 293 drew the interest of police.  Some information suggested he attempted in 1986 to bomb Tara Singh Hayer, an important prosecution witness in the Air India terrorism trial.  An undercover officer sought to get to know him better by posing as a shady South American businessman.

It worked.  The officer dropped hints that his business was illegal, and he had a problem with what to do with the money he earned.  Mr Gingras offered to help him launder it, and introduced him to Mr DiQuinzio, who police knew from old and recent investigations of drug trafficking.  Gingras boasted of his involvement in crime, telling many tall tales about himself.  He offered to - and did - launder large sums of money for the officer.  Gingras and DiQuinzio conspired with the officer to import cocaine.

You can not offer an opportunity to commit an offence to a suspect unless you have a "reasonable suspicion" that he is already engaged in crime, or you make the offer as part of an bona fide investigation.

After the bust, Mr Gingras complained that the officers lacked "reasonable suspicion" that he was involved in crime because he himself was such a liar.  The Crown responded that Mr Gingras could not complain of entrapment into money-laundering if he was the one who suggested the idea.

The court responded:

"[I]n the language of the common law of contract, Mr. Gingras’s approach to Officer A for money laundering was not an offer, but an invitation to treat – an indication of a willingness to enter into negotiations with a view to forming an agreement.  Presumptively an invitation to treat should be enough to satisfy the police that the person is already engaged in the proposed criminal enterprise and the police can take things to the next stage in the form of an offer." (my emphasis)

Mr Gingras's offer provided "reasonable suspicion", which, the court explained, is easier to establish than "reasonable grounds to believe".

Mr DiQuinzio similarly complained that police had no grounds to suspect he was a drug dealer except from the unreliable information Gingras gave them.  But by that time, Gingras had proved his reliability by laundering drugs; and DiQuinzio's past gave police further reason to trust him.

Those of you who do undercover work may find this decision a worthwhile read.

2013-06-19 Answering a Drug Dealer's Phone

Police officers arrested Chris Baldree 2013 SCC 35 and Chris Anderson for possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking.  The officers found the drugs in another guy's apartment when investigating a complaint of a break-in.  Mr Baldree's cell phone rang, and so an officer answered it.  The conversation went something like this:

Caller I'm at 327 Guy Street.  I'm a friend of Megan.  Is Chris there?
Officer Chris who?
Caller Baldree.  I want to buy an ounce of weed.
Officer I'm running the show now.  Chris isn't here.  How much does Chris usually charge you?
Caller $150
Officer Okay.  I'll get it to you.

The investigators made no effort to meet this prospective caller, and they gathered no further evidence of calls on the cell phone.

Traditionally, judges admitted this kind of evidence because it tends to prove that the owner of the cell phone sells drugs.

Now, they take a more cautious view: it's hearsay, but it might be reliable enough to admit as evidence on a case-by-case basis.

The didn't like the risk that the caller might have made a mistake.  They didn't like the risk that someone set Mr Baldree up: Anderson was a drug dealer too.  Maybe the caller knew about the police arrest, and called Mr Baldree for drugs to divert attention from Anderson.  They didn't like the lack of follow-up on the call.

However, the judges conceded that multiple calls for drugs from different callers might put such concerns to rest.

What does that mean for you?

Not only should you make copious notes about such calls, but if you receive only one or two calls, you should follow them up if possible.  Try to meet with the prospective purchaser and take a statement.  The evidence may still be admitted.  It'll just take more work now.

2013-06-06 Right to Counsel - "Holding off"

Some defence counsel ... and some judges ... misconstrue a police officer's duty after arrest.

Recently arrested and in the cell block, Mr Abdullah, 2013 ONCA 372, told a police officer which lawyer he wanted to consult.  The officer left Mr Abdullah's sight, but overheard him speak to another prisoner about the offence.  The officer stood silently, and listened for a few moments, and recorded what he overheard.

The officer didn't get around to calling the lawyer for 20-25 minutes.  The lawyer never called back.  Mr Abdullah eventually waived his right to counsel.

Did the officer breach Mr Abdullah's right to retain and instruct counsel "without delay"?  Did he take a "statement" from Mr Abdullah before dealing with s.10(b) rights?

The trial judge thought so.  She threw out the evidence of that conversation, and acquitted Mr Abdullah.

Let's review the fundamentals:

  1. You must offer your prisoner/detainee access to counsel, and give reasonable access if requested before talking about the offence with him.  Gone are the days that you could arrest Billy for the assault of Susan, recite his rights, and then ask "Why did you stab Susan?"  Some officers out there are still doing this.  Don't ... unless buddy tells you doesn't want legal advice.  (Of course, once legal advice is done, do ask about the offence.  That's your job.)
  2. The rule about "holding off" applies to police officers, not suspects.  If buddy starts telling you, or anybody else within your hearing, about the offence before you resolve access to counsel, you aren't breaking the law.  You can listen, but you can't ask.  But do your duty promptly: tell buddy right away about his right to counsel, and his right to silence.  Let him babble after that.
  3. The trial judge found that the few seconds that the officer waited to record this conversation breached Mr Abdullah's right to counsel.  That's wrong.  If you're at imminent risk of losing evidence, you can delay calling the lawyer.  For example, suppose you arrest Billy for stabbing Susan, and you see Billy's brother pick up the knife.  You should rescue the evidence before contacting counsel.  This officer had to stop, listen and record, or else he'd lose evidence.
  4. The trial judge didn't like the 20-25 minute delay between naming the lawyer and calling him.  She got that part right.  Don't delay that call unless you need to do something important - like preserving evidence.

The appeal court found that the police officer's 20-25 minute delay was a problem, but it didn't make any difference to the evidence police gathered.  The prosecution won the appeal.

2013-05-26 Rights on Arrest - Delaying the Explanation

Using lawfully granted wiretap, police in Edmonton investigated gang violence.  They overheard Mr Mian, 2012 ABCA 302 discussing a drug deal; they watched vehicles arrive at the appointed time and place, and the deal went down.  The surveillance team feared that they would expose their wiretap investigation by arresting the parties themselves, so they arranged for other officers to perform a traffic stop.

Two other officers stopped Mian on the pretext of a traffic stop.  The stop devolved quickly into an arrest, but the officers didn't tell him why he was arrested until they located half a kilo of cocaine.

The officers rightly feared exposure of their wiretap operation.  After the arrest, they overheard other targets discuss amongst themselves whether police were intercepting them.  The targets concluded this was probably just a traffic stop.  By delaying the s.10(a) & (b) explanations, and by using other officers for the stop, the officers successfully protected a key tool in a murder investigation.

Was this tactic lawful?

The trial judge didn't think so, but the appeal court did.

I remain troubled by the untidy state of the law.  In the warrant and wiretap sections, you have specific legislation to permit what would otherwise be violations of s.8.  But the Criminal Code lacks legislation which authorizes police officers in appropriate circumstances to delay s. 10(a) explanations for the real reason for the detention or arrest.  In this case, the court saw the need for it, and seemed to accept that such an exception exists because it's necessary in cases like this.

Most cases aren't like this one.  Don't delay explaining the real reason for a detention or arrest, except in very pressing circumstances.

2013-05-25 Implementing the Right to Counsel

When detained for impaired driving, Mr McLeod, 2013 SKCA 28 said he didn't have a lawyer.  The officer re-read the police card information about rights to counsel and offered Legal Aid.  He accepted.  The officer never gave him a phone book, but instead contacted Legal Aid for him.  When he emerged from the phone room, Mr McLeod expressed satisfaction with the call.

At trial, he complained that the officers failed to let him choose which lawyer to call.

The trial judge agreed.  The appeal courts didn't.  The task of choosing how to find a lawyer falls on the suspect.  Your job is to assist him.

You don't have to shove a phone book into his hands, but give him one if he wants one.

You don't have to give him an internet-enabled computer for Googling, but if he wants to search using Google, then accommodate him if you can.

Make it clear to your prisoner that you will assist him in exercising his rights.  Then put the ball in his court: "What do you want to do?"  Document these exchanges, so that you can show the judge:

2013-05-25 Investigative Detention

In the early morning chill of Saskatoon in January, two cops saw two guys in the car, yelling at two women on the street.  The women walked around a corner, and the car followed them.  When the officers intervened, the women said there was no problem, and walked away.

The officers stopped the car "pursuant to a traffic stop" and explained that they wanted to know what was going on with the women.  When asked for his identification, the passenger, Hebrada-Walters, 2013 SKCA 24, said "I don't have to tell you my name".  He tried to hide two cell phones.

An officer asked him about one of them, and he explained that he found it at 7-Eleven and was taking it back.  The officers seized the phone, and opened it to find out who it belonged to.  It showed a text message referring to cocaine.

The officers received information that the car hit another car earlier in the evening.  Its two occupants at that time refused to identify themselves, but talked about drugs to the other party.

The officers arrested both the passenger and driver for hit and run.  Hebrada-Walters' cell phone rang 7 times in 17 minutes.  Each caller wanted drugs.  The officers then told the two suspects they were under investigation for drugs.

The police found drugs in Hebrada-Walters' underwear, and he was charged.

The judges found that the initial detention was unlawful.  It wasn't a traffic stop at all, but an investigation into criminal harassment.  But they lacked sufficient objective evidence to justify a "reasonable" suspicion that such a crime had been committed.  But the judges seemed sympathetic.  They didn't think the officers missed the mark by much.

By seizing the phone, the officer removed any doubt whether Hebrada-Walters was detained.  This triggered s.10(a) and (b) of the Charter.

Defence complained that looking at the cell phone violated Hebrada-Walters' s.8 rights.  The judges disagreed.  By saying that he "found" it and was returning it, the suspect disclaimed any s.8 rights.

Was the arrest lawful?  Can you arrest the passenger in a vehicle after a hit-and-run?  These judges thought so.  Be careful doing this - you want good reasons for arresting a passenger for hit-and-run.

The judges decided that despite the unlawful detention, the evidence should be admitted.  Hebrada-Walters' conviction stuck.

The legal arguments make interesting read for officers who deal with the fast-changing events of street policing.  As the judges observed, police powers on detention are changing.  This case helps you understand how defence counsel and judges are thinking about them.

2013-05-17 Cell Tower Records  - Testing the Theory

Where was Mr Cyr, 2012 ONCA 919 after the murder of Donald Woods?  Cell tower records suggested that his cell phone made calls near the business of Tai Wah Trade, where goods stolen from Woods were sold cheap.

Cell phones "usually" connect to the nearest tower.  But sometimes they "bounce" to more distant towers.

Police wanted to be sure that they could rely on these cell tower records.  They tested the cell towers in the area.  They took their own cell phones there, and made calls.  Then they arranged with the phone company to check the cell tower records for their own phone calls.  Although there were some variations, these tests confirmed the the general theory.

Was this test evidence admissible to prove the reliability of the cell tower records?  The judges said "yes", but pointed out problems.  Cell towers behave differently in when call volume and weather change.  It's hard to replicate the precise conditions at the time of the crime.

For you, tests can help prove your theories, but take care to make them relevant.  Consult with experts to determine how best to make the test meaningful.

2013-05-17 Confessions - Proving Voluntariness  - Accounting for the Prisoner

Police watched Mr Wilkinson, 2013 SKCA 46 leave the residence of a known drug trafficker, so they stopped his car.  He admitted possessing marijuana.  They arrested him for possession of a controlled substance.  They found an ounce of cocaine in his sock.

