More and more legal knowledge is expected of officers investigating crime.  I offer here some thoughts on criminal law.  I hope they help.

These are my opinions only, not those of any government agency.  Please do not view them as a substitute for legal advice. If you find errors or have suggestions, please email me.

- Henry Waldock


New Law

2022.07.02 When is the Case Over?

In 2010, a court found that Mr Bailey, 2022 ONCA 507 did, indeed rob and assault his victim, causing bodily harm. His lawyer asked the judge to find him "not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder". The judge (and prosecution) agreed.

For the next decade he stayed in hospitals and supervised placements in the community.

And after a decade, he applied to appeal his conviction.

The court let him.  If there's a retrial, it's going to be a difficult one to run.

When you're clearing out your exhibit locker after a big case, it might be worth taking a few photographs of the exhibits before you throw them out or return them. Especially if the defendant was found guilty.

2022.07.02 Interviewing Vulnerable Suspects - Voluntariness

Mr Hosack, 2022 BCCA 226 suffered from mental illness when he killed Mr Falardeau. Mr Hosack continued to suffer mental illness when police interviewed him about the homicide.

He asserted his right to silence. Police kept interviewing him. He denied killing Falardeau. Police kept interviewing him.

For 12 hours.

Many hours into the interview, Mr Hosack adopted a weird "grandfather persona". This persona admitted ordering the killing.

The trial judge admitted Mr Hosack's statement into evidence. It, and other evidence led the trial judge find him guilty of murder.

On appeal, Mr Hosack's lawyers argued:

These arguments all failed.

The cognitive abilities sufficient to give a voluntary statement are modest. The evidence need only show that the suspect knew he was speaking with police, that what he says could be used in evidence, and that he exercised his on choice in deciding whether to speak. You may find some value in reviewing the trial judge's review of the interview.

These officers video-recorded their interactions with Mr Hosack. The recordings show that they treated Mr Hosack gently and kindly. His responses to them through showed that he understood what was going on.

The officers did overstate the strength of the evidence they had gathered. That can lead to difficulties if your lies force the suspect into confessing. That didn't happen in this case.

The officers did, however, "gate" him. He was about to be released from jail after serving a sentence on an unrelated matter. Police arrested him for the murder. Defence argued that doing so would dash Mr Hosack's hopes of liberty; this would serve as a psychological hammer to break him down.

The optics of gating suspect are ugly. Avoid proceeding in this manner if you can.

If he was insane, how could he be convicted of murder?

Sanity isn't binary. People who hold delusional beliefs on one topic can simultaneously think rationally on other topics. For example, you likely know people who hold delusional beliefs about COVID, politics or the flatness of the earth. The evidence did not show that mental illness rendered him unaware of the legal and moral wrongness of the killing.

The best-trained officers in interviewing did this interview.  General duty officers don't usually have that much training. These officers took 12 hours to interview Mr Hosack. General duty officers rarely get an hour to talk to the suspect.

Even still, I suggest that general duty officers read the trial judge's review for ideas on how to conduct their own interviews.  Even if you spend only half an hour explaining what you know about the case, you may collect crucial evidence.  Even if you don't get a confession, the defendant may admit background facts which will provide important at trial.

2022.06.26 "Can I have my cell phone" - Right to Counsel

In a routine impaired driving investigation, an officer arrested Ms Cyr-Desbois, 2021 QCCA 305, and took her to the police station.

When told she could call any lawyer she wanted, Ms Cyr-Desbois told the officer that she wanted her cell phone so that she could call her dad, and ask him for name and contact information of the lawyer that her family trusted.

The officer refused to let her have her phone, and did not let her call her father;  but she got to speak with duty counsel.

At trial and appeal, the judges agreed with her complaint: access to duty counsel wasn't good enough. She knew of a lawyer she would trust. Police should have tried to help her reach that lawyer.

In this case, that should have involved calling her dad, or letting her access her cell phone

2022.06.23 Cops Need to Prove Identity

People can make mistakes about identification of strangers. For that reason, judges view with some suspicion the word of an eyewitness "that man over there is the man I saw 2 years ago when the crime occurred."

What evidence should you gather so that you can prove that the person who turns up in court year(s) later is the person you caught committing a crime?

An undercover officer purchased drugs three times, and arranged to purchase them a fourth time. Police arrested Mr Baksh, 2022 ONCA 481 on the fourth occasion.

At trial, the undercover officer claimed to recognize Mr Baksh as the guy he dealt with on the previous three occasions.

Defence argued that the officer's brief interactions, so long ago, raised a risk that the officer might be wrong about who he dealt with.

If in-court recognition were the only evidence of identification, the judge would have acquitted.

But the officer's cell phone communicated with the same cell phone each time. The person he communicated with each time continued a conversation that started with the first call. Other officers tracked a car that the dealer used to the defendant's mother's house.

For police officers, taking photos of the suspect (and looking at them before you testify) really helps you explain how you recognize the person in the court room. If you can't get photographs, then consider what other evidence you can gather that answers the question "how will we prove that the person who comes to court a year from now is the same person we investigated today?"

2022.06.05 Bilingual Justice System - First and Second Choices

In Canada, people facing criminal charges have a right to a trial in either French or English ... or both. But they don't have a right to play games with the justice system over this right.

In British Columbia, the idea of a bilingual nation can seem theoretical. Of uniliingual people here, the vast majority speak Asian languages. Bilingualism in French and English is fairly rare.

But French remains the other official language of Canada. In an Anglophone province, this should affect your practice when arresting and releasing bilingual Francophones for court.

A junior cop arrested Mr Tayo Tompouba, 2022 BCCA 177 for a sexual assault. In English, she told him about his right to counsel.

He could speak Engish and French.

So could her supervisor.

But everyone spoke English, because that's convenient in B.C..

After getting legal advice (in English), Mr Tato Tompouba confessed to the police officer that he did sexual acts to the complainant while she slept.

An officer released Mr Tayo Tompouba on a Promise to Appear, which he signed.

He went to court, as he had promised.

The justice addressed him only in English.

Section 530 of the Criminal Code required the justice of the peace to tell him that he could have a trial in French if he wanted.

But she forgot.

He had an English trial.

After his conviction, Mr Tayo Tompouba wanted a do-over. In French, this time. (Maybe he thought he sounded more innocent in that language.) He appealed, complaining that the justice failed to tell him about his right to a French trial.

You might not find the Court of Appeal's analysis of language rights at trial interesting, but you should be heartened to learn that the investigators helped salvage the case.

They used a standard form for the Promise to Appear.  It contained a notice - in both official languages - informing Mr Tayo Tompouba that he could choose his language of trial.

At the appeal, the Crown argued: "Sure, the justice forgot to tell him about his choices. But the cop did. Mr Tayo Tompouba actually knew what choices he had. The minor error that the justice made means nothing."

Legally, this form didn't cure the mistake that the justice made. But it helped the court of appeal come to the conclusion that the justice system treated Mr Tayo Tompouba fairly. His conviction stuck.

This case reminds us all that in a justice system, every defendant needs to be able to communicate effectively. Get interpreters for folks who need them. But in Canada, French and English are special. Even if the defendant can communicate effectively in one language, s/he choose to use the other.

This case makes us think about pre-printed forms. I don't them very much. Filling the blanks is so boring that many people ignore what the forms say. When you stop thinking about what the document actually says, you may use it for the wrong purpose, and things will go wrong.

But when well-drafted and used properly, forms can save the day.

Now that you know why Promises to Appear should refer to the choice of language of trial, you might want to check to see whether your office still uses bilingual forms which mention the defendant's right to trial in either official language.

2022.06.05 Note-Takers - First and Second Choices

When the recruit arrested Mr Tayo Tompouba, 2022 BCCA 177, she told him about his right to counsel and wrote some notes about it in her notebook. Her supervisor watched, but didn't write the prisoner's answers in his notebook.

The recruit died before trial.

As noted above, the prisoner made a damning confession. But the Crown could not use it at trial unless it could prove that the police told the prisoner about his right to counsel.

So they asked the supervisor to explain what happened.

Not easy if you don't have notes. He didn't remember.

The prosecutors relied on the recruit's notebook and some clever legal arguments. They managed to satisfy the trial judge and the court of appeal. Complicated legal arguments don't always work. Evidence usually works better.

Whether you are supervising, or just providing back-up to another officer, if you watch significant events in the investigation, take some notes.

2022.05.29 Charges Aren't Convictions - Warrant Drafting

I often cross-examine defendants about their criminal records. I am allowed to ask them whether they were "convicted" of the offences on their record. They often agree that they were "charged".

But in a court room, there is a big difference between "charged" and "convicted". "Charged" happens when a peace officer swears that there are reasonable grounds to believe that someone committed a crime. "Convicted" happens when the suspect pleads guilty, or when the judge, having heard sworn testimony concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect did the crime.

Many criminals don't know the difference. But judges care about the difference. Judges (and prosecutors) do a great deal of work moving from "charged" to "convicted". When you equate the two, you treat the judges' work as if it doesn't matter.

Pissing off the judge does not help the case.

Mr Abdoulkader, 2022 ONCA 354 attempted two bank robberies, and at one, he got away with lots of cash.

This wasn't new. He previously faced charges of attempted robbery and robbery. Of banks.

When investigation of the latest ones led police to Mr Abdoulkader, they applied for warrants for his house and cell phone.

In the ITO, the officer who applied told the justice that Mr Abdoulkader had previously been convicted for similar robberies.

Well, he had been convicted for a similar attempted robbery. But only once.

A justice granted the warrants. Executing the warrants recovered $222,000, and useful evidence.

Mr Abdoulkader was charged. At trial, his lawyer complained that the ITO contained false information. The judges agreed.

But there was so much other evidence justifying the issuance of the warrant that the judges dismissed his complaint. Mr Abdoulkader was convicted, and he lost his appeal.

For the last 20 years, I've seen cases discussing this error more times than I can count. It seems that police officers keep making the same mistake. Next time you draft an ITO, try to avoid annoying the judges:

2022.05.17 The Intoxication Defence - A Duty to Warn


A crime occurs when someone intentionally does something prohibited by law.

After a guy drinks so much that he does not know what he is doing, can it really be said that he "intentionally" did anything? Can extreme intoxication excuse every evil act?

In May, 1989, Mr Daviault [1994] 3 SCR 63 got real drunk and sexually assaulted a friend of his wife. In his defence, an expert testified that his intoxication deprived him of any understanding of what he was doing. He couldn't have acted intentionally.

The trial judge convicted him. The Supreme Court of Canada liked the argument and ordered a new trial.

Today, the science suggests that alcohol can not create an ability to act without knowing what you're doing. But drugs can.

The idea that a guy beat the charges by saying "I was too drunk at the time to know what I was doing" annoyed a lot of people. Parliament responded by enacting s.33.1 of the Criminal Code which eliminated voluntary intoxication as a defence to a crime of violence.

Mr Brown, 2022 SCC 18 got high on a combination of alcohol and magic mushrooms. In a psychotic state, he attacked a stranger, causing terrible injuries. His lawyer complained that s.33.1 offended his Charter rights by allowing him to be convicted of a crime when he never intended to do the harmful prohibited thing (assault).

The judges agreed: he didn't know - at the time that he got high - that he would hurt anyone; and when he did hurt someone, he was too intoxicated to intend to do anything wrong.  Therefore, he didn't intentionally do any prohibited act that hurt anyone. Therefore, it would be wrong to say that he committed an assault.

Mr Sullivan and Mr Chan, 2022 SCC 19 made similar successful arguments. Mr Chan also mixed alcohol and magic mushrooms, which may have aggravated a pre-existing brain injury. After several irrational acts, he stabbed and killed his dad. When Mr Sullivan overdosed on a prescription medication, he attacked his mom with a knife, but didn't kill her.

Note that this analysis only applies to extreme intoxication, where the defendant is a walking automaton. If the offender still has some general idea of what he is doing, then he may be held liable for most offences of violence.

What Parliament Can Do

The judges recognized that Canadians want to hold the extremely intoxicated people accountable for the harm they do. The judges suggested two ways to do it:

  1. Create a stand-alone offence of intoxicating oneself excessively; or
  2. Create a criminal negligence offence of intoxicating oneself when one knows that doing so creates a dangerous risk of criminal behaviour that one cannot control, and then committing a criminal offence.

If Parliament creates only the second type of offence, the next "Mr Brown" would escape liability. Mr Brown testified that he had tried magic mushrooms before. According to him, they gave a "fuzzy but positive feeling". But no homicidal madness. Because he had no reason to expect to behave so badly after consuming 'shrooms, he was not criminally negligent when he consumed them.

Even if Parliament creates both types of offences, some evildoers will escape liability by surprising the Crown with this defence.

Suppose, for example, that excellent security video records a killing. The investigation locates no evidence of intoxication. The only charge that the evidence supports would be murder.  Suppose, at trial, the defendant testifies that he bought and used magic mushrooms shorty before the killing, which put him into a psychotic state. If believed, this evidence now provides a complete defence to the murder charge. And the killer would escape conviction for the other offences because they were not charged.

Therefore, Parliamentarians would be wise to add a section that defines these offences as "included" offences for offences that include violence, property damage, or risk to life.

Parliament might also do well to include a presumption that everyone knows that illegal drugs inspire dangerous behaviour.

The combination of mental disorder and intoxicants complicates the analysis some more. As does the thorny problem of addiction. The analysts in Ottawa have some work to do.

What police can do

If you investigate a case of highly intoxicated violence, you might want to investigate the defendant's past incidents of intoxication.  Did he know what would happen if he used? If it looks like he might beat the violence charges on the basis of extreme intoxication, can the Crown prove that he was criminally negligent?

Users of intoxicants need to know how dangerous they become when they use. If they know, and still use, then they're criminally negligent.

Therefore, if Johnny goes crazy on drugs, then when he regains sobriety, you should:

  1. tell him clearly what did,
  2. try to find out what he was using, and
  3. document what you learned and what you told him.

If he uses the same drug again, he may be held criminally negligent for the harm he causes. But only because the prosecutor can prove that Johnny knew how dangerous he would become when he used.

2022.05.17 What Digital Logs can Tell You (If you Look)

What did Mr Grandine, 2022 ONCA 368 know about the effects of lorazepam, and when did he know it?

The answers to these questions helped answer a bigger question: was he criminally responsible for his wife's overdose?

During their relationship, his wife did not like his habit of viewing pornography online. As part of ongoing counselling, they installed software on a shared computer which filtered his access to porn and reported to her account what his account had been doing.

His wife did not like his infidelity either. He promised to end his affair with Ms Florentino, a woman from the church.

Searches of his electronic devices suggest that he broke both promises.

Mr Grandine told police that on the night that she died, he left the house around 9:45pm, for a run. He returned an hour later.


He then called 911 to report that his wife drowned in the bathtub.

Her body contained too much lorazepam.

Did she commit suicide by taking lorazepam?

Someone in her house took great interest in lorazepam. Searches done on their shared computer showed queries on where to buy lorazepam without a prescription, how much would be a fatal dose, and whether it or other drugs would be detected in an autopsy.

In the days before she died:

The searches for sex-related websites occurred within minutes of searches relating to Lorazepam. From this pattern of usage, one can reasonably infer who took such an interest in lorazepam.

But there's more. When emergency personnel arrived after the 911 call, they found Ms Grandine still in the tub. Mr Grandine had not even pulled out the plug to drain the water. Are your suspicions aroused? Yeah, mine too.

The Court of Appeal decision addresses no points of law relevant to police work.

But it does illustrate what you can learn from electronic devices if you search broadly, and how much more you can learn when you create a time line which shows that data in relation to the other evidence.

Doubtless, the investigators needed a search warrant to authorize such broad searching. I don't know how the investigators justified the broad searches that they did.

Recall that an application for a search warrant must explain what relevant evidence the applicant expects will be found in the device to be searched. When a justice grants the search, the searcher must focus the analysis on the data identified in the warrant.

You won't find that data if you don't look for it. You can't look for it in private devices without judicial pre-authorization. You won't get broad judicial pre-authorization unless you consider carefully what you know, and articulate what inferences you can draw from what you know.

2022.05.01 Police Conduct when Providing Access to Counsel

The Supreme Court of Canada delivered a decision on Friday that matters to investigators of every type of crime. If you might detain or arrest anyone in the next 15 years, you ought to read R. v. Dussault, 2022 SCC 16.

Police officers arrested Mr Dussault for murder and arson. He told them he wanted legal advice. He picked a lawyer at random. That lawyer spoke to him for 9 minutes. The lawyer asked to speak to an investigator, and did. The lawyer asked that police to suspend the investigation, so that he could come to the police station to talk further with Mr Dussault.

The officer told him "no problem".

The lawyer told Mr Dussault that he would come to the police station to continue the conversation.

The investigators reconsidered whether Mr Dussault was entitled to further legal advice. Relying on R. v. Sinclair, 2010 SCC 35, they figured that Mr Dussault already got his legal advice, and wasn't entitled to more. They pressed on with their investigation, and told the lawyer not to come to the police station because Mr Dussault didn't want to meet him.

When the lawyer came to the police station, the police officers did not permit him to talk to Mr Dussault. Mr Dussault left an angry letter, explaining that he didn't think his client understood the legal advice he gave.

When Mr Dussault asked whether his lawyer arrived, an investigator asked him who had asked the lawyer to come. Mr Dussault said it was the lawyer's idea. The investigator told Mr Dussault that the lawyer was not in the police station.

A different officer asked Mr Dussault questions. Mr Dussault expressed concern that his lawyer didn't arrive. He then made incriminating remarks.

At trial and on appeals, Mr Dussault complained that the police officers breached his right to get legal advice, and the incriminating remarks should be excluded from evidence.

The trial judge figured that Mr Dussault got sufficient legal advice in the first conversation, or at least that the police could reasonably presume under the circumstances that he did. Canadian law does not grant suspects the right to have a lawyer present during police questioning (see Sinclair).  Therefore, the police did not breach his rights.

The Court of Appeal figured that Mr Dussault did not receive a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice, and the police knew it because of the lawyer's angry note. Those judges felt that the police deliberately attempted to prevent Mr Dussault from getting complete advice.

The judges of the Supreme Court of Canada all agreed with Moldaver J. - a particularly well-respected judge on criminal law.

He ducked the question whether Mr Dussault got a sufficient opportunity to get legal advice. Instead, he looked at what the police knew about Mr Dussault's experience of getting legal advice. The officers knew:

  1. Mr Dussault spoke to a lawyer;
  2. The lawyer said he would come to the police station to talk with Mr Dussault, and did come.
  3. At the beginning of the interview, Mr Dussault expected to see his lawyer.
  4. But police told Mr Dussault that the lawyer wasn't there.

This sequence of events would give Mr Dussault the impression that the lawyer let him down. Why should he rely on the advice of an untrustworthy lawyer?

Moldaver J. concluded that the police were obliged to allow Mr Dussault a further opportunity to get legal advice because of the impact that police behaviour had on his trust in the legal advice he received.

You might ask yourself why Waldock thinks this case matters. "I'm not on the homicide squad. I'm not going to investigate the kind of cases in which lawyers rush down to the police station to speak with their clients.".

Judges Care about Prisoners Getting Legal Advice

All of the judges concentrated hard on what police officers did to provide the prisoner with access to counsel.