17.5 hours later, an officer interviewed him.  Mr Wilkinson said that the trafficker "fronted" the cocaine for him to sell at $2,250 per ounce.

Although convicted of possession, he beat the charge of trafficking.  Here's why:

  1. There was no evidence that anyone told him he was in custody for trafficking. (s.10(a))
  2. At the voir dire into voluntariness, the Crown didn't produce all the officers who spoke with Wilkinson between arrest and confession.  That's because nobody gave the Crown a list of officers who dealt with him.

It was a great confession to elicit.  Too bad the investigative team didn't prepare a complete report for the prosecutor.  (Maybe the prosecutor should have asked for one.)

The law requires prosecutors to "prove a negative", that no person in authority (that's you) promised or threatened or abused or tricked the suspect into giving up the incriminating information.  The only way to prove a negative is by bringing the people who were present through the entire relevant time, to say "Nope.  Nothing improper occurred while I was with the suspect."

When you arrest a suspect, minimize the number of officers who speak to him.  Assign someone to record notes about every person who speaks to the suspect, and about what.  Always take notes about what you said to an arrested person, whether or not you did the arresting.  Or simply turn on a recording device.

2013-05-15 Statements - Defining Slang

After a robbery, Mr Grey, 2013 BCCA 232 told police how he assisted the robber by driving him to the town where it occurred.  He told the officer who interviewed him that the robber intended to "jack" his auntie.  But the officer never clarified what Mr Grey meant by the term.  Mr Grey was charged as a party to the robbery, but beat the rap because the Court of Appeal wasn't sure what "jack" meant.

Even when you're pretty clear what the suspect or witness means by slang terms, remember that judges need proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Any ambiguity in the evidence will be interpreted in the accused's favour.  Therefore, when you hear ambiguous terms like "jack", take a moment to clarify: "Q: So, did he actually use that word, 'jack' when he was talking about his auntie?  What did you understand he meant by it?"

2013-05-04 Possession - Whose Bedroom?

At 5:00am police executed a search warrant on an apartment and found a loaded handgun. They found three people inside. Two swore they had nothing to do with the gun. Was the third person, Mr. Turner, 2012 ONCA 570, responsible for it?

When police entered, Mr. Turner stood at the doorway the bedroom where the gun lay hidden. His driver's license lay on the floor. $1,000 cash sat on a table by the bed.  The gun lacked any serial number with which to link it to anyone.

You might think it was Mr. Turner's bedroom. The court called it "bedroom one".  You might think Turner's presence in the bedroom suggests his responsibility for its contents.  The court found no link in the evidence between him and the bedroom.

Mr Turner beat the charges.

The perennial problem of searching residences which contain more than one person is linking the people in them to the objects you find.  What seems obvious at the time falls apart at trial.  Hindsight suggests some investigative angles:

Every case is different, but this problem keeps recurring.  When executing a search warrant for something, you want to find it and you want to know who put it there.

2013-04-24 Search of Cell Phones Incidental to Arrest

Police watched Mr. Hiscoe 2013 NSCA 48 drive to a drive-in.  There, he exchanged things with another driver. They watched him because they had reason to believe he dealt in drugs. After the exchange, they arrested Mr Hiscoe.  They found cash in the other vehicle and a bag of cocaine between the two cars. They also seized his cell phone. At the scene an officer scrolled through some incriminating text messages. Back at the police station, he and another officer scrolled through them again, writing notes of what they saw.

A month later, technicians downloaded the entire contents of the phone onto a DVD.

Mr Hiscoe complained that police needed a warrant to search his cell phone.  The trial judge admitted evidence of the preliminary examinations of the phone, but excluded the data dump.

Does the power of search incidental to arrest authorize searching a cell phone?

The appeal court found that the two cursory searches were okay, but the download was not because:

Courts across Canada are reaching different conclusions on this power.  The highest authorities I know of in Alberta and B.C. say searches of cell phones incidental to arrest can be lawful.  Ontario and Nova Scotia appeal courts seem to think only a cursory examination of a cell phone may be done without warrant.

In a provincial court judge confirmed that in British Columbia, until a higher court says otherwise, a police officer may search a cell phone incidental to arrest.  Melchior, 2013 BCPC 82.

2013-04-16 Residential Perimeter Searches Using Drug Dogs

Acting on a tip that Mr Jardines' house contained a grow operation, a police officer took a drug dog to the front door.  It indicated drugs inside.  Police got a warrant and found the marijuana.  Was the search constitutional?

In Kokesch, [1990] 3 SCR 3, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected warrantless searches around the perimeter of residences.  In Evans, [1996] 1 SCR 8, the court rejected the technique of warrantless knocking on the front door for the purpose of sniffing the air inside to confirm the tipster's information.

In Canada, the answer to the Jardines question is "no".

The Jardines decision came recently from the USA's Supreme Court.  Their answer was also "no".

2013-04-13 Continuity - "Unimportant" witnesses

Mr Panrucker, 2013 BCCA 137 sat, alone, in cell five in the Fort St. John police station for 7 days.  At the end of that time, a guard found a bag of cocaine under his mattress.  Did Mr Panrucker put it there?  What evidence would prove it?

A guard testified that he cleaned and searched the cell on the day before Mr Panrucker arrived.  The same guard testified that at the end of that period, when Mr Panrucker left the cell to take a shower, he found the baggie.

The guard did not work continuously through that 7-day period.

The guard knew that nobody else occupied that cell, but only from looking at records written by others.  That's hearsay, and the court won't rely on it. 

Therefore, the only admissible evidence in this case proved:

But the admissible evidence did not prove who else entered the cell during that week.  Mr Panrucker beat the charge.

To prove this case, the prosecution needed all the guards.  Each one needed to testify that nobody else entered that cell during his watch.  If others did enter that cell, the Crown needed to produce them to say that they did not stow any cocaine under the prisoner's mattress.

Proving a "negative" (what didn't happen) often requires far more witnesses than proving a "positive".  This arises in many situations.  For example:

In your reports, document all the people necessary to prove these negatives

If you transported the suspect to the police station after arrest, you became an important witness if the suspect later confesses.  If you merely stood near the suspect, you became a witness in the voir dire into voluntariness.  Take notes of the conversation (or lack thereof).  If you received exhibits from another officer, who found them in the suspect's pockets, and all you did was deliver them to the exhibit officer, then you became an important witness.  Take notes of the exhibits.

2013-04-11 Detention - Search for Officer Safety

When Mr Nartey, 2013 ONCA 215 left a notorious strip club, patrol officers noticed him fail to come to a complete stop at a red light before making a right turn.  They pulled him over.  Computer checks indicated he had two PPT convictions, two firearms prohibitions, and he associated with a street gang.  They said they saw him grab a black duffle bag, rifle through it, and then toss it into the back seat.

Concerned for their safety, the officers asked him to get out for a pat-down search.  He complied.  They found no guns, but the officer thought he felt a large wad of money in Mr Nartey's pocket.

The officers then searched the car.  They found guns and half a pound of marijuana.

The trial judge figured that the whole thing was a fishing expedition.  He didn't believe the officers.  He excluded the evidence.

The Crown appealed, unsuccessfully.  That's because the appeal court must generally accept the facts as a trial judge finds them.  If the trial judge disbelieves a witness, the appeal court will too.

I didn't hear the evidence.  I can not say if the judge was right or wrong in this case.  But the acquittal of this drug dealer reminds us:

It doesn't always go against cops.  In a similar case, Morris, 2013 ONCA 223, the police stopped a vehicle on a traffic violation, and found guns.  In that case, the trial judge believed the investigating officers.  This week, the Ontario Court of Appeal accepted the trial judge's findings, and upheld the conviction.

2013-03-20 DNA Transfer

Three people complained to the kidnapping, but their statements varied wildly. DNA found at the crime scene proved the complaints were true -- but only if the DNA got there during the crime.

The police officers who dug through garbage bags at the crime scene found duct tape which bore the victims' DNA.  But did the DNA get there from being stuck to the victims, or from rubbing up against innocent objects which bore their DNA?  Did the officers (who wore gloves) touch objects which innocently carried the victims' DNA, and then touch the duct tape?

The science of DNA analysis is firm and clear; but the scientists are much less clear about the transfer of small quantities of DNA from one thing to another. 

The defence and the Crown called experts, who, of course, differed on the likelihood that DNA transferred innocently to the duct tape.  The trial judge convicted Mr Doan 2013 BCCA 123 and his friends, and the appeal court upheld the convictions.

DNA on a suspicious object packs a punch in the court room.  Defence will challenge how it got there.  Avoid contraversy, by minimizing the opportunities for DNA to travel from exhibit to exhibit.  If you're searching for objects which may be tested with DNA, it seems to me that you should:

Your forensic people may have other good suggestions on other techniques.

2013-03-07 Eyewitness Identification of Strangers

Mr. Desarmia cashed a cheque at Money Mart.  He walked down the street with a "friend", who greeted, and then walked away with, a stranger.  A few minutes later, the stranger walked up to Mr Desarmia, put him in a headlock, and demanded the cash.  Desarmia gave him all of it - about $450.  The stranger said he would cut off Mr Desarmia's head if he told police.

Mr Desarmia lived at a Salvation Army shelter, but after the robbery, he left town for a couple of weeks.  He suffered schizophrenia, and was off his medication.  When he returned to the shelter, encountered someone he believed was the robber.  He asked around, and learned that guy was Mr Gough, 2013 ONCA 137.

Five days later, he reported what he knew to police.  Police arrested Mr Gough, and charged him.  At trial, Mr Desarmia pointed out Mr Gough in the court room as the man who robbed him.  The trial judge convicted him.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, hinting that the Crown should not bother to prosecute.

What's the problem?

Eyewitness identification of strangers tends to be unreliable, especially when the interaction between them is brief.  Stress doesn't help either.

When the robber stole the money, Desarmia had little opportunity to get to know his face.  When Desarmia saw Gough at the Salvation Army, he had a better opportunity to observe, particularly because he believed that Gough was the robber.  At court, he had no difficulty recognizing Gough (because of the encounter at the shelter).  He honestly believed Gough robbed him.  But how do we know he was right?  The encounter at the Salvation Army was effectively a 1-person lineup.

I observe that the investigators couldn't fix this investigation by presenting a photo-lineup to Desarmia.  He would recognize Gough from the Salvation Army.  But the "friend" who greeted the robber could make all the difference.

2013-03-04 Privilege - Clarity when Handling Sources

Mr B, 2013 SCC 9, committed lots of crime with bad folks.  When his relationships with them turned sour, he informed on them to a police force.

Those officers treated him as a confidential source.  But what he told them related to crimes outside their jurisdiction.  They handed him over to Quebec's provincial police force, Surete du Quebec ("S.Q.").

The S.Q. officers arrested him for various crimes.  Mr B continued to cooperate, confessing to crimes, and giving statements implicating others.  Before most statements, the S.Q. officers promised not to use the evidence he gave against him in any trial, but warned him that they would prosecute him if they obtained independent evidence of his involvement.

The S.Q. officers coded him as an informant.  The information proved useful, and charges were laid against other felons.  As trial approached, things came to a head.  Was he a confidential source, or a compellable witness against the felons he ratted out?

Mr B wanted the anonymity of a confidential source.  The police wanted a witness.  Which was he?

A judge held a special hearing to determine the question.  Mr B's lawyer argued that he was a source.  The judge disagreed: Mr B was an opportunist, who sold his information for maximum personal profit.  The S.Q. never explicitly promised him confidentiality.  He's a witness.

A majority of the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a re-hearing.  Maybe the S.Q. never made an explicit promise of confidentiality, but they may have given him that idea by their behaviour.  The judges sent the matter back for re-trial: was there an implied promise of confidentiality?

The lesson for police is simply said, but difficult to apply.  If you promise confidentiality in exchange for information, it's a promise we can't retract.  When the relationship with the source/witness begins, explicitly state whether or not they get anonymity.  And beware: "material witnesses" don't enjoy privilege.  Tell them if they were part of the crime that they will be compellable witnesses.

This makes the early exchanges difficult: "Q: Am I a confidential source or not? A: It depends on what you tell me."

2013-03-03 Conspiracy and Parties

Two teenage girls decided to kill the mother.  Another youth, J.F., 2013 SCC 12 chatted with them on MSN about their plans.  He offered suggestions, and wrote "I€™m involved this much, I€™m willing to help you out with any of it".  The girls succeeded, and were convicted of murder. Was he guilty of conspiring to commit murder with them?

The Supreme Court clarified two unresolved questions about conspiracies.

The crime of conspiracy occurs when people agree to commit a crime.  They need not do anything after the agreement to be found guilty. (To prove they were serious, it sure helps to have evidence that the conspirators took steps to complete the crime they discussed.)

That means the only way to be a "party" to a conspiracy is to help people agree to commit the crime.  Someone who helped the conspirators commit the crime afterwards, but did not participate in the agreement, is just a criminal, but not a conspirator.

The court found this youth plainly conspired with the girls. He was therefore a party to the conspiracy. Helping them after the conspiracy would have made him guilty of murder.

2013-02-22 Proving Possession & Its Purpose - The Ringing Cell Phone - All Evidence Matters

A tipster told police where and when they would find Mr Graham, 2013 BCCA 75 trafficking drugs.  Police went there, and saw Mr Graham arrive in a blue minivan at the predicted time.  They arrested him.

A pocked in a black leather vest in the front passenger seat contained a single flap containing one gram of cocaine and $60. But the vest contained no identification.  The investigators did not determine its size. A factory-made closed storage compartment, located in the rear side-panel on the passenger side, contained two baggies of cocaine weighing 13.2 grams, a digital scale, and paper flaps that matched the one found in the vest pocket.

He also recovered a cell phone from an open storage compartment in the driver’s door.  When it rang, the caller asked to purchase drugs.

The Crown offered no evidence about:

The trial judge excluded the phone call evidence, and convicted.  Mr Graham appealed.

The appeal court found that cell phone calls on drug-dealers' phones are admissible and probative evidence, but noted a difference of opinion in the Ontario Court of Appeal (Baldree, 2012 ONCA 138).  The Supreme Court of Canada will soon deliver its opinion on that case.

The court agreed that without the cell phone call, the evidence that Mr Graham knew about the drugs was pretty slim:

This case illustrates how easily investigators can be lulled into false confidence in the strength of the evidence.  An informer's tip makes you think the suspect is guilty, but the judge will ignore it.  Another piece of evidence may convince you that it's an open-and-shut case.  The trial judge may (correctly or erroneously) exclude it from evidence.

Therefore, some prosecutors want "too much" evidence rather than " just enough".  One of the senior lawyers on the Pickton prosecution liked to call it the "belt-and-suspenders" approach.  He liked to be sure that at the end of his prosecution, his pants would stay up.  Having more than one way to prove the case helps prevent expensive appeals.

2013-02-20 Search & Seizure - Searching a Cell Phone Incidental to Arrest

Police arrested Mr Fearon, 2013 ONCA 106 for a robbery committed earlier that day by two men.  The arresting officer examined the contents of his cell phone, and found an incriminating text message and a photo of a firearm.  The officer explained that in his experience, criminals who work in pairs often communicate by cell phone.  Over the course of the evening, and into the next day, police examined the phone without a warrant.

Defence complained that cell phones contain so much personal information that police need warrants to search them, even if they obtain the cell phone during an arrest.

The judges disagreed.  A quick search, incidental to arrest, was okay without a warrant.  This came as a surprise, because an earlier decision (Manley) suggested otherwise.  The court also commented, without deciding, that a full analysis of the phone might require judicial pre-approval.

The court kept its decision narrowly focussed on the facts of this case: the phone was unlocked, unprotected by a password, and the officers did not examine all the data in it.  Never-the-less, they rejected the argument that police always need warrants to search cell phones.

When you arrest a person for an offence, you can search the person for evidence of the offence if you have some cause to believe evidence of the offence is present.  This principle seems to include cell phones.


To poke around in a prisoner's phone, you need reasons to believe that you will find evidence of the offence for which you arrested.  In Ontario, anyway, it remains unsettled how fully you can analyze its contents.

2013-02-20 Access to Counsel - Constitutional Right to Google

A police officer saw Mr McKay, 2013 ABPC 13 drive through a red light.  The officer stopped him, and found he smelled of liquor.  When Mr McKay blew into a screening device, it registered a fail.  The investigating officer arrested him and asked if he wanted to get legal advice.  He did.  The officer took him back to the detachment, and showed him White and Yellow Pages, a phone which allowed 411 inquiries, and a poster bearing the Legal Aid number.  Mr McKay called Legal Aid.  Afterwards, he told the officer that he spoke with someone.  Thereafter, he provided breath samples which must have been over 80mg%, because he was charged.

At trial, Mr McKay, aged 20, explained that he is a child of the internet.  He doesn't use phone books, and didn't understand 411.  He needs Google to find a lawyer.  Because the police failed to offer this option up front, they violated his right to counsel of choice.

The trial judge agreed.

I agree that your duty to provide a reasonable opportunity to retain and instruct counsel includes facilitating reasonable efforts to to identify a suitable lawyer.  Web-based services now provide faster and more informative searches than most paper-based methods.  Your offices (generally) permit internet access.   I think a request to Google lawyers is a reasonable exercise of s.10(b) rights.

I don't agree that failure to present a web-browser in the cell block breaches a prisoner's s.10(b) rights.  There are other reasonable methods of identifying a lawyer (such as calling a friend or relative who knows one).  In my opinion, it does not breach s.10(b) to fail to list all his options.  Perhaps your poster on the phone room wall should say:

"This office will accommodate all reasonable requests to identify and contact a lawyer of your choice."

You must facilitate the exercise of the right to counsel, but the prisoner must exercise his right diligently.  I think Mr McKay should have asked to use Google.

If your prisoner asks for internet access, then you should allow it for the purposes of identifying a lawyer.  But keep control of the situation.  His efforts to identify a lawyer are not privileged.  One prisoner may to search "Criminal defence lawyer Calgary".  Another may want to type "How to beat the breath test".

Maybe you want to do the typing.

2013-02-10 Use of Force - Protecting Life by Taking Life

Cst Stromner answered a 911 call:  A man with a knife was scaring people near a mall.

The officer found Mr Davis, 2013 ABCA 15, who charged at the driver's side window of his police cruiser, waving a large knife.  Cst Stromner called for backup.

Mr Davis backed off and started walking away, still holding the raised knife.  Cst Stromner followed, pistol trained on the man.  Cst Stromner demanded over and over that he drop the knife.  He didn't.

At one point Davis turned and faced the officer, who pepper-sprayed him.  This had no effect.  Mr Davis continued to brandish the knife, and make thrusting motions with it.  He kept walking towards a busy MacDonald's.

Without saying he was going to shoot, Cst Stromner fired.  Twice.  He hit Davis in the throat and the right chest, bringing him down.

Davis survived.  Police charged him with assaulting a peace officer and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Should Cst Stromner have waited another 10 seconds?  He didn't hear the approaching sirens.  He didn't know that other officers arrived just before he pulled the trigger.

He pulled the trigger while Davis was still in an unpopulated parking lot, surrounded by a concrete wall.  Moments later, Davis would have reached the crowds, where the officer's bullets could strike innocent third parties.

At the trial, Mr Davis complained that the police officer violated his s.7 right to life and security of the person.  Using deadly force is irrevocable.  The officer should have yelled a warning before shooting.  He should have waited longer.  The judge disagreed, and two of three appeal judges upheld the convictions.

I express no opinion about the use of force in this case. It's outside my area of expertise.  But reading the decision inspired in me considerable admiration for Cst Stromner's managment of a stressful situation.

It seems that the investigation afterwards was thorough: the trial judge heard the testimony of many eyewitnesses who helped prove Cst Stromner's version was accurate.  After a police shooting, investigate thoroughly, because everyone will want answers.

2013-02-08 Eyewitness Identification

Someone robbed the car rental shop. Was it Mr. Jack, 2013 ONCA 80?

A black man came in with a gun and took $2500 from the owner and his friend.  It took two minutes. When police came, the two victims said they recognized the robber as a customer who rented a vehicle several months before.  That transaction took only a few minutes as well.  The owner gave police a photocopy of the health card which Mr. Jack provided when he rented the car. Neither victim described the robber in any detail.  At trial, both identified Mr. Jack in the prisoners dock as the robber.

The jury convicted Mr Jack. The Court of Appeal acquitted him, because the evidence looked strong but was actually very weak.

Mr. Jack had a distinctive scar and two prominent gold teeth. Neither victim remembered these features appearing on Mr Jack nor on the robber.  He had a tattoo on his left hand.  Neither victim remembered that either.

There was a significant risk that one or both of the victims thought the robber resembled Mr. Jack and therefore sought out Mr Jack's health card. Thereafter, they became sure it was Mr. Jack because he was charged.  But the only evidence of guilt was a general resemblance.

Maybe the investigators did a thorough job -- I don't know, because the reasons for judgment don't say.  But the way it reads, the officers who attended this call probably felt that their job was easy. The victims identified the culprit; all police had to do was catch him.

Beware!  When eyewitnesses - particularly victims of traumatic encounters - try to identify strangers, they can make mistakes.  In this case, the officers should have pressed the eyewitnesses, separately, to describe the robber in as much detail as possible.  A photo-lineup may have helped, particularly if it contained other faces bearing a scar.

2013-02-05 Marijuana is Still a Controlled Substance

Mr. Mernagh, 2013 ONCA 67 convinced a judge to strike down the CDSA prohibitions on producing and possessing marijuana.  Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned that decision.  Mr Mernagh complained that his illness required him to use marijuana, and doctors would not give him a prescription.  Therefore, the whole legislative scheme should be brought down.  The appeal court found that the evidence did not establish the facts alleged.

Mr Voss, 2013 ABCA 38 also hoped to make marijuana legal.  The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed his efforts too.

2013-01-31 Arrest & Release - Holding a Suspect for Questioning

In the late 1980s a Boy Scout complained of the sexual activity of leader, Mr. Viszlai, 2012 BCCA 442.  No charges were laid.

In 2007 another former Boy Scout complained about what he did. Detective Cottingham of the Victoria Police Department's sex crime section investigated.  She dug up the old file, and started looking for Mr Vizlai.

To her alarm, she learned that he was attending a Scout jamboree near Sechelt.  Grooming scouts was his m.o.  Was he abusing more kids?

She contacted Sechelt police, and explained the problem.  She asked an officer there to arrest him and hold him so that she could interview him the next day.  And that's what they did.

Except for speaking with counsel, Mr Vizlai did nothing but sit and wait for almost 15 hours for Detective Cottingham to arrive.