I write about s.10(b) of the Charter often because it comes up so often.

Whether you arrest murders or drunk drivers, you can expect defence counsel and judges will scrutinize your actions after the arrest.

  1. Did you inform the prisoner promptly about the right to get legal advice? (Did you make notes?)
  2. Did you hold off asking questions about the crime before the prisoner got the access they wanted?
  3. Did you make reasonable efforts to accommodate their desire to identify an appropriate lawyer and contact them?
  4. Did you act promptly, or make the prisoner wait unnecessarily?
  5. When the prisoner contacted counsel, did the prisoner get a reasonable opportunity to get advice?
  6. Did you say or do anything which might undermine the advice that the prisoner got?

Knowing that you will face such scrutiny, do you keep adequate notes and records?

How can police determine when a prisoner received a "reasonable opportunity to get legal advice"?

The trial judge and the Court of Appeal wrestled with this question.Justice Moldaver ducked it. I think he declined to answer that question because it's so important, and because he wanted to highlight his main point.

Despite the absence of an answer, we can draw some useful experience from this case:

A single phone call may or may not suffice. Because legal advice is privileged, you must not ask what the lawyer discussed with the prisoner. But you do want to know whether the prisoner got the legal advice he was seeking, or whether he is expecting or needing more.

Undermining Legal Advice

Justice Moldaver focussed on this topic.

Many years passed since the Supreme Court of Canada last directly discussed what a police officer can say about the defence lawyer. In R. v. Burlingham, [1995] 2 SCR 206, the judges didn't like how the police officer explicitly characterized defence counsel as greedy and uninterested in the defendant's best interests.

In this case, even though the police officers said nothing derogatory about the lawyer, their actions had the effect of making him look bad.

This nuanced approach gives defence counsel broader scope to challenge your words and conduct in the future.

How will you respond

From 1995, we know that you must not denigrate defence lawyers.

Notice that the problem arose in this case partly because of the combined remarks of more than one police officer. When one officer hands a prisoner over to another officer, they should communicate about the progress of the prisoner's access to counsel. Beware of making assumptions about what previous lawyers told the prisoner.

Notice that Mr Dussault even alerted the intervewing officer to a potential problem. It may be wise, when you receive a prisoner, to ask him or her about the progress of access to counsel, and to double-check concerns that the prisoner raises.

Seeking Legal advice is Good

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Judges like it when people seek legal advice.

If you read the case, you will find that one of the officers sought legal advice before denying Mr Dussault an second interview with counsel. Although that didn't impress the Quebec Court of Appeal, I think it did impress Justice Moldaver. Seeking legal advice when you're not sure is a good idea.

2022.04.27 Home Invasion without Imprisonment - Residential Searches Tend to Trigger Detentions

Suppose 8 men with guns invaded your home at 6 in the morning. Suppose that they told you to go to the living room. Would you feel "detained"?

That's what happened to Mr Scopel-Cessel, 2022 ONCA 316.

Eight police officers turned up at his place, with a warrant to search for child pornography. They wanted to know who was responsible for the file-sharing program running the at the shared IP address at his residence.

The lead investigator told him and his wife that they were free to go, but asked them to go to the living room while the officer searched.  The lead investigator told them that they had no obligation to answer questions or assist; but he asked them questions which they answered, and he persuaded Mr Scopel-Cessel to use his password to log into his computer, so that the searchers could locate evidence.

Mr Scopel-Cessel asked for permission to make coffee for himself and his wife.

The officer never told him of his right to contact a lawyer until the officers found the file-sharing program running on the computer he had logged into. At that point they formally arrested him.

If you read the decision (it's mercifully short), you can see that the investigating officer tried hard to avoid the detention trigger.

The trial judge found that no detention occurred before that arrest. The appeal court disagreed.

Controlling the scene usually involves controlling the people in it. Asking questions about their involvement in the offence tends to focus your interaction on their involvement in a crime. And that may defeat all the comforting words you say that they are free to go.

This case is worth discussing before you execute your next residential search warrant. With the benefit of hindsight, how would you have handled this interaction with the prime suspect and his wife? If you try to assure them that they are not detained, and free to go, perhaps you might also suggest that they can use their freedom to call a lawyer, if they want.

2022.04.24 Incommunicado between Arrest and Search - A Danger Zone

I found a decision which advanced and junior officers might find useful.

Confidential informants told police that Mr Ghousy trafficked firearms. Surveillance established a network of people with whom he associated. Police watched what looked like a firearms transaction. A couple of days later, they saw another transaction between Mr Ghousy and Mr Keshavarz, 2022 ONCA 312. Police officers arrested them both. They found two handguns in Mr Ghousy's car, and cash in Mr Keshavarz's pocket and drugs in his car.

The officers sought applied for search warrants for 3 residences associated to the two men. The officers suspended their access to counsel until after they got and executed their warrants.

At trial, both men complained that the police investigation breached their rights.

Mr Ghousy enjoyed more success than he deserved. The trial judge figured that the officers lacked sufficient grounds to search his car, and excluded all the evidence as against him. (The Court of Appeal felt that there were ample grounds.)

The trial judge convicted Mr Keshavarz of trafficking the two guns that were found in Mr Ghousy's car.

Mr Keshavarz appealed. He complained that the judge should have excluded even that evidence because the police violated his right to counsel: He didn't get to talk to a lawyer for over 7 hours after arrest!

The Crown agreed that the police breached Mr Keshavarz' right to counsel, but disagreed about the 7 hours. The police allowed Mr Keshavarz to make calls about an hour after the searching was done.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the Crown. Must of the delay was justified.

There are times police can suspend a prisoner's access to counsel. This was one of them.

  1. Mr Ghousy worked with others trafficking firearms. If his confederates learned of his arrest, they might well hide the rest of his firearms.
  2. Those firearms endangered the public.
  3. Police could not enter the residences and seize those firearms until they got a warrant.

An officer wisely testified that he had no concern that the lawyers would help hide the evidence; but in his experience, "things as simple as counsel contacting potential sureties or family members could 'inadvertently cause [the] loss of evidence'".

The court particularly liked how the police did not suspend access to counsel as a matter of routine, but because the specific events in this case required it.  Senior police officers should review the discussion at paragraphs 71-81 to get a sense of what justifies the suspension of access to counsel.

Although the court upheld the conviction, they still found that there was a breach of s.10(b).

If you suspend a prisoner's access to counsel, you must grant access to counsel immediately after the reasons for it subside.  In this case, the moment of safety came when the last house was searched. At that point they should have contacted the cell block, and permitted Mr Keshavarz to get legal advice. Instead, they packed up and drove back to the police station.

Junior officers should not often suspend a prisoner's access to counsel. This decision teaches them that judges care about s.10(b). They want to see that you try earnestly to give your prisoner access to legal advice promptly after arrest or detention.

2022.04.13 Police Officer's Duties and Decorum in Public

Mr Hall 2022 ONCA 288 worked as a security guard at a car factory. On his watch, a fire broke out in an electrical cabinet. In the recent past, that factory had suffered copper thefts. The electrical cabinet contained copper. If someone had attempted to remove that copper, it would have caused an "arc flash" explosion which could have started the fire. Coincidentally, after the fire, Mr Hall had physical symptoms consistent with suffering the effects of such an explosion.

Maybe he started the fire by trying to steal copper.

A police officer arrested him for the theft.

The security company fired Mr Hall.

Charges proceeded to trial. The trial judge acquitted Mr Hall, on the basis that the evidence didn't quite prove his guilt.

Then Mr Hall sued the police for malicious prosecution. He complained:

The trial judge agreed with Mr Hall's complaints, and ordered the police service to pay $686,216.92. The Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.


Regardless whether you agree with the conclusions in this case, it identifies vulnerabilities for busy or enthusiastic cops.


All too often, the complaint identifies a crime and a criminal. An objective investigator should not arrest because a citizen demands it, but because the evidence justifies it. Often, the complaint supplies sufficient grounds. But you need to think before you act. The first investigative theory ain't necessarily the best theory. Unless there's urgency - where delay would imperil life or evidence - investigate the available leads before arresting the suspect.

Don't arrest if you don't think the suspect committed a crime.

Obvious? Yes.

Worth repeating? Yes.

Sometimes a junior officer who knows more about the case feels obliged to obey a senior officer who knows less about the case. Rookies: if a senior officer tells you to arrest someone and you don't think the evidence justifies it, ask why. You don't want to cost your police force half a million dollars. Senior cops: listen to the rookie's concern, and if you disagree, explain your thinking

Am I counselling insubordination? Must the rookie refuse an order? No.

If an investigating officer believes the suspect is probably guilty and has reasonable grounds for this belief, that officer can direct another officer to make the arrest. The arresting officer may rely on the investigating officer's work. (Please add the investigating officer to the witness list.) R. v. Hall, 2006 SKCA 19 (Same last name, but an unrelated case.)


The high-five in the court house demonstrated the police officer's allegiance to the company. The judge didn't like it.

Should you stand aloof from the victims in every criminal case?


A good cop seeks justice. A cop who cares will support and encourage the victims of crime, and the witnesses who participate in the stressful business of trial.

I don't think that high-fives are inherently wrong. But they do risk tainting you with an appearance of bias.

Seeking justice also requires caring also about the perpetrators of crime, and ensuring that the process that leads to their conviction is fair, and looks fair.

As investigator, your job is not to secure a conviction, but to present the evidence fairly. Behave in a manner which inspires the trust of both sides of the dispute.

Next time you encounter the defendant, he may have information that he could tell you about a crime. If you prove yourself honest and trustworthy in your dealings with him, he may talk with you next time.

Or maybe he meets a different cop, and remembers how you behaved.

Your objectivity and compassion in one case can ripple far and wide.

2022.04.09 Clearing a Residence - Need for Reasonable Suspicion and Notes

Yesterday, the Supreme Court added some conditions on when you can clear a residence, and how you should document it.

Mr Stairs, 2022 SCC 11 drew attention to himself, which resulted in police discovering his drugs. Mr Stairs complained to judges that police overstepped their authority. The judges disagreed. I previously discussed his complaints to the Ontario Court of Appeal. He didn't like their conclusions, and complained to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The facts

While driving to his father's house, he beat on his passenger, a woman.

Another driver noticed this, and called 911.

Police attended the residence. They knocked and announced themselves.

Nobody answered.

Fearing for the woman's safety, they entered. They announced themselves as police, and asked all present to show themselves.

Nobody appeared.

Eventually, from the top of the basement stairs, an officer saw Mr Stairs moving around down in the basement. But he didn't come up stairs.  The woman did, with fresh injuries on her face. She denied that anything untoward had occurred. Mr Stairs hid. Officers descended to the basement, found Mr Stairs and arrested him.

And then, an officer walked through the basement, looking for people. That's when he found the drugs. At trial, the officer explained that he was clearing the residence - looking for other possible victims or other potential assailants.

The complaint

Mr Stairs complained that the officer had no business snooping through his home: the officers had already protected the victim and secured the suspect. There was nothing more for them to do in the basement. Mr Stairs proposed that police should only be permitted to clear a residence of people when they have reasonable grounds to believe that someone (police or public) will suffer imminent harm if they don't.

The Conclusion

The Supreme Court agreed with Mr Stairs that police can't snoop through a residence just because they made a lawful arrest inside it. They disagreed with him that officers need to justify their search on such strong grounds.

The judges agreed with the Crown that you can still search the vicinity of the arrest. If you find him in a bedroom, you can look for evidence related to the offence, or weapons, in the places to hand where he might have stowed them just before the arrest. But you can't search the rest of the house for those things.

Because of the enhanced privacy of a residence, you can't go digging through the rest of it looking for evidence.

The judges said that you can't even clear it of people unless you have have reason to suspect that there is a safety risk to the police, the accused, or the public which would be addressed by a search. And when you search, you must restrict your activity to a search for people. No digging for evidence.

But in this case, there were ample reasons for concern. Finding one battered woman does not eliminate the possibility that Mr Stairs hurt another woman. Indeed, it raises a distinct possibility that he did hurt someone else.

Therefore, Mr Stairs lost his appeal. And his drugs.

The Warning

Specialized officers such as tactical squads and dog handlers, beware! The judges strongly recommended that you take fulsome notes about searching residences: what you did, where you searched, how long, and what you searched for. In my experience, those specialized officers often think that because they found nothing of interest, they need not write about it. The judges disagree.

The Gap

The judges did not address what to do when you want to protect evidence in a residence until the execution of a search warrant. In the absence of an arrest, can you enter to clear the residence? I did discuss "freezing the scene" a bit, back in 2019. I don't think that the basics have changed for other contexts. Instinctively, you should think that you need reasons to intrude on private spaces. And then, instinctively, you should record those reasons, as well as how you carefully protected the privacy while performing your duties.

2022.04.09 Reporting the Results of a Computer Search - "5.2" Reports for Data

Head's up!

A trial judge in B.C. recently decided that the results of the non-consensual search of a computer are "things" that need reporting to a justice pursuant to s.489.1 of the Criminal Code, and renewal of detention orders pursuant to s.490

The court has not yet published the decision. Its citation will be: 2022 BCSC 344.

2022.03.09 Arrest for the Sole Purpose of Interviewing

Can a police officer lawfully arrest a suspect for the sole purpose of asking the suspect questions?

If the offence can be prosecuted summarily, I don't think so.

Unfortunately, the only two decisions I know of which address the question directly come from trial judges. I don't know of any answers from higher courts.

An Iqaluit police officer learned that Ms Akpalialuk, 2013 NUCJ 12 was bootlegging. He found her at the air cargo office, receiving lots of boxes of booze. He arrested her and seized the booze. He left her in custody for longer than he should have. He then interviewed her. Five times, she told the officer she didn't want to answer his questions. Finally, she confessed.

But in Nunavut, bootlegging is a summary conviction offence. Section 495(2) prohibits police officers from arresting suspects for summary conviction and hybrid offences unless the public interest requires an arrest. The trial judge found that none of the justifications for arrest set out in that section applied.

In particular, the judge found that you can not justify an arrest for the purpose of taking a statement, or for getting the suspect legal advice. Confession excluded.

But the rest of the evidence proved the defendant's guilt. Therefore, the Crown could not appeal this ruling.

The other decision I know of is R. v. Dieffenbaugh, 1990 CanLII 2282 (BC SC). An officer arrested Mr Diffenbach for assault and interviewed him. Assault can be prosecuted summarily, which means that s.495(2) applies. Again, the officer had no justification under s.495(2) permitting arrest. The trial judge found that the officer breached Mr Dieffenbaugh's right to be free from arbitrary arrest. The judge found that the officer acted in good faith, and Mr Dieffenbaugh would have given the statement anyway. The judge admitted the statement into evidence, and later, convicted Mr Dieffenbaugh.

Again, the Crown won, and therefore, had no opportunity to appeal the finding that the interview breached Mr Dieffenbaugh's rights. (Curiously, in the defendant's appeal, the court said that the accused's statements were ruled inadmissible. R. v. R.A.D, 1993 CanLII 6878 (BC CA) at para 13. I'm not sure what happened there.)

Section 495(2) does not apply to the offences which can only be prosecuted by indictment such as: robbery, aggravated assault, residential burglary, manslaughter, murder etc. Can you arrest a suspect for one of those offences, solely for the purposes of interviewing them? I don't know.

If you know of court decisions which tackle this question of arrest solely for interview, feel free to throw me an email.


A smart officer pointed out the case of R. v. Viszlai, 2012 BCCA 442. In that case the police arrested lawfully. They had concerns that he posed a risk of reoffence. The officer responsible for the investigation was out of town, and took many hours to get to the police station to interview the suspect. The court interpreted s.498(1.1), which requires police to release prisoners as soon as practicable - unless the "RICE" public interest factors apply. The judges held that after a lawful arrest, police may hold someone for the purposes of interviewing - as long as there is no unreasonable delay.

But the language in s.498(1.1) is exactly the same as the language in s.495(2). How can the same language say it is unlawful to arrest for the purposes of an interview and but also mean that it is lawful to hold an arrested person for the purposes of an interview?

The answer remains unclear.

2022.02.25 Night Search - s.488 of the Criminal Code - Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Section 488 of the Criminal Code prohibits you from executing a search warrant at night unless you satisfy the justice that there are "reasonable grounds" for executing it at night.

A little bit of history

When first enacted back in the 1890's, this made total sense.

Barging into people's residences at night when they're all sleeping can scare them. Sometimes people mistake a police search for a home invasion, and respond with force, which can be bad for police and suspects.

International events highlighted the wisdom of s.488. Night raids by government agents was a hallmark of totalitarian regimes - like the KGB during Stalin's reign of terror, or the Gestapo under Hitler. Nice Canadian police shouldn't raid at night unless it is necessary. Indeed, R. v. Sutherland, 2000 CanLII 17034 (ON CA), the court declared that only in "exceptional circumstances" should police execute search warrants at night.

The concept is great, but the wording of the section did not keep up with the times.

In times past, once an officer seized something, the officer could examine it without judicial authority.

Now, we have cell phones. In most situations, you need a search warrant to search a cell phone that you seized from a suspect or a scene.

Can you execute a search warrant for a cell phone after 9:00pm? Not according to s.488. What about a warrant to search a seized vehicle for guns? Not at night. You need special permission from a justice before you can put in the overtime on that search.

Of course, this is ridiculous. When you plug the cell phone into a data download device, you won't disturb or endanger any people sleeping inside a cell phone. When you start searching the seized vehicle in your secure bay, you won't rouse any people from their beds (but the bound and gagged hostage in the trunk might be pleased that she didn't have to wait until morning for you to release her).

Until Parliament fixes this section, you always need to ask justices for permission to execute at night any warrants you obtain under s487, 487.1 and 462.32 (proceeds of crime).

"Reasonable Grounds" or "Exceptional Circumstances"?

Notice the words I highlit above. The section says the justice needs "reasonable grounds" to grant a night search. The Ontario Court of Appeal said that the justice should grant it only in "exceptional circumstances". At law, those are different standards.

How big an emergency must there be to justify a night search? Last week, the BC Court of Appeal said it needs to be firmly justified, and almost-but-not-quite agreed with the Ontario Court of Appeal on the "exceptional circumstances" test.

It all started in September 2018, when Danny Solomon tried on a $4,000 gold necklace at a Kamloops jewellery store. He ran out of the store without paying for it. On December 5, 2018, images of a matching necklace appeared in advertisements on Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji under the name of his buddy Matthew Carstairs, 2022 BCCA 69.

An officer figured it was the stolen necklace. On December 10, the officer applied for a warrant to search the motel room where he stayed, and asked to be permitted to search by night.

The officer wisely remembered to explain why a night search made sense:

He got his warrant and executed it. He didn't find the necklace. He did find drugs, cash, a stolen drone and an imitation handgun.

The trial judge felt that this night search was justified.The appeal judges disagreed. Factor that mattered to them included:

However, the judges were pleased that the officer asked for the night search, and explained his reasons fairly. They felt that the breach of Mr Carstairs' rights under s.8 was minor. They upheld the convictions.

For you, the lesson is reasonably clear: night searches need permission. Always ask. Always justify it.

Judges aren't fond of night searches. But in this context, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" means "absence [of people from the place you're going to search] makes the [judicial] heart grow fonder [of night search]."