Why did it take so long?  There's no road between Victoria and Sechelt.  A traveller must choose between ferries and float planes.  Cottingham chose to fly, which was faster.

Detective Cottingham's interview succeeded in eliciting apology letters from Mr Vizlai.  After the interview, she released him on an undertaking.

Viszlai complained that she arbitrarily detained him, and asked that the interview and letters be excluded from evidence.  Section 497 and 498 of the Criminal Code require police to release prisoners "as soon as practicable".  Section 503 requires police to take prisoners to a bail hearing "without unreasonable delay" and in any case within 24 hours.  He argued that a Sechelt officer should have released him on an undertaking.  He didn't have to wait in a cell all that time for Det. Cottingham.

The judges disagreed.

These sections permit you to collect evidence before releasing.  Interviewing a suspect is collecting evidence.  As long as you don't dawdle in the process, you may hold the prisoner (up to a maximum of 24 hours) to gather evidence.

Viszlai argued that the Sechelt police should have interviewed him instead of Det. Cottingham.  Again, the judges disagreed.

Because Det. Cottingham chose the fastest route available to conduct the interview, they found the delay reasonable.  The primary investigator was not obliged to delegate the interview to an officer who knows little about the case.

This does not mean you have 24 hours to interview an arrested suspect!  If Det. Cottingham had chosen to travel by ferry, the court might have ruled differently.

The evidence remained admissible.

Unfortunately, the trial judge made a mistake in instructing the jury.  Mr Vislai won himself a re-trial. 

2013-01-29 "Gating" - Tactical Delay of Investigation and Prosecution

When police arrested Mr. Ferris, 2013 BCCA 30, for running a marijuana grow operation, he told them of an outstanding warrant in New Brunswick for aggravated assault.  He was right. Therefore, he was shipped to New Brunswick for trial.  In British Columbia, police investigated the grow operation slowly.  Charges were not laid until a year later, after the New Brunswick trial completed.  (He beat that charge.)

Mr. Ferris complained that the B.C. investigators deliberately delayed charges, so as to keep him in jail for as long as possible.

The trial judge found on the evidence did not support this claim. Mr. Ferris went down on the B.C. charges.

Beware: Tactical delay of charges so as to keep a suspect in jail for as long as possible ("gating") annoys prisoners.  Many judges dislike it too.

Sometimes, the impending release of a dangerous prisoner spurs investigators to complete a lengthy investigation just before the prisoner release date.  You can bet your bottom dollar that the prisoner will complain about the timing of new charges.  Defence counsel (and some judges) will assume your timing was malicious, unless you can show otherwise.

2013-01-24 Search & Seizure - Officer Safety - Entry into a Residence

When Mr MacDonald, 2012 NSCA 50, returned to Nova Scotia from the oil fields of Alberta, he invited friends to his apartment.  He turned the music up loud. Neighbors complained. A police officer attended.  She asked him to turn it down. He turned it up instead.  She called for backup.  A senior officer came and knocked at the door.  Nobody answerd.  He kicked at the door to get Mr MacDonald's attention.  Mr. MacDonald opened the door a few inches. In his hand he held something "black and shiny". The senior officer thought it might be a knife, and asked MacDonald what it was. MacDonald wouldn't say.  The officer pushed the door open to see it better. It was a loaded handgun.  The officers disarmed him, and because he had no authorization to possess it, was charged with firearms offences.

Mr. MacDonald complained that police had no right to enter his residence.  By pushing the door open to look at the object in MacDonald's hand, the senior officer breached his right to be free from unreasonable search.

The trial judge disagreed: police must be able to issue noise bylaw tickets in safety.  This search was necessary for officer safety, and the officer had no reasonable alternative.  MacDonald got 3 years for gun offences.  MacDonald appealed.

The appeal court split.  Two judges agreed with the trial judge, but one would have excluded all the evidence.  That judge emphasized the accused's right to privacy in his residence.  But that judge did not explain what he thought the officer ought to have done.

Mr. MacDonald appealed again to the Supreme Court of Canada. We may find out what they think some time this summer.

Meanwhile, there are basic points police can consider:

    1. clear permission of someone who can give permission (eg a resident);
    2. warrant;
    3. reasonable grounds to suspect life is at risk;
    4. reasonable grounds to believe evidence will be destroyed.

I'm not sure, but I expect that the SCC may side with the police on this one.  When it comes to police officer safety, if you have no alternatives to ensure your safety, then I think they will let you search.  But if there is an alternative which keeps you safe, but avoids invading a suspect's privacy, then the court will likely require you to take the route that respects privacy.

2013-01-20 Seizing Firearms for Safety's Sake - Forfeiture

Mr Roggie, 2012 ONCA 808 upset his family.  His wife complained he threatened a friend and assaulted his daughter, and he drove away drunk.  Police seized 5 of his firearms from her house, and took another from his parents' place.  They filed no report to a justice describing these weapons.  Eventually, Mr Roggie pleaded guilty to assault.  He received a fine and probation.  One condition of his probation prohibited him from possessing firearms.

When it ended, he asked for his guns back.

Police resisted.  They wanted a lasting firearms prohibition, and forfeiture of the firearms.  Mr Roggie went to court and won.

A curious interplay of the legislation creates some unintuitive incentives and procedures.  When anyone receives a firearms prohibition - including a condition in a probation order - s.115 causes forfeiture of all the firearms in their possession.  By seizing his guns, police saved him from that fate.  If they had left the guns in the house, he would have lost them at sentencing.

But the officers had not followed the procedures set out in s.117.04 and 117.05 to obtain forfeiture or prohibition of firearms.  Therefore, Mr Roggie got his guns back.

The procedures in s.117.04 and .05 are cumbersome. They don't spell out whether you can seize firearms if the suspect's wife takes you to them.  Unless there are exigent circumstances, you need a warrant to enter places where the firearms are stored.  (s.117.04).  Once you seize the firearms, you must move promptly (30 days) to apply for forfeiture and prohibition. (s.117.05).

For a routine domestic violence case, that's a lot of paperwork.  If you don't seize the guns, then you risk him returning and killing the complainants.  Do you want to explain at an inquiry why you failed to protect the family?  If you arrest the suspect, then there are no "exigent circumstances" any more.  You need to write a warrant application to get the guns.  If you don't write the warrant application, then it's not clear how you can lawfully get the guns and start the forfeiture / prohibition process under s.117.05.

Bottom line: If you seize firearms, report them to a justice.  If you want to keep the guns, or prohibit the owner from possessing them, apply promptly under s.117.05.  Criminal charges may resolve in forfeiture or prohibition, but only if the charges stick.

2013-01-18 Reasonable Grounds - Smell of Burnt Marijuana

At a roadblock set up to catch drunk drivers, an officer stopped Mr. Boyd, 2013 BCCA 19.  Instead of liquor, the officer detected the odour of burnt marijuana.  He immediately arrested Mr. Boyd for possession of marijuana.  Did he have grounds?

He explained that in his experience people who smoke marijuana often carry more.

Possessing a small quantity of marijuana is strictly a summary conviction offence. You cannot arrest a person for those offences unless you "find" them "committing" the offence. s.495(1)(b).

The court agreed that an officer may draw inferences to come to the conclusion that they suspect "is committing" an offence.  But this inference ("if he smoked it, then he has more left over") wasn't strong enough by itself to lead to the conclusion that Mr. Boyd probably still have some marijuana left over.

This officer had reasonable "suspicion", but needed more evidence to form reasonable grounds to "believe" that Mr Boyd possessed marijuana.

In other cases, furtive behaviour - particularly to conceal things, has added that necessary additional information.

2013-01-18 Spousal Violence

Ms Ryan, 2013 SCC 3 tried three times to hire a hit-man to kill her husband. The third guy said he'd do it for $25,000. Unfortunately for Ms. Ryan, he was a cop, and he recorded their conversations.  They charged her with counseling murder.

Ms. Ryan claimed she acted under "duress": her husband was a violent and controlling man.  She claimed that her complaints to the police did not help: charges against him were dropped.

The Supreme Court of Canada rejected "duress" as an appropriate defense. It applies after coercion to commit a specific criminal offence.  Her husband didn't tell her to kill him.

If someone claims they committed an offense because somebody else made them do it, investigate what reasonable alternatives your suspect had.

But investigate the third party too.

In this case, Ms. Ryan claimed that the police dismissed her problems with her husband as just "a civil matter".  The judges accepted her claims, and felt sorry for her.  Instead of ordering a new trial, most of them stayed the proceedings against her.  (Surprisingly, Fish J. would have ordered a new trial.)

If you work in general duty policing for any length of time, you encounter people - usually women - who endure violence from their spouse, but protect their spouses from investigation and prosecution.  They frustrate police and prosecutors at every turn.  We all feel tempted to give up on them.

Don't give up.

The trial decision narrates her story of abuse.  I suspect that she lied more than once to protect him, but I'm sure he made her miserable.  She needed help from police.  The police officers who walked away from her 911 calls saying "it's just a civil matter" may have been right about the specific problem they investigated, but they were wrong if they gave her the message: "if you got problems with your man, we won't help."

Some of these people wind up dead.  Many get battered again and again.  And they feel trapped.  Always leave your door open: "If you're in danger, we want to help.  If he hurts you, please tell us."

2013-01-17 Impaired Driving - Keep the Car

When police caught Mr. Manning, 2013 SCC 1 driving impaired, he had three similar previous convictions, and was awaiting trial on another charge of impaired driving.

Police seized his car. After conviction, the prosecutor asked the judge to take his car away from him. The trial judge felt sorry for him. The Supreme Court of Canada did not. Mr. Manning lost his car.

How does this work? Can the prosecutors start collecting cars from drunk drivers now?

Not normally.

If you find the driver in a public place, s.489 authorizes you to "seize" "any thing" that "has been used in the commission of an offence".

So far so good.

After conviction for any "indictable offence", if the prosecutor asks the judge, the judge must order "offence-related property" forfeit. s.490.1.  "Offence related property" includes any property "that is used in any manner in connection with the commission of… an offence". s.2.

That would include the car. But only if the Crown proceeded by indictment.

Prosecutors don't proceed by indictment against drunk drivers unless they seek a high sentence, or people got hurt or killed.  In my jurisdiction, that starts around the 5th, 6th or 7th conviction for regular impaired driving (depending upon recency of the convictions).  Of course if there were serious injuries, we'll proceed by indictment, because that's the only way to prosecute those offences.

Therefore, seize only the cars of the repeat offenders, and the ones who cause bodily harm or death.  If you think the driver should lose his car, talk to the prosecutor about it.

2013-01-04 Sexual Assault - Physical Examinations

Medical expert opinions about injuries from sexual abuse used to be quite clear-cut.  Where hymens were ruptured or anuses had unusual colourations, many experts opined that these confirmed complaints of sexual abuse.  Recent medical opinions retreated from these clear assertions.  In England recently, several sexual assault convictions were overturned because the doctors no longer felt so sure about their opinions.  R. v. S, B, C & R, [2012] EWCA Crim 1433.

For you, this means:

2013-01-03 DNA - Vehicle Airbags

Someone driving a Porsche Cayenne crashed into three people outside a nightclub, killing two and injuring the third.  The driver stopped momentarily, then drove away, and abandoned the vehicle.  During the collision, airbags deployed on the driver and passenger sides.  The DNA on the driver's side airbag was blood that came from Mr. Antunes, 2012 BCCA 104.  Most of the DNA on the passenger side airbag came from a Mr Barjaktarovic, but the passenger airbag also bore an unknown individual's DNA.  Did Mr Antunes kill the pedestrians or was someone else in the car, driving?