That suggests night searches for cell phones or seized vehicles should be easier to justify than night searches of homes.

2022.02.20 "U good for powder?" - Entrapment

For those of you who investigate dial-a-dopers, this case provides a short clear distinction between entrapment and development of reasonable suspicion.

When an anonymous tipster gives you the phone number of a suspected dial-a-doper, your investigation should not start by immediately calling it and offering to buy. That's entrapment. You need to develop a "reasonable suspicion" that the number a drug dealer uses the number. Maybe your databases tell you something about this number. Maybe your tip gives you more information.

After canvassing other sources, you might try calling the number and asking whether the person who answers deals in drugs.

An officer received such a tip. It led him to the information that the number belonged to Mr Zakos, 2022 ONCA 121, who had no criminal record.

The officer texted the number:

Officer: This tj?
Zakos: Who is this
Officer: Scot, got your number from my cousin. You still around the college?
Zakos: Who’s your cousin
Zakos: Yes still close but I moved
Officer: Jay said he got off you at the gas station a while back. U good for powder?
Zakos: How much were you looking for

Defence complained that the question "U good for powder?" constituted entrapment before the officer had formed a reasonable suspicion.

The judges disagreed. It wasn't an offer to buy, it was an inquiry to determine if the suspect was in the business. It was close to the line but did not cross it.

2022.02.18 Storing Digital Evidence

If you don't yet have a convenient and formal method of storing digital evidence, get one now.

In 2011, someone wearing a balaclava robbed a donut shop at gunpoint. Police seized security video, and a balaclava from nearby. They found some saliva 60m from the shop. DNA analysis from the balaclava and saliva did not match known offenders. The robber left a white kitchen garbage bag on the counter in the shop.

In 2017, DNA from Mr Janeiro, 2022 ONCA 118 entered the DNA database. It matched DNA from the saliva, but not the balaclava. He was about the right height and age to be the robber. Of the 5 identifiable fingerprints on the bag, one belonged to Mr Janeiro. He was charged.

As trial approached, officers could not find the security video. After it was first obtained, an officer labelled it, and put it in a filing cabinet - in an unmarked brown envelope. Other officers viewed it. But nobody could find it for trial. The trial proceeded without it.

Defence asked the trial judge to drop the case because of the missing evidence. The trial judge refused, and convicted Mr Janeiro based on the evidence that remained. The appeal court agreed with defence counsel. In this case, the video was too important. The officers did not take sufficient care to preserve it. Losing it undermined the fairness of trial.

General duty police officers routinely take snapshots with their cell phones. Complainants regularly email screenshots, photographs, email and chat chains.  All sorts of electronic evidence pours in.

If you don't yet have a formal, secure and convenient system to preserve it, then evidence will go missing, and judges won't be sympathetic.

2022.02.17 "Holding Off" Eliciting Evidence before Access to Counsel

"Before you talk to a lawyer, please tell me about the drugs in your possession."

Such a question attempts to elicit evidence of a crime. If you arrested the suspect before asking it, then you have an obligation to "hold off" asking such questions.

Relying on a 911 call, police arrested Mr Mohamed, 2022 ONCA 117 at first for sexual assault. On a pat-down, they found a knife and a small quantity of drugs, so they arrested him for that too.  Mr Mohamed wanted a lawyer.

He appeared intoxicated. He talked in circles about what a good guy he was.

At the police station, he suddenly stopped talking.  That happened when an officer asked him whether he was hiding any weapons or contraband. No more rambling. Silence.

From that silence, the officers inferred that he was hiding something.

A strip search discovered 20 ounces of crack cocaine concealed in his anus.

The court found that the question violated Mr Mohamed's rights. Even worse, the officer who asked it testified that he routinely asked that question.  The judges decided to put the word out to police: don't ask investigative questions before the defendant gets (or waives) legal advice. Mohamed beat the charge.

Does this mean you can ask no questions whatever between arrest and access to counsel?

A good discussion of this appears in R. v O’Reilly, 2021 BCSC 766, which agrees with an older case:

"Questioning to assist the accused to exercise his rights, preserve his property, provide care for his family, or protect his health and safety or the health and safety of others, just to name the most obvious examples, are not prohibited..."

Basically, you can't ask investigative questions. Be wary of asking questions that could, as in the case of O'Reilly, turn out to provide evidence. (In that case, they asked the prisoner if he wanted anything from his vehicle. He described his phone. That phone contained evidence of his involvement in the crime. The court excluded evidence of that conversation.)

But you can ask the suspect if they have weapons or objects that could hurt you when you're searching for such things. R. v. Patrick, 2017 BCCA 57.

2022.02.08 Full Disclosure means More than "Evidence Supporting Conviction"

Ms Bouvette, 2022 BCCA 9 left a a 17-month old baby unsupervised in a bathtub. The baby drowned - or so said the pathologist.

Ms Bouvette pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death.

After sentencing, questions arose about the pathologist's competence. The Crown hired an independent lawyer to investigate.

It turns out that 43 pages - a peer review report which criticized the pathologist's conclusions - was not disclosed to defence.

That justified a re-hearing of the case

This time it was the prosecution that failed to disclose relevant evidence. Don't let "next time" be you.

It's surprisingly easy to fall into the trap of thinking that information about the case in your possession is "not relevant". This happens often when the information does not fit your theory of what happened. But that's exactly why it's relevant.

2022.02.07 After Arrest - Preserving and Proving Voluntariness

She told police "my cousin raped me last night."

Police officers arrested Mr S.S.S. 2022 YKCA 2. They (wisely) swabbed his penis and interviewed him.  He told police that he didn't remember putting his penis in his cousin. DNA testing showed that he did.

At trial, his memory returned. He remembered the sex, and particularly how consensual it was. He explained that his statement was wrong because he suffered a seizure. He also told the judge that the police told him that they would not release him if he did not cooperate.

Don't say stuff like that.

Judges exclude confessions if the police apply pressure of this sort to the suspect. This statement was obviously important. The appeal court ordered a new trial because of his claim (and a procedural mis-step).

I rather doubt that the officers in this case said anything of the sort.  But proving what police officers did not say can be tricky:

If you provide security to an officer who arrests the suspect, you may figure that it's not your investigation, and you aren't an important witness.


At trial, the defendant may claim "it wasn't the arresting officer who threatened me, it was the other guy".

Suddenly, your role changes from spectator to key witness. You'll wish you took more notes.

How do you handle this risk? There are two strategies:

Even if you were a minor player at the arrest, during transport, or when receiving the prisoner at the police station, your name goes on the witness list, and the extent of your interaction appears in your notes.

2022.01.16 Imperfections and Delays in the Justice System

After an evening of drinking with a friend, Mr Girbav, 2012 ABPC 219 drove off the road. The streets in Calgary can be icy in January.

Two police officers saw the car go off the road, and went to investigate. The car was stuck - high-centred on accumulated ice and snow. One officer broke the driver's side window, pulled him out of the vehicle, and arrested him. Finding him too drunk to drive, the officer made a breath demand. He blew 210mg%.

He beat the charges.

He told the trial judge that the police officer attacked him without warning, and that a swarm of police officers jumped on him when he was pulled out of the car, and they beat him close to unconsiousness. He suggested that one of them made a remark that suggested that they needed to invent false charges against him, to cover up their own violence ("You better get something on this guy or you could have a problem.") He complained that he tried to get legal advice from a particular lawyer, but the police only let him talk to duty counsel.  He produced photographs of injuries to his head and to his arm. His long-time friend testified similarly about the bad behaviour of the police. They both mentioned that more than one officer removed Mr Girbav from the vehicle.

The police officers explained that even after they knocked on the driver's side window, Mr Girbav revved the engine. It looked like he was trying to get away. The one officer had to break the window in order to stop him. They disagreed that there was a crowd of police officers present to arrest Mr Girbav. It was just the two of them. The other officers arrived later. They agreed that he suffered an injury, but denied a beating.

The judge believed Mr Girbav and his friend. The judge inferred from differences in the officers' accounts that they had had not given accurate stories.

Did the violent officer and his partner lie to protect themselves?

About 5 years later, a lawyer complained about the officers to the Police Service and the Police Commission. ASIRT - Alberta's independent police watchdog - investigated. That investigation took 5 years. They concluded that the officers likely told the truth, and that Mr Girbav and his friend were the inaccurate ones. Decision of the Executive Director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, January 6, 2022 (2017-32(S)

The most important piece of evidence came from an independent witness that police interviewed at the scene. Her version matched the version of the officers and contradicted the versions that Girbav and his friend gave.

The trial judge never heard her evidence. It would have been difficult to reach the same conclusion if he had.

Why didn't the prosecutor present this evidence? I suspect several reasons. For one, she seemed unimportant: she saw neither the driving before the crash, nor the driver's symptoms of impairment afterwards. I wonder whether defence gave sufficient notice of the details of Mr Girbav's claims. I am troubled by the manner in which they were litigated - but that's a lawyer's problem.

The trial judgement reflected badly on Csts MacGregor and Johnson. It took 10 years for them to receive vindication. I hope the judgment did not harm them.

Mr Girbav was convicted before and since this trial of impaired driving. When ASIRT interviewed him he denied responsibility for drunk driving. Information in the ASIRT report suggests that he is an unrepentant drunk driver. I hope he harms no one.

When the justice system reaches the wrong result, people can suffer.  When it takes too long to reach the right result, people can suffer.

This case resembles the fiasco which led to Ontario (Attorney General) v. Clark, 2021 SCC 18, which I discussed back in May.

Lessons to draw from this case include:

This was a good case for a bodycam or a dashcam, and audio-recording of the process of offering medical treatment and discussing access to counsel.

2022.01.15 Evidence - Take a Second Look

Four gangsters told police that Mr Vallee, 2022 BCCA 11 murdered Kevin Leclair. Everyone knew it happened at a mall in Langley. Was Mr Vallee there? Some of the gangsters said he went to Tim Hortons with them.

It was a big investigation. Investigators gathered a million documents. Yes. A million.

Buried in that pile was security video from Tim Hortons. Investigators summarized those videos saying that they did not record anything of interest.

They were wrong.

To those who looked closely, images of Mr Vallee could be seen in those security videos.

Relying on the police summary, Crown left the video out of the disclosure package, and ran much of the case without looking at them. Part way through trial, defence asked Crown to admit that the videos showed nothing useful. Crown looked at the video. Crown realized that the video confirmed that the 4 gangsters were telling the truth about Vallee.

The Crown's case changed shape.

At the trial, defence counsel asked the judge to declare a mistrial. (Mistrials can destroy prosecutions.) The trial judge said no. The defendants appealed, complaining that it should have. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction.

Prosecutorial tactics aren't your problem. Disclosure is.

Prosecutors find that investigators overestimate the value of the evidence they gather. That's natural. You gather it in the context of inquiry. We use in in an adversarial context, where the other side attacks it from every angle. Examined skeptically, much evidence loses its shine.

But sometimes investigators underestimate the value of the evidence. There are times that I have found more in a photograph or a statement than was first apparent. Usually, this occurs when cross-referencing evidence.

In an enormous case like that, an error of this sort is easy to make.

It could have been avoided by taking a second look at the video. The importance of that video would only have become obvious after the gangsters gave statements discussing Tim Hortons.

Uninformed summaries are less likely to be accurate than informed ones. Once you understand how the evidence fits together, you can identify the evidence that merits a second look.

That second look can pay dividends.

2021.12.29 Warrant Drafting - Reciting the Suspect's Wicked Past

"He sold drugs before. It looks like he's selling them again."

When drafting a warrant application, you may base some of your reasoning on evidence of the suspect's past misconduct.

But there are traps.

A lazy cop will look only at investigative records.

A smart cop will check to see if those investigations led to acquittals, stays of proceedings, withdrawal of charges or convictions, and mention those conclusions in the affidavit.

Judges hate inferences based upon acquittals.

A trial judge convicted Mr Ribble, 2021 ONCA 897 of drug and gun offences. He complained to the Court of Appeal that the cop who drafted the warrant mentioned charges that had been dropped, stayed or resulted in acquittals.

The court rejected his complaint saying:

The facts underlying charges which do not result in convictions, in some circumstances, may be validly considered as a basis for search warrants, though in other cases will be “irrelevant and improper”.

That answer does not adequately explain what information from previous investigations you can rely on.

Here's a rough summary:

Result of previous investigation
What evidence you can rely on in your ITO
All the evidence relating to the specific convictions.
Stay of proceedings before verdict
All of the evidence, but mention that the proceedings led to a stay (and why it was stayed - if known)
No charges laid.
All of the evidence, but if you can find out why charges did not proceed, mention why.
Uncontentious background evidence only. Do not rely upon the target's guilt in that incident to support your reasonable grounds in the new investigation.

The Court of Appeal liked this ITO because the author specifically recited the conclusions of the various previous investigations mentioned in the ITO. The affiant did not rely upon the target's guilt of the matters in which he was acquitted.

2021.12.24 Cell Block Security Video - The Forgotten Blessing - The Forgotten Curse

By the time that general duty police officers deliver a suspect to the cell block, they often think that their investigation is over, and all the evidence is collected. It's easy to forget that the security video system may be collecting evidence when you have stopped.

In the morning after the baby died, witnesses told police that Mr K.D.S, 2021 SKCA 84 slept in his baby's crib. Apparently, all the adults got hammered. It seemed that Mr KDS passed out on top of his child, killing her. Police arrested Mr KDS and took him to the police station.

Mr KDS was charged with criminal negligence. Sleeping on the baby. Perhaps while drunk.

Defence asked for full disclosure, including "all videorecordings". Defence did not specify that they wanted cell-block video until long after it was overwritten.

Defence explained that the security video could contradict the police officers on their evidence, and most importantly, it would show that Mr KDS wasn't all that drunk.

The trial judge agreed. Failure to preserve the video of Mr KDS at the police station was "unacceptable negilgece". The trial judge stayed the charges. The Court of appeal agreed.

Consider how many drunks to take to the police station for domestic violence or drunk driving. Did you preserve the security video of them walking or blowing into the breath testing instrument? If not, you have have been "unacceptably negligent" in your failure to preserve relevant evidence.

I know that this ruling is impractical. Security video turns out to be important once in every 1000 arrests. Must you really preserve the recordings in 999 other cases?

There are ways to lighten this load. If you know that the video will relate to the issues, then of course you should preserve it. If the case is serious, consider preserving it regardless whether you think that the cell block video is important. And if you're not sure, you can ask Crown to ask defence whether they want it. If defence informs you that they don't care, they can hardly complain if the video gets overwritten.

Cell-block video protects you from false claims of police brutality. It holds you to account for true ones.  But it also gathers evidence. It's easy to forget, and once forgotten, it can trip you up.

2021.12.24 Affidavits which Explain Documents

Usually, you receive corporate data as information. It takes care and skill to turn that information into useful evidence.

Four teenage girls complained of a creepy guy who did sexual things to them against their will. He communicated with some of them through Facebook. Investigators contacted Facebook who gave the officers data which showed the IP address that the user used to access the account. The investigators properly obtained the physical address of that internet connection. Mr Rashid, 2021 ONSC 3443 lived there. He looked like the creep that the teenagers described.

Case closed? Sure, if someone prepares the evidence properly.

But information is not the same as evidence.

Generally speaking, information only becomes evidence when the right person vouches for its authenticity.

The investigator can't testify that the account used that IP address. The court needs to hear from someone at Facebook who looks into their information systems, and locates the data.

Facebook employees swore affidavits which assured the court that the "attached" records were indeed records from Facebook which identified the IP address from which the user accessed the account.


But they did not attach the records to the affidavit.

Filing the affidavit was something like putting a witness on the witness stand who says "I photographed the criminal in the act of the crime. The picture shows the felon's face clearly. But I didn't bring the photograph to court today. Sorry."

That testimony is useless without the photograph.

The prosecutor can't produce the photograph later in the trial, and file it, saying "here's the missing photograph". Because the prosecutor didn't take the photograph, the prosecutor can't attest to its authenticity.

The prosecutor tried to file the Facebook information separately from the affidavit.

The trial judge rejected the evidence. Only someone from Facebook could prove the authenticity of the records.

Mr Rashid beat most of the charges. The Facebook evidence could have made a big difference.

I, too, have received affidavits which did not attach the requested records. In one recent case, the author of the affidavit sent me a sworn affidavit which asserted that he attached "to this affidavit" the records of interest. The affidavit came in an envelope that also contained a disk. The disk contained an unsigned copy of the affidavit, the records of interest, and the affiant's (inadmissible) personal notes and correspondence. The disk was in no way attached to the affidavit, and therefore, the affidavit was false. I couldn't file the disk anyway, because it contained inadmissible material. I made him do the affidavit again, but this time, actually attaching the records before swearing the affidavit.

In my experience, because of their experience with wiretap, phone company security personnel prepare pretty good affidavits. But security personnel at other private corporations often draft awful affidavits. They often contain quantities of officialese and verbiage. I'll never forget one truly awful one with a particularly impressive notarial seal. But they often miss the main points:

2021.12.11 Recognition Evidence - When to show a Single Photo

Tyler and Shane Bradley had substantial criminal records. They demonstrated no reluctance to use racist language against black people.

Their attitude and remarks led to a confrontation with two black men. One of the black men shot Tyler. Tyler survived.

Shane called 911. He told the operator that "Rico" shot his brother, and that "O" was with him.

Was Mr Alvarez, 2021 ONCA 851 the shooter?

Both Bradley brothers disliked black people. They also disliked police. They made the investigation difficult.

Police followed up on the information that they received from these two unsavoury fellows. Police quickly found Mr Alvarez at 92 Arizona Drive, a place where "O" had recently been.  They found the gun at that residence too.

But who was this "Rico" person? Police did not find anyone who called Mr Alvarez "Rico".

When police first interviewed Shane he said he did not know the two men. The investigator showed him single photographs of two suspects. Shane said that they were "O" and "Rico".  According to Shane, police also showed him an array of photographs. The investigator could neither confirm or deny that occurred.

Tyler gave a statement 3 weeks after the shooting. He said he knew "O", and had met "Rico" only briefly. He also claimed that the police showed him a bunch of photographs of suspects, but no officer could confirm or deny that. He was a difficult and hostile witness.

Defence complained that the single photo prompted Shane, so that thereafter, Shane would be able to describe the shooter in a manner that matched Mr Alvarez.  The investigator defended his action, on the basis that Shane knew "Rico". All the investigator wanted to know was whether Alvarez was the "Rico" that Shane was talking about.

Both were right.

When your witness knows the felon well, showing the witness a single picture of a suspect should not taint the witness's memory. All you're asking is "is this the person you know so well?"

But the defence counsel also had a point.  The more distant the relationship, the greater the risk becomes that the witness will guess that the person in the photo is the person they're thinking of. The danger is that by showing the witness a picture, you'll cause the witness to believe that the person in the picture committed the crime.

Shane was a bigot -- the kind of fellow who might think that all black men look the same. It's all too possible that he didn't really know Rico well enough to recognize him.  But he might, from looking at the picture, start "remembering" distinctive features, such as tattoos.

Shane also defied the law. He would happily allege that police officers misconducted themselves. He certainly suggested that they followed bad procedures.

In this case, the investigators did not record all of their conversations with him. I'll bet that they wanted to develop rapport. The formality of recorded interviews prevents that.