Defense argued that some doubt arose, because of the third person's DNA.

Evidence established it could have got there:

DNA analysis has become very sensitive.  You can deposit detectable amounts of your DNA just by talking at the exhibit.

You can't do anything about the first two possibilities. But you can take care during the collection of exhibits.  Handle both airbags carefully: make sure your DNA, and the DNA of other investigators doesn't contaminate them.

2012 Developments in the Law

2012-12-29 Tunnel Vision - Investigating Alternate Suspects

Kelly Spackman, 2012 ONCA 905 and Steve Chung sold drugs in downtown Toronto, and were seen doing a deal.  For $30,000, Alexander Christoff bought a kilogram of cocaine from Kelly Spackman, 2012 ONCA 905.  Later, Christoff gave Spackman another $30,000 for another kilo of cocaine, but a few minutes later, Spackman returned empty-handed.  Over the next month, they communicated often, but Christoff never got his drugs.  Police found Christoff's body dumped near Steve Chung's place, riddled with stab wounds.  Who killed him?

Christoff left his parents house saying he would meet Spackman.  Phone records showed that Spackman and Chung communicated often around the time of Christoff's murder, and that before the murder, Christoff communicated often with Spackman.  But there was little to connect Spackman and Chung.  On the night of the killing, the same cell phone tower routed Spackman and Christoff's telephone call: they were close.

The investigators focussed their attention on Spackman but not Chung.  Although they got a search warrant for his home, they didn't search his car.

At trial, defence argued that Chung might have been the killer, but because the police didn't fully investigate him, we'll never know.  The trial judge agreed that the investigation suffered from tunnel vision.  The jury acquitted Spackman.

The Court of Appeal agreed that the police should have investigated Chung, but ordered a retrial because of technical errors the trial judge made during trial.  We'll see what the jury thinks next time.

This case illustrates the value of cell phone call records and tower dumps to prosecution and defence.  Calls between Spackman and Christoff suggested Spackman was the killer; but calls between Spackman and Chung suggested Chung might have been the killer.

This case also illustrates the danger of pursuing your prime suspect too vigorously.  When solving who committed the crime, investigate all the suspects.

2012-12-08 Fair Trial - Exhibit Destruction

When Ms Berner, 2012 BCCA 466 crashed her car, she killed an innocent child.  Police investigated, and analyzed the vehicle's data recorder.  The car was a write-off, so Ms Berner released the vehicle to the insurance company, to salvage what value they could from it.  But did it still retain evidentiary value?

Before it was destroyed, Cst Parker wrote Ms Berner by registered mail, asking her if she wanted it examined, and warning that the police would release it to the insurance company.  She didn't reply.

Shortly before trial, defence demanded access to the car, to examine it.  Of course, it no longer existed.  Defence complained that police violated Ms Berner's right to a fair trial by destroying relevant evidence.

Cst Parker's wise letter undermined this application.

You possess exhibits not just for your investigation, but also for the defence.  Give the defence a fair chance to investigate relevant exhibits before you destroy them.

2012-12-08 Detention - Controlling People at a Crime Scene

How much can you control people at a crime scene without triggering s.9 and s.10 of the Charter?

On a hot day in July, Ms Berner, 2012 BCCA 466 crashed her car into a parked vehicle. The collision killed a four-year-old girl who was behind it, and injured her aunt.

The first police officer who attended directed Ms Berner where to stand. She suffered from shock. The officer asked her to wait in the back seat of a police vehicle, where  the air conditioning would make her more comfortable. The officer closed the car door; she could not get out. Because the others suffered greater injuries than Ms Berner, she had to wait for medical treatment.

There she sat for 30 minutes. Was she "detained”?

The officer had no reason (yet) to suspect a crime. Ms Berner had [falsely] denied drinking. The officer could smell no liquor. But the officer could not understand why the collision occurred.

After 30 minutes, the officer asked again about drinking. This time, Ms Berner admitted drinking two glasses of wine three hours earlier. This led to a screening device demand, a "fail”, and eventually breath tests which produced evidence against the accused.

The trial judge found that the officer’s purpose in placing Ms Berner in the police car was to care for her, and this caused no detention. The appeal court focused on Ms Berner’s perceptions instead. Would the officers conduct make her feel obliged to stay and cooperate?

The appeal court found that the officer did detain Ms Berner, and without access to counsel.  The officer obtained the admission of drinking in violation of her right under s.10(b). But in the context of this matter, the evidence could be admitted under s.24(2).  The court sympathized with the officer who did the best she could in a difficult situation.

When you arrive at a scene of chaos, you need to take control. You must direct the people present. You must ask them questions about what happened. If these efforts cause a suspect to believe on reasonable grounds that he or she is not free to go, or must answer police questions, then you are obtaining answers in violation of their rights.

Judges examine this question from the point of view of the suspect, not the police officer. Don't consider just your own intentions in handling people you find at the scene, but also what your target experienced.

Steps this officer could have taken to avoid breaching Ms Berner’s rights include:

On somewhat different facts, the another court came to a different conclusion.  Police executed a search warrant for drugs at Mr Munkoh's, 2012 ONCA 865 family's home.  Although they prevented him from wandering around the house while they searched, they did not specifically keep him in the house. He made remarks admitting responsibility for the drugs they found.  At Munko's trial, the judge thought the officers' actions did not trigger s.10(b); and the appeal court agreed.  The trigger for a detention depends very much on the facts: what did the suspect experience when police attended?

2012-12-07 Detention and Search for Officer Safety - Convenience Or Necessity

The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act prohibits new drivers from operating motor vehicles after drinking alcohol. Young Mr Aucoin, 2012 SCC 66 took that risk, and compounded it by driving a car which bore the wrong license plate. An officer noticed, and pulled him over. The officer tested his breath: 20mg%. The officer decided to write some tickets.

It was dark. Crowds of people milled around. The officer feared Mr Aucoin might wander away.  He decided to put Mr Aucoin in the back seat of the police car. Before doing that, he searched the young man "for officer safety". He found ecstasy and cocaine packaged for sale.

Mr Aucoin complained that the search was unnecessary for officer safety, and therefore violated his s.8 rights.  The court agreed.

The court confirmed the police power to detain suspects.  It also confirmed the power to search suspects for officer safety, where "reasonably necessary".  However, it wasn't necessary in this case:

"... I note that two police officers arrived at the scene while the appellant was being searched by Constable Burke.  That leads me to conclude that backup was close at hand, something Constable Burke could readily have ascertained."

While it was convenient to secure Mr Aucoin in the police car, this would cause the officer to search him unnecessarily.  The alternative - asking the other officers to watch him - would result in less serious violations of his privacy and liberty.

The court admitted the evidence anyway, because the officer generally acted in good faith, and the violation of Charter rights were relatively minor.

For police, this means your power of search for officer safety should be exercised only when necessary.  "Necessity" depends upon the circumstances.  In this case the court would likely have reached a different conclusion if:

2012-12-03 Interviewing Youth-Video

After police arrested 14-year-old M.D., 2012 ONCA 841, for robbery they interviewed him for 12 minutes. He told them he wanted to tell his side of the story, and did.

An hour later, after setting up a recording device, the officers explained his rights under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).  After the offices mentioned the first conversation, the boy gave another confession.

The YCJA requires police to record the statements of young people. Therefore, at trial, the prosecution could not rely on what M.D. said in the first interview, because it was not recorded. The trial judge admitted the second statement.

On appeal, the court found that the failure to record the first statement undermined the admissibility of the second. The officers should have told him that nothing he said in the first conversation was admissible, and that the recording was a "fresh start".

This decision holds police to a high standard of recording their interactions with young people. Record everything. Informal "pre-interview" conversations should be recorded too.

2012-11-29 Impaired Driving Investigation

            reference text for police officers

Some officers dread stopping drunk drivers, for fear of performing the investigation incorrectly, and exposing their ignorance in court, under cross-examination.

Some officers relish the opportunity to hone their investigative skills, and hunt for inebriated drivers meandering through the streets and lanes.

Regardless where you fall along this spectrum, here's a book on the topic which might interest you.  The authors wrote it specifically for police, and recently revised it.  Click the link to buy a copy.

I must disclose my interest in this book: I reviewed much of it before publication, and offered some suggestions.  The publisher pays me a small commission for each copy sold, which I apply to running this website.  If you buy a copy, not only will you get a useful book, but you'll help me pay for my internet name registration and web hosting.

2012-11-27 Hearsay - Preserving the Memories Of Aged Witnesses

87-year-old Ms. Dokaupe lived alone. She had saved $165,000 through her working life, and received a pension. She hired Ms Taylor 2012 ONCA 809 to assist her with her daily needs.  During the 20 months she worked for Ms Dokaupe, Ms Taylor took the cash. Was it fraud, or did Ms. Dokaupe give it to her?

The next caregiver read Ms. Dokaupe’s bank statements, and called police.  They asked why Ms Taylor got the money.  Ms. Dokaupe told police it was theft. Unfortunately, she died before trial. Was her statement admissible?

In this case, investigators realised that Ms Dokaupe might die. When taking her statement, they warned her against public mischief, and administered the oath.  They video-recorded her complaint. What she told them matched banking records, but nothing independently confirmed her claim that Ms Taylor had no right to the cash.

These steps sufficed to get the evidence into trial, but did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fortunately, two more pieces of evidence were available.

From this we can learn:

  1. Elderly witnesses sometimes die. Taking sworn statements from them can preserve their evidence.
  2. The K.G.B. procedure does not prove cases beyond a reasonable doubt. Investigate further to corroborate what the witness says.
  3. Old people sometimes go senile. Getting a psychological assessment of the witness around the time of the sworn statement may help the judge to assess her reliability.

2012-11-07 Prior Testimony - Materials from Civil Proceedings

When Mr. Nedelcu, 2012 SCC 59 crashed his motorcycle, he suffered minor injuries. But his passenger wore no helmet.  The crash damaged his brain permanently.

The passenger sued Mr Nedelcu.  This compelled Mr. Nedelcu - during "discovery", to answer questions under oath about the accident.  He swore he remembered nothing.

Independently, police charged Mr. Nedelcu for dangerous driving causing bodily harm. During that trial, he testified that he clearly recalled everything that occurred, and gave an innocent account of his driving.  The lawyer for the passenger gave Crown counsel a transcript of what Mr. Nedelcu said during discovery.  With it, the prosecutor demonstrated that Mr. Nedelcu's new story could not be believed.

Mr. Nedelcu complained to the appeal court about s.13 of the Charter.

When Americans testify, and someone asks a question which might get them into trouble, they "plead the fifth".  In their country, no one can be compelled to give an answer which would get them into trouble. In Canada, we do things differently. The witness must answer the question, but s.13 of the Charter prevents any future prosecution from using the answer to incriminate the witness. The prosecution used his answers in the civil suit to get him convicted of the criminal charges.

This protection applies when:

A majority of the Supreme Court held that although Mr. Nedelcu was compelled to testify at the civil proceedings, the answers he gave during discovery did not make him look guilty of anything.  The cross-examination was proper, and his conviction stuck.

Does this mean that anytime a suspect gets entangled in a civil lawsuit, you should obtain transcripts of his evidence in discoveries? Certainly consider it, but beware.  There is a significant expectation of privacy over those transcripts.  To get them, you need a search warrant, or permission from the court in which the lawsuit is proceeding.  Juman v. Doucette, 2008 SCC 8.