But in the long run, the lack of formal documentation of the conversations came back to haunt the investigators.

This case offers two lessons:

2021.11.20 Recognition Evidence

"That's my brother," she said.

Ms Deaken saw images from security video of a robbery. Investigators released them in an effort to identify the robber. She contacted police and told them that she thought the robber was her brother, Brian Deakin, 2021 ONCA 823.

An investigator showed her the video. When she saw the first two clips, she said that she could not identify the person in them. But when she saw the "good" clips - which best showed the robber - her heart sank. She knew it was him, in part from the way he walked.  She called it a "thug walk".

The investigator showed her a Facebook image of her brother. She identified the person in that picture as her brother.

The defence urged the court to reject her identification:

The trial judge convicted Mr Deakin, and the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction. What did they like about this identification?

The judges saw no problem with showing a picture of a suspect to a witness if the witness already knows the suspect well.

The probative value of the "bad" clips caught my attention in this case.

When showing security video to a witness who knows the suspect, one may wish to ignore the "bad" clips, and work with the "good" ones. But in this case, the "bad" clips served a valuable function. They proved to the court that the witness wasn't guessing or applying preconceived notions when seeing the clips.

You might want to show all of the clips to your recognition witness, not just the "good" ones.

The defence lawyers made a good point about generic recognition. When your witness identifies the person in the video, ask them how they know. A "thug walk" is good. But what else does the video show?

She and her brother did become estranged over his criminal lifestyle. Her heart sank when she recognized the robber as her brother. After she testified, he got 3 years jail. I hope that her act of tough love works. I hope he changes. I hope that their eventual reunion will be a happy one.

But one can never know what someone's heart will do.

For that reason, take some care to inquire into the relationship between the suspect and the person who claims to recognize him or her.

2021.11.19 Joint Statements

All too often, witnesses want to tell you, together, what happened. Interviewing more than one witness at a time is a bad idea. All too often, I see a transcript of an interview in which another witness starts "helping". This makes it plain that one witness heard the evidence of another.

Joint statements cause trouble. Don't do it.

A girl accused Mr C.G., 2021 ONCA 809 of sexually abusing her when she slept over with his daughter.

Mr C.G's lawyer reviewed the girl's statement with Mr C.G. and his wife. During the conversation, the wife and Mr C.G. discussed all the reasons they knew why the girl's story could not be true. This was a bad procedure. All of that discussion came out in cross-examination. Crown Counsel argued that the wife's testimony had less impact because she knew what to say to match the defendant's testimony. The trial judge agreed, and convicted him.

The appeal court ordered a new trial, not because the Crown's complaint about this tainting was a bad one, but because the trial judge failed to analyze it in the context of reasonable doubt.

But the prosecution's evidence bears much heavier scrutiny. If it's a bad idea for defence counsel to interview witnesses together, it's a worse idea for you to interview complainants and/or witnesses together. And it's wise for you to caution them not to discuss the details between themselves until after the trial is done.

2021.11.14 Inadvertent Detention - Easy to Do, What'

s the Fix?

Mr Tutu, 2021 ONCA 805 lost his guns and drugs, but he beat the criminal charges that they incurred ... mostly because an officer inadvertently detained him.

It ain't what you think, but what you do that counts.

An officer on routine patrol noticed a black rental car parked in a hotel parking lot. Fresh yellow paint stuck to the front quarter panel - suggestive of a collision.

He pulled in behind it, and approached on foot.

As far as he knew, he wasn't detaining anyone because the vehicle appeared unoccupied.

He found Mr Tutu and a woman in the car, sharing a joint.

He knocked on the window. Mr Tutu rolled it down.

The officer asked him to extinguish the joint, turn down the music, and tell him their names.

The woman gave her names. Mr Tutu lied: "Marcus Anthony" he said. The officer's computer showed no no driver's licence in that name.

The officer asked him to spell his name. He couldn't. Mr Tutu offered another false name: "Ben Dan".

The officer arrested Mr Tutu for obstruction, but did not immediately explain to him his right to counsel. Another officer arrested the woman for possession of marijuana (an unlawful arrest, even at that time).

The officers searched the vehicle, and found guns and drugs. That led to more charges.

At trial, Mr Tutu alleged that the officers focussed on him only because he was black. "I'm the victim of racial profiling!"

He also complained that the police detained him from the moment that the police vehicle blocked his car. Because the officer did not explain why his vehicle was blocked (s.10(a)) and that he could talk to a lawyer (10(b)), all the evidence that the officer obtained thereafter was unlawfully obtained.

The trial judge didn't buy his complaints, but the appeal judges agreed that the officer detained him and failed to give him his rights.

The prosecution argued that the officer could not have detained Mr Tutu when the officer first arrived, because the officer wasn't even aware he was in the vehicle.

The judges responded that a detention is not triggered by the officer's intentions, but what a reasonable person would infer from the officer's actions.

This officer blocked Mr Tutu's car, knocked on the window, and started issuing commands.

The officer didn't think he was detaining Mr Tutu. The court found that a reasonable person in Mr Tutu's position would think that he is the focus of a police investigation.

Perhaps the judges might have reached a different conclusion if:

I don't think it helped that:

Therefore, when interacting with "interesting" people, a useful question to ask yourself might be "would a judge watching this interaction think I've detained this person?"

If you discover evidence of an offence, then you can expect the defendant to characterize the your conduct as aggressive or oppressive. "The officer detained me early on, but didn't tell me my rights." How will you answer those allegations in court? Take many notes. Record the central phrases in the conversation, especially how the conversation started, and whether you told the subject that he was not detained, and that he could leave if he wanted.

Actions speak louder than your thoughts or your words.

Saying he's free to go won't mean much if you have already handcuffed him and lodged him in the back seat of your police vehicle. Similarly, your words won't mean much if you surround him with cops who leave no way out. Nor do those words mean much if you block his car from driving away.

2021.11.13 Airbag Control Modules

More and more vehicles contain devices which record how they were operated when they crash.

In B.C., police lawfully seized a vehicle, and obtained a warrant to search it. But they didn't specifically obtain authority to download the "Airbag Control Module" (ACM), which recorded the last 5 seconds of brake, speed and accelerator. The court found that the lawful seizure extinguished a territorial expectation of privacy over the ACM, and the defendant did not enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy over the data. Fedan, 2016 BCCA 26

Ontario courts continue to find that police need a warrant to download the data from these devices. R. v. Yogeswaran, 2021 ONSC 1242. The Ontario judge was also very unimpressed by the police failure to report its seizure of the vehicle to a justice.

An Albertan judge agrees with the Ontario judges. R. v. Greyeyes, 2021 ABPC 240.

In B.C., police who lawfully seize a car may not need a warrant to search devices which record only a little information. But beware of the devices which record more detailed information about a vehicle's operations. The Fedan case did not bless the warrantless search of GPS devices.

In other provinces, police may need warrants.

In all provinces, police should report to a justice what they seize. Whether it's a broken car, a lost wallet, or a bodily sample, if you seized it you should report it (usually in "Form 5.2").

2021.11.11 Avoid Creating Exigent Circumstances

I missed this decision last year when it came out. It's still interesting this year.

Police planned to get a search warrant for Mr Hobeika's, 2020 ONCA 750 apartment and vehicle because they had good information that he was trafficking from that apartment. They planned to execute it when he went there.

Surveillance discovered he was living in a different apartment. Further investigation suggested that he was trafficking from the other apartment.

When they saw him get into the car, they executed the warrant to search his car. Because this search occurred in sight of the second apartment, they feared that occupants would destroy evidence in it. Therefore, the officers entered it and froze the scene. They found people and lots of drugs.

At trial, defence argued that the police created the urgency. If they had pulled over Mr Hobieka's car somewere away from the apartment, they would not have attracted so much attention. The court agreed that if the police created the urgency then they can't rely on the exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless search. But in this case, the police had good reasons for stopping the vehicle immediately rather than pulling it over someone away from the apartment.

Those of you who plan searches and surveil targets, you may need to make snap decisions about when to reveal your investigation, and whether you can lawfully enter a private location to freeze the scene. This case and the similar decision of Phoummasak, 2016 ONCA 46 may help you understand the constraints.

2021.11.08 'Ullo, 'ullo, what's all this then?  Questions after detention and arrest

When officers arrested a dial-a-doper named Mr Choi, 2021 BCCA 410, one officer him about his right to counsel, and another one patted him down for weapons and drugs.

Mr Choi told the first one that he wanted to talk to a lawyer.

The first officer didn't tell the second one that Mr Choi wanted counsel.

During the pat-down search, the second officer felt a bulge in Mr Choi's shirt, and asked "what is that?"

Mr Choi responded "more stuff".  Indeed, it was. More drugs.

The officer who asked the question expected that he would get an incriminatory answer. He got one. Those words would have helped convict Mr Choi ... if they were admissible.

But anytime you arrest or detain someone, you have an obligation to hold off eliciting incriminatory answers until the prisoner waives or exercises their right to counsel.

The judge at trial and the judges in the appeal court all agreed that the question breached the defendant's rights. They excluded that particular package of drugs, and the comment.

I see this procedural error way too often in the case law and in my daily practice. This officer was too keen. Once you detain or arrest someone, resolve access to counsel before you start asking questions about the offence.

I hesitate to criticize too fiercely. The other failure I see way too often is apathy after access to counsel. Many police officers make no serious effort to interview the suspect.

These keen police interviewed Mr Choi after he spoke to counsel. He confessed. That confession sunk him.

I note that during a pat-down search, if you need to ask questions about weapons for officer safety, keep the questions narrowly focussed only on that issue. Don't ask questions if you don't have to.

On arrest or detention, don't ask questions about the offence until you have resolved access to counsel. But once the defendant waives or exercises his/her rights, it's a good idea to ask the suspect lots of questions (within the bounds of voluntariness).

2021.11.08 What's a "Strip Search"?

After arresting a dial-a-doper named Choi, 2021 BCCA 410, an officer took him to the police station. There, the officer searched Mr Choi, to make sure he would not bring drugs or weapons into the cell block.

The trial judge characterized the search as a strip search, and found that the officer violated the prisoner's rights of privacy. The appeal court disagreed.

At the police station, under the constant supervision of a security video camera, the officer:

The officer did not see Mr Choi's genitals, nor expose the whole of his underwear. He was surprised to hear counsel calling it a "strip-search", but conceded that he had not read the policy in a long time.

The trial judge said that this re-arrangement of clothing to expose some of Mr Choi's underwear qualified as a strip-search. He did not like the fact that others could watch it.

The appeal court said that this search did not qualify as a "strip search" because it did not expose private parts of the body. It did not violate Mr Choi's rights. The officer did nothing wrong.

Officers who arrest people might find it worthwhile to review their force policy on strip searches. You might also consider camera angles in the police station. It can be very helpful for you to have security video which shows that you respected a prisoner's privacy when you searched him/her. A well-placed camera provides great accountability. But a badly-placed camera which records the prisoner's private parts or intimate underthings will greatly increase the intrusion into their privacy.

I'm sure Cpl Pollock, who did the search, feels vindicated this week.

2021.11.08 What's "Importation"?

When is "importation" of drugs or guns complete?

When authorities detect contraband entering the country, they often track the shipment to its destination, and arrest the people who receive it.

People in those positions often asked judges to acquit them of importing. "Importing is bringing something into Canada. But the product and I were both already in Canada when I received it, therefore, all I did was possess it."

A series of Ontario cases seemed to extend "importing" to include delivery to its ultimate destination.

Lawyers for Mr Okojie, 2021 ONCA 773 and Ms Hudson, 2021 ONCA 772 complained that this was confusing because it differed from past judicial interpretations. The prosecution pointed out that importation often involves more than one player. If one arranges the importation, and others aid in the delivery to the importer, all of the middlemen can be parties to the offence of importing.

When the law needs clarification, appeal courts sometimes convene a larger panel to sort it out. Five judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal - instead of the usual three - heard the appeal. They agreed that importing is complete when someone brings something into Canada, and the government relinquishes control. If there remain import duties to pay, then even if the product is in the hands of a courier waiting for payment of the fees, the importation isn't complete.

The judges went on: Circumstantial evidence can show that other people down the chain of possession were responsible for bringing the product into Canada.

Therefore, if someone picks up the imported product, and takes it to someone else who unpackages it, the court may find - depending on the evidence - that the people who unpackaged the product were the ones who arranged for its importation. If so, they can be convicted of the importation.

In Ms Hudson's case, the authorities removed all of the contraband (fentanyl) before delivering the package. This raised the interesting question whether she could be convicted of "possessing" it. The court found that she could be held liable for constructive possession while it was in transit, if the prosecution proved she was responsible for arranging the importation. But if she was just a minion assisting the importer, then she could not.

Both of these cases make interesting reads for those of you who deal with importation offences.

2021.11.06 When the JP says "No" - Making a Second Application for a Warrant

Four confidential informants told police that Mr Bond, 2021 ONCA 730 was packing a gun, and selling cocaine.

Police applied for a search warrant, relying on that information.

The first Justice of the Peace turned them down, giving four reasons.

The officers evidently disagreed with the JP's decision.  They submitted the application a second time. The second JP granted the warrant.

The confidential informants were right. Police found drugs and a firearm.

At trial, defence complained that the police were "judge shopping". Police should be satisfied with the answer that a judge or justice gives them.

The trial judge and the Court of Appeal disagreed. But you need to know why.

The officers did nothing underhanded. They made full disclosure. Their second application explained that the first JP turned them down. It included first JP's four reasons for rejecting the application. The officers did not try to select a JP, but simply submitted their application again.

The appeal court noted that unlike most judicial decisions, there is no way to appeal a JP's decision to reject a search warrant application. (There is a route to judicial review, but that's slow and technical.) In this case, the judges found that the police action did not constitute judge-shopping.

I don't think that this decision gives you the green light to re-apply every time a JP rejects your application. In this case:

I suggest that you pick your battles carefully. If a justice gives you reasons for rejecting your application, consider them carefully. Try to remedy the problem if you can. If you can't, and your matter is urgent, then if you do re-apply, you must tell the second justice what the first one did.

2021.10.30 Charter Still Operates when You Take the Defendant to Hospital

Mr Jarrett, 2021 ONCA 758 fought against the police officers who found him in possession of drugs. The police officers overpowered him, and he suffered injuries.

When an officer told him he could call a lawyer, he asked for one by name.

The police officers took him to a hospital, where he stayed for 30 hours, handcuffed to a bed.

Only after they returned to the police station did the police put him in contact with a lawyer.

Judges don't like this abandonment of duty. The right to retain and instruct counsel without delay does not necessarily mean "you can call a lawyer when we get back to the police station". It's a right that operates where ever the prisoner happens to be. The reason that judges usually let you take the prisoner to the police station before providing that right is because you need to provide that access under controlled circumstances, and the conversation must occur in private.

The judges excluded the evidence of the drugs. He beat the drug charges.

He didn't beat the charge of assaulting a peace officer. That's because the police applied their use of force training. And becase Mr Jarrett's girlfriend wasn't credible. And a civillian nearby generally supported the police version of events. (If your colleague gets into a struggle with a suspect, and especially if the suspect suffers injuries, you might want to get statements from onlookers. And cell phone video, if they took any. But don't make the victim officer investigate. Bad optics.)

Stay safe out there. But once you are safe, and your prisoner is under control, give the prisoner access to counsel.

Several times recently, I have seen reports of officers who read blood demands to drivers who crashed their cars. In some cases, the officers failed to explain to the drivers their right to get legal advice. Oops. Breath and blood demands trigger s.10(b). If the suspect wants legal advice, failure to provide access usually results in exclusion of evidence. Whenever you read one of those demands, make sure you also explain the right to counsel. (Screening demands are different.) And if your suspect goes to a hospital, make sure that you give them access to legal advice at the first reasonable opportunity. Of course, don't interfere with medical treatment. Life and health come before evidence.

2021.10.30 Circumstantial Evidence - Threads bound together make a rope

Mr Humble's home caught fire when he was inside. He died of his injuries. Did Ms Cole, 2021 ONCA 759 set it?

Unlike many arsons, the fire investigation found no evidence of accellerant, and no specific evidence of how it started.

But lots of evidence pointed at Ms Cole.

I found this case interesting because of the abundance of investigative techniques involved.

Mr Humble was 82. Until shortly before he died, he lived alone and independently. But after a knee surgery, he needed some help. Ms Cole stepped into his life. Several weeks later, his house went up in flames.  Ms Cole claimed that she had power of attorney, and his will now named her as beneficiary of half of his estate.

The autopsy discovered that his body contained a powerful prescription sedative ... which was not prescribed to him. But a doctor had prescribed this sedative to her. Mr Humble, a night owl, went to bed unusually early on the night before the fire.

Ms Cole gave a false alibi, and volunteered other false information when challenged about it. For example, she said that in the morning before the fire, she put a TV on a microwave in the garage, but did not enter the house. The TV was in the garage, all right, but the investigators noticed too much dust on it. Nobody could have moved it without disturbing the dust.

Her financial affairs were a mess; investigation of them discovered that she stole money from Mr Humble.  And the will was forged. And someone who had access to the house must have removed the batteries from the smoke detector.

There are legal issues in this case of some importance to court room lawyers. But I think police officers may glean some valuable ideas from reading about the evidence gathered. For example:

Paragraph Evidence
13 A forensic accountant reviewed Ms Cole's financial affairs, and found that she owed $350,000. Some of the money was due imminently. She needed cash fast.
16, 17 Ms Cole called the deceased's lawyer to inquire about obtaining power of attorney over Mr Humble's money.
18 A forensic document examiner determined that a power of attorney document that did turn up was forged and other documents looked forged, including cashed cheques.
19, 23-27 The POA and the will purported to be witnessed by two witnesses. Both witnesses told police that they signed the document after Mr Humble died, and never saw him sign it. They claimed that she offered them $10,000 to sign.
29 Mr Humble's sister always expected that he would name her as his beneficiary, just as she named him as hers. He never mentioned changing his will.
31 Forensic analysis of deleted files on Ms Cole's computer showed that she had researched and drafted wills just before the fire. And on Google, she researched how to overdose someone using her prescription medication.
35 The post office's barcode markings on an envelope indicated that Ms Cole mailed the "new will" to the lawyer's office days after Mr Humble died.
53 Ms Cole confronted an investigator about contacting her family to check out her alibi. This call likely took the investigator by surprise, but became important evidence at trial. (Take notes of surprising events.)
59 An investigator who examined the garage noted too much dust on the TV for it to have been placed there recenty.
61 An electrician inspected Mr Humble's home during a service call, and checked into the smoke detectors. (How did they find this guy?)
63 Strangely, all of Mr Humble's most important identification and financial documents managed to leave the home before the fire.
64 Ms Cole previously forged documents for the purposes of getting herself out of a financial scrape.

Some of these investigative angles were obvious. Some were not. Some required sharp attention to detail. Some required quick responses to unfolding events. Major crime investigators may find this an interesting case study.

General duty police officers should notice the importance of casual conversations and careful observation (such as the dust on the TV). Note-taking likely mattered in this case.

The evidence was completely circumstantial. Never-the-less, the jury found that Ms Cole killed Mr Humble, and convicted her of first degree murder. The Court of Appeal found that the evidence was