2012-10-31 Search & Seizure - Warrant Drafting - Describing a Confidential Source

A confidential source told police that the Rocha 2012 ONCA 707 brothers sold cocaine from their restaurant and possessed it in a house.  A officer drafted a warrant.  When they executed it, they found cocaine.  At trial, defence complained about the drafting, and the judges agreed.

In the ITO, the officer wrote:

"The SOURCE in this matter is a registered human asset of the Toronto Police Service for over two years. The information they provided is of such detail, timing and geographic specifics that it goes beyond mere chance and/or coincidence. In some cases the information has been corroborated, by Handlers or investigators forming Reasonable Grounds to Believe. The SOURCE has no convictions for Perjury or Public Mischief. The SOURCE previously provided information to police that has led to persons arrested/charged in addition to the seizure of illegal narcotics and stolen property. The SOURCE acknowledges that they will face criminal charges for making false reports to police regarding information on past, present and future investigations. The SOURCE understands that there [sic] assistance is only "eyes and ears” and they are not to participate in any criminal activity whatsoever as a Confidential Source."

The judge should decide for him or herself whether to trust a source.  Unfortunately, this paragraph prevents the judge from making this determination.

Problem Solution
"The SOURCE in this matter is a registered human asset of the Toronto Police Service for over two years." "Registering" a person as a "human asset" merely means that the police decided to trust the source. But this sentence gives no reason for the judge to trust the source.  This sentence means "We trust this guy."
The facts that police knew this source and worked with him/her for 2 years does give the judge some reason to trust the source: "Over the past 2 years, the source gave information to the Toronto Police Service".
"The information they provided is of such detail, timing and geographic specifics that it goes beyond mere chance and/or coincidence." The first part of this sentence suggests that the source gave detailed information.  The second part is the officer's conclusion that because the information was detailed, therefore it was trustworthy.  But the officer gave the judge no opportunity to assess this.
"This source provided detailed information about where and when criminal activity would occur".
"In some cases the information has been corroborated, by Handlers or investigators forming Reasonable Grounds to Believe."
This sentence fails to explain how the information was corroborated, nor how often.  Again, the officer has decided that the source was "corroborated", without letting the judge make an independent determination.
Let the judge understand the quality of previous tips.  For example:

"On (how many) previous occasions, this source provided private details such as the type of drug trafficked, the identities of distributors of drugs, and their associates, which matched information from other sources."
"The SOURCE has no convictions for Perjury or Public Mischief." The source may have other convictions relating to dishonesty such as fraud, false pretences. The court inferred from this cute language that the officer concealed convictions relevant to credibility.
"The source has criminal convictions, which I list in Appendix A." (Naturally, Appendix A should be redacted from what you disclose to defence.)
"The SOURCE previously provided information to police that has led to persons arrested/charged in addition to the seizure of illegal narcotics and stolen property." How often? Was this the one time that the source gave good information, and all other tips were false?

Beware of alleging "charges": courts consider people innocent until proved guilty. If charges were laid, did the court convict?
"On one (or 3 or 5) occasion(s), this source gave information about the location and quantity of illegal narcotics and stolen property which was confirmed at subsequent arrests. In total, 4 people have been convicted of offences which this source reported."

For officers who apply for warrants on the basis of confidential sources, I recommend reading this decision.

The court also worried about the wasted effort which occurs when police with good information cannot rely on it because of their obligation to protect the identity of the source.

The judges urged prosecutors to rely upon "judicial summaries" of redacted material. If the redacted version of your warrant fails to convey the good quality of information you received, the prosecutor can ask the judge to approve a summary of the redacted information, which can then be disclosed to defence. Talk to your prosecutor about this idea.

2012-10-30 Impaired Driving - "Care or Control"

Mr Boudreau 2012 SCC 56 got drunk. He called a taxi service which specialised in getting drunks and their cars home.  While he waited for his ride, he created a warm sanctuary from the cold and wind.  Mr  Boudreau got in the driver's seat of his car and started the engine; he passed out. When the taxi driver came, instead of waking Mr Boudreau and taking him home, the driver called police. Police arrested Boudreault.

Was Mr Boudreau in "care or control" of the vehicle?

S.258(1)(a) requires a court to presume that someone sitting in the driver's seat had "care or control" of the vehicle, unless the driver explains  that he had some other purpose than setting the vehicle in motion. Mr Boudreau's explanation obviously fit the exception.  The presumption did not apply,

Without the presumption, a court may still find a driver to be in care or control, if the drivers behaviour, in the circumstances, create a realistic danger to persons or property.

If the driver had a plan not to drive, this reduces the danger. If the driver's mood and plans changed from minute to minute, this increases the danger.

Therefore, when investigating the drunk sleeping in the drivers seat, you want to know:

If you question him at roadside, none of these answers will be admissible trial. Therefore, ask these questions after access to counsel.

The court found Mr Boudreau did not pose a realistic danger. He was acquitted.

2012-10-21 Possession - Knowledge

Ms. Schepannek, 2012 BCCA 368 visited her husband in jail.  She tried to deliver a plastic package to him secretly, but got caught.  It contained drugs.  At trial, she testified that she didn't know about the drugs.  She thought it was just tobacco.  She said her husband instructed her to meet with a stranger, who would supply a package of tobacco.  She met with the stranger, and received a sealed package.  She never looked inside.

If she knew the package contained drugs, then she's guilty of trafficking.  There was no direct evidence of this knowledge.

The prosecutor carefully cross-examined her, to show that she was reckless: the package could have contained drugs, weapons or bombs.  She didn't know, and she didn't care.

The judge agreed with the prosecution: Schepannek's recklessness sufficed to establish sufficient knowledge for trafficking.

When investigating the mule who delivers the contraband, look for evidence of actual knowledge of the contents of the package.  But even if you don't get that, discover as much as you can about the circumstances by which the mule received and handled the package.

2012-10-20 Search & Seizure - Expectations of Privacy in Information - The Company Laptop

"Canadians may reasonably expect privacy in the information contained on their own personal computers.  In my view, the same applies to information on work computers, at least where personal use is permitted or reasonably expected." - Fish J., Supreme Court of Canada.

While doing routine maintenance, a computer technician at a school found a nude photo of an underage student on a school laptop.  The laptop belonged to the school, but Mr Cole, 2012 SCC 53, a teacher at the school, had exclusive use of it, and permission to store private information on it.  The school seized the computer, searched it, and copied child pornography from the computer onto separate disks.  They gave the computer and the disks to police.  Police copied the hard drive and searched it without getting a warrant.

Did Mr Cole enjoy any expectation of privacy over his computer as against the school?  Did the police violate his expectations of privacy?

Factors affecting the reasonableness of Cole's expectation of privacy

The school's written policy permitted personal use.

In practice, teachers used their laptops for personal purposes.

Computer was password-protected.

Cole kept pictures of his wife on the laptop.

The school's written policy asserted that it owned the computer and the data on it.

Remote access software permitted other school personnel to access the entire contents of the laptop.

Cole knew of this technical capability and used it himself on other laptops on the school network.

When the officer received the computer from the school, the officer did a sensible thing: he investigated the teacher's expectation of privacy. He read the policies affecting it.  Unfortunately, he thought that ownership of the laptop and data determined whether Cole enjoyed a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The court disagreed.  Ownership doesn't determine expectations of privacy.

That makes sense.  Your doctor owns your medical records, but their contents are private to you.

Although I think it was a close call, the court concluded that Mr Cole enjoyed a reduced expectation of privacy, but one which s.8 still protected.

The good sense of the investigating officer paid off.  Because he cared about Cole's expectations of privacy, and because he thought about privacy rights in the laptop, the court found it could admit the evidence in spite of the breach of s.8.  The prosecution will be able to tender all of the evidence against Mr Cole.

The take-home messages are

2012-10-20 Search & Seizure - Third Party Permission

Mr Cole, 2012 SCC 53 stored child pornography on a laptop he got from work.  When his employer found out, they took it from him, and gave it to police.  With the employer's permission, police searched the laptop.  Without a warrant.

The court found police violated his s.8 rights.  It held that when there's a reasonable expectation of privacy, nobody but the suspect can "consent" to a police search.  (paras 74-79)

This thoroughly surprised me.

Suppose a parent and child live in the parent's house.  Obviously, the child enjoys an expectation of privacy, even in the common areas of the house.  For example, if police suspect that the child is growing marijuana in the kitchen, police need a warrant to enter.

Suppose the child stabs the parent in a heated argument, and the parent goes to a hospital for treatment.  You visit the parent in hospital, and ask for permission to enter the house.  On its face, this ruling suggests that police can not rely on the parent's consent to enter the house and search the kitchen for evidence against the kid.  Even if the parent owns the house.

This seems quite wrong to me.  I am not sure how broadly future courts will interpret this passage. 

For sure, don't search office computers for personal information relying only on the consent of the business.  But be more wary of relying on one person's consent to snoop on another.

2012-10-16 Wiretap - Text Messages On Disposable Cell Phones

In order to avoid electronic surveillance, gangsters change cellphones often. Judges may grant wiretap authorisations which permit police to intercept private communications over "new" cellphones if the police have reasonable grounds to believe that the gangster is using the new phone.

If you listen for a few moments, you can identify the speaker in a telephone conversation. But you can't listen to a text message. How can you tell who sent it?

Police knew enough about Mr Doroslovac, 2012 ONCA 680 that they persuaded a judge to authorise interception of his private communications. The authorisation included a general term to intercept his communication on new devices.

Then a confidential source told police Mr D's new phone number. Officers doing surveillance saw him discard the instructions for a new phone. They included the new number.

Rather than applying for a new authorisation to intercept communications on this cellphone, police relied on general terms in the authorisation. They heard him using the phone. They intercepted text messages in which he planned a drug deal.

When the day came, police watched him sell 3 kg of cocaine. Afterwards, they arrested him.

At trial, defence complained that police could not identify the author of the text messages as Mr D. Therefore, the wiretap authorisation did not permit them to intercept those messages.

The trial judge agreed. The Court of Appeal did not. Because the officers saw and heard Mr D (and nobody else) speaking on the phone, it was reasonable for the officers to believe he authored the text messages.

Most importantly, the general provision in the authorisation specified that no live monitoring was required of "non-oral telecommunications".

This authorisation did not refer to "text messages". For those of you who draft wiretap applications, you may wish to include that phrase in future applications, along with language to authorise intercepting them from new known phones without live monitoring.

2012-10-11 Wiretap - Sharing the Fruits

It's an offence for anyone to intercept private communications using electronic technology. s.184  Except a judge may permit a peace officer to do it when investigating a serious offence; and peace officers can do it in dire emergencies.  If you lawfully intercept private communications, it's an offence to disclose those intercepted communications.  s.193(1).  Except for law enforcement purposes.  s.193(2).

Canadian officers intercepted Mr Wakeling 2012 BCCA 397 conspiring to ship drugs to the USA. Rather than prosecute him here, Canadian authorities shared information from the interceptions with US Customs officers, who intercepted the shipment: they found 46,000 ecstasy pills.  The Americans sought Mr Wakeling's extradition.

In Canada, resisting extradition, Wakeling complained that police should obtain judicial permission to share this information outside the country.  The court disagreed.

The rules for sharing wiretap across the border remain the same.  But let this remind you generally of the care you must take with evidence obtained by wiretap.  It's private.  Don't share it around except according to law. You should request assurances that the foreign investigators will maintain the privacy of the material.

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld this conclusion Wakeling 2014 SCC 72.

2012-10-11 Sex with HIV - When to Tell your Partner

Mr Mabior, 2012 SCC 47 and Ms D.C., 2012 SCC 48 carried the HIV virus.  Each engaged in sex without telling his or her partner.  Both got charged with aggravated sexual assault, because of the risk of transmitting the virus.  The SCC decided only one should be convicted.

Mr Mabior ran a party house.  He seduced the young women who got drunk there.  Although he was getting treatment, he told none of them about his disease, and lied to one of them about it.  Sometimes he used condoms; sometimes he didn't.  When he did, sometimes they broke.  None of the women got the disease.

Ms D.C. also knew of her disease, and got treatment.  At the beginning of Ms. D.C.'s relationship with a new boyfriend, she had sex with him once without telling him about her HIV.  They used a condom.  Then she told him.  The continued to have sex.  He assaulted her.  She complained.  He was charged and convicted of assault.  Then he complained about her failing to tell him about her HIV.  She was charged with aggravated sexual assault.  He never got the disease.

In R. v. Cuerrier, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 371, the court said a person would be guilty of sexual assault from non-disclosure of HIV status if there was a "significant risk of serious bodily harm".  The odds of transmission of HIV from a single act of intercourse is usually below 1%.  Is that a "significant risk"?

The court concluded:

"... a person may be found guilty of aggravated sexual assault under s. 273 of the Criminal Code if he fails to disclose HIV-positive status before intercourse and there is a realistic possibility that HIV will be transmitted.  If the HIV-positive person has a low viral count as a result of treatment and there is condom protection, the threshold of a realistic possibility of transmission is not met, on the evidence before us."

Mr Mabior's viral load was low; Ms D.C.'s was undetectable. The court held Mr Mabior to account for the times that he failed to use condoms.  Because Ms D.C. used a condom, she was acquitted.  If either had high viral loads, they would have been convicted even for the times they used condoms.

Therefore, when you receive a complaint of an HIV positive person engaging in sexual intercourse without telling their partner of the disease, you want clear evidence about:

2012-10-11 2012-10-11 Credibility of Complaints of Sexual Assault during Marital Breakdown

During divorce proceedings, emotions run high.  Some litigants make false allegations against each other, particularly when disputing custody and access.  When one side alleges sexual misconduct by the other, we often discount the claim because of the context.

Mr R.W., 2012 ONCA 682 had a child with his girlfriend, but the relationship broke down.  They litigated custody and access.  After he visited the child at her place, he persuaded her to let him stay the night.  Afterwards, she said he raped her; he said it was consensual.

Some objective evidence supported her story: she suffered injuries to her mouth.  But she also wrote a note which appeared to express affection for him.  She explained away the note at trial, and the judge accepted the explanation.

She also consented to a custody order in his favour shortly afterwards.  This contradicted the suggestion that she made the rape allegation in order to improve her position in court.

The trial judge convicted him, and the appeal court agreed.  Her reasonable conduct in the custody litigation made the difference.

Of the many complaints of sexual misconduct during marital separation, some are true.  Some men under relationship stress will use force to control the sexuality of others.  It isn't fair to the victims to dismiss every complaint because they're fighting for their children.  Nor is it fair to the suspects to believe every complaint.

Look for independent evidence which helps answer the issues.  In this case, someone found it in the proceedings in Family Court.

2012-10-04 PIPEDA requests to Internet Providers

Police received information that an IP address in Canada accessed child pornography.  It belonged to Bell Canada's block of IP addresses, so police asked Bell Canada, pursuant to PIPEDA, which subscriber used that IP address at the time.

Bell Canada's subscriber contract prohibited users from accessing child pornography on the internet; and their privacy policy said they would cooperate with police.  So they identified the subscriber, Mr Ward, 2012 ONCA 660.  That gave police enough information to get search warrants, which uncovered thousands of images and videos of child pornography.  The trial judge convicted Mr Ward of accessing and possessing child pornography.

Mr Ward complained that the police violated his expectations of privacy by making this request.  The court disagreed.  It looks like PIPEDA requests for subscriber information from Internet Providers will generally fly in Canada.  But that doesn't mean all PIPEDA requests will survive s.8 of the Charter.

I found this case interesting because it raises a deep question.  "When is it okay to ask a third party for information about a suspect?"  Long ago, in a case called Dersch, the SCC established that police can violate s.8 simply by asking third parties for information.  In that case, police asked a doctor for the blood-alcohol level of a driver who was being treated at a hospital after crashing a car.  The doctor looked into the private medical records of the patient, and gave an answer.  The court excluded that evidence because the police request violated a reasonable expectation of privacy.

In this case, police asked for something rather less personal, and the court said it was okay.  But officers ask third parties (witnesses) for information about suspects all the time.  I'm not sure where the dividing line falls between lawful and unlawful requests.

2012-09-30 Residential Arrest - Feeney Warrants

After a lengthy investigation, police swore charges against Mr Alcantara, 2012 ABQB 341 and Mr Knapczyk of trafficking, conspiracy and doing so for the benefit of a criminal organization.  The justice issued warrants for their arrest.

The officers prepared for trouble.  They brought emergency response teams to the houses of these two fellows.  Officers knocked on their doors, they answered, and the officers stepped inside to arrest them.

Inside each residence, the officers could see clothing bearing Hells Angels colours.  This came as no surprise to the officers, who seized them incidental to arrest.  Each item of clothing contained documents linking the suspects to criminal organizations. 

At trial, the defendants complained that the officers had no authority to enter their residences, because they had not obtained "Feeney" warrants (s.529).

The judge agreed, and excluded the jackets as evidence.

A warrant of arrest gets you into many places, but not a residence.  Ask a justice for permission to enter a residence to arrest someone.

2012-09-29 Voice Identification - Voice Lineup?

Someone wearing a balaclava robbed a clerk at a convenience store.  Was it Mr Clouthier, 2012 ONCA 636?  The clerk said that she would recognize his voice if she heard it again.  While one officer interviewed Mr Clothier, another officer allowed the clerk to listen in.  She said she recognized his voice.

The trial judge thought this evidence had some value.  The appeal court didn't.

Suppose you show a single photograph to an eyewitness and ask "is this the felon?"  She might say "yes".  But you may cause the witness to remember the face on the photograph instead of the face of the culprit.  A lineup of one tests recognition very badly.

In Cloutier's case, because the clerk heard a live feed, I doubt that the court heard a recording of what the clerk heard.  I imagine she might have heard conversation like this:

Q: You are under arrest for robbing Mac's Milk yesterday evening.  Do you understand?
A: Yes.  But I didn't do it....

Hearing the accusation might persuade the witness to "recognize" the voice, even if police got the wrong person.

The appeal court suggested that voice identification should require procedures similar to photo lineups.  You should play many clips, and see if the witness recognizes any voices in them.

You probably have dozens or hundreds of recordings of suspects talking with officers from which to take clips.  If you do try this investigative technique, I suggest:

2012-09-29 DNA - Testing a Village

Someone raped and murdered a 13-year-old girl in the town of Zeballos, on Vancouver Island.  Lacking clear leads, police asked men in the community for DNA samples, to clear them.  Like many men in this small town, 21-year-old George Osmond 2012 BCCA 382 signed a consent form which he police drafted, and agreed to give DNA.  His matched the sperm found at the scene, mixed with her blood.

After his conviction, he complained that testing everyone's DNA was random virtue testing, and should not be allowed.

The court disagreed.  Although expensive, this technique remains constitutional.  If you're considering doing it, read the decision to see what procedures these officers used to get valid consent from the men whose DNA they tested.

2012-09-28 Informer Privilege - Messier than it first appears

For years, Roy Sundstrom, 2012 BCCA 385 and his common-law wife grew marijuana in a sophisticated operation at their residence.  She wanted out of the relationship, but couldn't find a way to tell him.  So she ratted him out, on condition that police not identify her as an informant.  They got a warrant, but carefully redacted the ITO, so as to conceal her identity.  Police told her when they'd execute the warrant; she made sure she left the house that day.

The search turned up evidence showing that both he and she were responsible for the plants.

If the Crown charged only him, it might indicate that she was the source.  She was charged too.  Police never told the prosecutor that she was the source.

Sundstrom and she hired the same lawyer.  Nobody told that lawyer she was the source.  Because she was, the lawyer was actually acting in a conflict of interest.

Eventually, Mr Sundstrom pleaded guilty, on condition that the prosecution drop the charges against his common-law wife.  Crown agreed.  She left him.  Later, she wrote him a letter confessing her role in the investigation.

This upset Mr Sundstrom.  He figured he'd been shafted.  He appealed, seeking to withdraw his guilty plea.

He had been shafted.  But not by the state.  The police and the Crown had an obligation to keep the identity of the source secret.  Innocence was not at stake.  The guilty plea stood.

The lesson here is that your promise not to reveal identity of a source creates weird and unpredictable duties.  ("In order to protect you, I'm going to let the Crown charge you with production.")  The court recognizes those duties.  Sometimes, the source goes public.  Until they do, you have a heavy obligation to protect the source's identity from discovery.  When the source goes public, your actions will undergo scrutiny.

Therefore, take care to understand what your duties are when receiving informer information: reveal nothing which tends to identify your source.  Be clear with the source what that means.  In this case, it meant that the prosecutor didn't know her role in the case, and laid charges on her.  Even if the prosecutor had known her role, laying charges on her might be the best protection of her identity.

2012-09-25 Expectations of Privacy when Leaving Canada

Ms Nagle 2012 BCCA 373 attempted to smuggle just over a kilo of meth to Japan.  On her way out, a border services officer questioned her about her travel plans, and how much money she was taking out of the country.  Her answers caused him to suspect she was moving drugs.  He detained her, gave her access to counsel, and removed her luggage from the plane.  X-rays discovered the drugs.

At trial, she suggested that privacy expectations differ between international travellers arriving in Canada and those leaving.  The ones arriving could bring in contraband which poses risks to Canadians.  The ones leaving don't.  The trial judge agreed, and exluded the evidence.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial.  Canada has international obligations to stop money laundering and terrorists.  Therefore, travellers can expect our border security officials to screen travellers whether entering or leaving Canada.

The decision also discusses what is and isn't a detention in the context of border security.  Travellers can expect interference with liberty and privacy when crossing borders, and therefore border security officials can stop and question travellers in ways that would not be acceptable for police officers on the streets.

2012-09-23 Right to Counsel

Police arrested Mr K.W.J., 2012 NWTCA 3 for sexual assault.  They found him at Kakisa, NWT, which is south of the Great Slave Lake, about 100km from the nearest police station.  He wanted to talk with a lawyer.

On the drive to Hay River, the officers wisely refrained from talking about anything.

When they got to the police station, Mr K.W.J. asked to call his wife.  The officers refused.  He then asked to talk to duty counsel.  After that conversation, he confessed.

At trial, Mr K.W.J. complained that the reason for wanting to call his wife was because he thought she knew the name of the right lawyer to call.  The trial judge found that the officers should have let him call her.  Because they didn't, the trial judge found that they breached his rights, and excluded the confession.  He beat the charge.

The appeal court saw it differently: police are not required to read minds.  Because Mr K.W.J. failed to explain that calling his wife would help him find a lawyer, the police didn't have to let him call her.

The learning points from this case are simple ones:

  1. If you arrest or detain someone, don't ask questions about the offence until you have explained the right to counsel, and the suspect exercises the right, or declines to call a lawyer.
  2. If the suspect wants to call relatives or friends to get the name or phone number of the lawyer of their choice let them.  (But those calls are not privileged.  Make it clear you will listen.)

2012-09-13 Proving Possession of Digital Information

Mr Caza 2012 BCSC 627 lived alone. Foreign police investigations discovered that the Internet connection in his apartment had been distributing child pornography on a file-sharing site. Canadian police got a warrant. In his apartment, but separate from his computer, they found a hard drive full of child pornography configured to share, and multitudes of chats about sharing the stuff. Who was responsible for putting it there, and sharing it to the world?

Proving who is responsible for digital information stored in a hard drive isn't easy. These officers took no chances: this guy had a history of sexual offences.  They relied not only on forensic examination inside the box, but also basic investigation outside the box.

Inside the box

Did some malicious hacker take over his computer? The forensic examiners looked for malware, but found none.

Did anything inside the hard drive link to Mr Caza? It contained a video showing the inside of his apartment, narrated in his voice. There were photographs of children playing in the snow in the school outside his apartment, taken with a camera they found in the apartment.

The was also digital evidence that when police arrived to execute their search warrant, someone had pulled the computer's power cord from the wall.  Mr Caza was alone in the apartment when they arrived.

Outside the box

Someone had removed the serial number from the outside of the hard drive. Fortunately, the serial number was encoded digitally inside. Forensic examination discovered this number. Police tracked the drive to the store which sold it. The salesman remembered selling it to Mr Caza.

The name of the subscriber for Mr Caza's Internet service was Mr Feltham. Police found Mr Feltham, and learned that he had lived with Mr K for a short time. Who paid the Internet bill?  Police enquired with the Internet provider. After Mr Feltham moved out, their bills were paid by anonymous postal money orders.

Who else used Mr Caza's computer? Police interviewed the landlord and tenants in his apartment block.  Some people used his computer for short periods of time; only the landlord used it regularly. By luck, circumstantial evidence established that the landlord wouldn't have put child pornography on the drive.


The judge convicted Mr Caza.

I summarized the judge's summary of this investigation.  I suspect that these officers investigated much more.  They were wise to do so.

Even if you can prove that your suspect had physical control over a digital device such as a memory stick or hard drive, you need more evidence to prove who loaded it with the data of interest.  Look inside, to find evidence which identifies the users by content and date-stamp, and to eliminate the prospect of a malicious hacker.  Investigate outside the device, to identify (and eliminate) people who accessed the device.

2012-09-11 Articulating Grounds on the basis of Experience

Two police officers in a marked police car drove through a bad part of town.

The driver saw Mr Brown, 2012 ONCA 225 extend his closed hand toward another pedestrian.  The second guy, who was facing toward the police car, ignored Mr Brown, but walked away.  Mr Brown turned around, then walked away fast.  The police officer figured that the first guy was delivering drugs, but the second guy saw the marked police car, and therefore abandoned the transaction.  When Mr Brown turned, he must have seen the police car, and fled.

The police officer in the passenger seat saw none of this.

None-the-less, the officers arrested the first guy, took his drugs, and charged him.

At trial, and on appeal, defence complained that the first officer lacked reasonable grounds to arrest.  The Court of Appeal agreed. They observed:

"[The first officer] testified that the way the appellant held his hand led him to believe that the appellant was concealing drugs in his hand.  He also indicated that his belief that a drug transaction was ongoing was based in part on his "experience of seeing hand-to-hand transactions in the past and arresting people based on that”.  Officer Manafo did not particularize how it was that his prior experience led to this conclusion."

I can't assign blame for this failure.  Perhaps the prosecutor should have asked the officer more questions about those previous experiences - remembering to ask can be difficult.  Perhaps the officer lacked language to explain - many officers find it difficult to explain why these little observations mean so much.

If the question is "did you have grounds?" then every time you rely on your experience to interpret an observation, you need to spell out what those experiences were.

2012-09-09 Prisoner Telephone Calls

While serving time at the Edmonton Remand Centre, Mr Drader, 2012 ABQB 168, an experienced identity thief, continued to work his trade.  He had with him a collection of personal information.  Over the telephone, he directed associates on the outside to take the necessary steps to make fraudulent purchases using his valuable collection of identities.

An informant ratted him out.

Detective Gauthier knew Mr Trader's propensities, and when he heard what the informant said, he enlisted the help of the senior officials at the jail. He explained what he knew, and asked them to confirm whether Mr Drader was doing this.

Albertan jails record the telephone conversations of inmates, but legislation prevents staff from listening unless a specific senior official has reasonable grounds to believe that the inmate is up to mischief.

Unfortunately, the right guy was away when Det. Gauthier contacted the Centre.  Someone above him permitted staff to listen to the recorded telephone call.

The recordings were damning: Drader had instructed various young girls about which identities to use, and how.

Prison officials then told Gauthier what they heard.  Gauthier got a warrant for the recordings, and charges were laid.

Defence complained that the legislation which permits these recordings breached the privacy rights of prisoners.  The judge disagreed:  prisoner's privacy is almost an oxymoron.

Defence complained that the wrong official gave the permission to review the recordings.  The judge agreed.  This was a s.8 breach.  But Det. Gauthier had delivered good information to the Centre, and an even more senior official gave permission to listen to the recordings.  This was a technical error.  Evidence admitted.

Dedicated criminals don't stop committing crime after the arrest.  Some use telephones to influence witnesses or frighten victims.  Others extort people for money.  Institutional recording systems exist to prevent that abuse.  But institutional officials don't always know which telephone calls matter.  You can give them grounds.

I've long been interested in this topic, so I wrote a web page on it.  As remand and correctional centres increasingly use this technology throughout Canada, you will increasingly want access to the recordings they contain.

My experience is with B.C.' system.  Do any of you know the policies and procedures involved in getting intercepted telephone calls from prisons in other provinces?  I would be grateful for an email from the folks who know the answers.

2012-08-31 Confessions - Voluntariness - Interviewing skills

When questioning Mr Pappas, 2012 ABCA 221, about the shooting death of his "friend", Detective Brydges sat close to him, touched his knee with his hand, and poked his leg to get his attention.  When Mr Pappas said he would answer no more questions, Detective Brydges kept talking, describing the evidence the police had gathered so far, and exaggerating its quality. He then accused Pappas of executing his friend, and stealing his money and his car.  "What could of possibly possessed you to do that?” he asked.

Pappas hesitated, then explained.

The "friend" had been extorting money from him for approximately 18 months by threatening to reveal details about his offshore investments to the Canada Revenue Agency.  The "friend" threatened to hurt his mother if he stopped paying, or went to the police.  Pappas took a gun to confront him, and shot him after the "friend" made a veiled threat against his mother.

A jury found him guilty of murder.

At the appeal, defence complained that the officer "assaulted" Mr Pappas during the interview by touching him. They argued that the persistent questioning deprived Mr Pappas of any choice whether to answer. They said the officer lied about the evidence.

These arguments failed, but only because

To prepare Mr Pappas for this interview, police gave him full opportunity to get legal advice; they gave him food and access to a washroom. These help the judge come to the conclusion that the officer's efforts to persuade were balanced against the suspect's ability to decline to speak.

Detective Brydges is an expert interviewer who pushed close to the line. Beware of exaggerating evidence.  Don't intimidate a suspect with unwanted physical contact. Never force a vulnerable person into confessing.

But learn from his skills in persuasion. Take care of the suspect's needs. Give access to legal advice when requested. After that, ask for an explanation of the offence. Don't give up just because the suspect decides not to answer a question.  It doesn't matter whether you are investigating murder or shoplifting.  An investigator should ask the suspect for an explanation.

2012-08-22 Search and Seizure of Cell Phones Incidental to Arrest

A British Columbia trial judge decided that searching cellphones seized during arrest may be done without warrant. However, he identified limits to this power: you may search only for evidence of the offence for which you arrested. You may search the cellphone only if you have reason to believe that it was likely employed in the commission of the offence, and there is a reasonable prospect that it will contain evidence of the offence. If you cannot limit your search to relevant information, the search may violate s.8. R. v. Mann, 2012 BCSC 1247.  See particularly para 66.

In British Columbia, this breathes new life into R. v. Giles.

It comes with a limitation. After you seize a smart phone, you should limit your examination of the data to those areas which you can justify as "likely relevant" to the offence.  Even if you copy the contents, you should limit your examination of the copy to the bits which are relevant.

In Ontario, officers still require good reason to scan any of the contents of a cellphone without a warrant.

See this discussion.

2012-08-21 Possession of Things in a Car - Having and Knowing

Police found "a substantial quantity" of cocaine under the steering column of a rented vehicle operated by Mr Lincoln, 2012 ONCA 542.  In his wallet were $800.  The trial judge convicted him of possession, on the basis that the driver is guilty of possessing anything in his car, unless the driver explains why he didn't know it was there.

The appeal court ordered a new trial.  The trial judge's reasoning got it backwards.  The prosecution must prove he knew; the defendant has no obligation to explain anything.

For a conviction of "possession" of anything illegal, the prosecution must prove (beyond a reasonable doubt):

Obviously, Mr Lincoln had control of the car and its contents.  But did he know about the cocaine?

There are reasons to believe he did:

But there are possible innocent explanations:

When you investigate, it's perfectly appropriate (after offering and arranging access to counsel if desired) to ask the suspect to explain the drugs in his car.  But he enjoys a right to remain silent: his failure or refusal to answer isn't evidence of knowledge.  To charge him, you still need strong evidence to show that he must have known it was there.

2012-08-19 "Belt and Suspenders Prosecution" - Why the Crown wants a Perfect Case

Sometimes, prosecutors seem like cowards.  Sometimes, police gather pretty good evidence of a guy's guilt, but the Crown declines to proceed.

Why?  Because the burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt".  Because trials are expensive.  We don't like wasting public money on weak cases.

Here's a case which illustrates how easily things can go wrong, and how good investigation saved the day.

In 1990, someone murdered Cindy Burk.  Weeks after she disappeared, some people in northern B.C. found her.  Her naked body lay, face up, covered in sticks and branches, about 300m from the Old Alaska Highway.  Jewellery she recently stole lay scattered about the area.  Someone had cut her throat, causing her to bleed out.  Forensic pathologists found semen in her vagina.

The DNA matched Mr Felker, 2012 BCCA 346.  Was that enough to prosecute him?

In 2006, police launched an undercover operation, which led to Mr Felker describing the offence.  Except his description didn't match completely.  He denied having sex with her.  He claimed to have strangled her to death.  But he did identify the place where he took the body.  Overall, this evidence made the case much stronger.

The jury convicted.

At the end of the trial, the judge made a mistake when instructing the jury.  It was an easy mistake to make, and many judges have made this mistake before.  It only took 15 words to say.  But usually, appeal courts order a retrial when this one comes up.  And that's horribly expensive.

Instead, this appeal court upheld the conviction, but only because the evidence was so strong.  The match of forensic evidence from the scene to the confession after the fact provided too many reasons to believe in his guilt.

I prefer proving the key points in the case at least two different ways.  A senior prosecutor, Darrell Prevett, Q.C., called it the "belt and suspenders" approach: even if one support fails, the trousers stay up.  Even if one way of proving guilt fails, the trial results in conviction.

Getting extra evidence costs more in the short term.  But when you deliver compelling evidence: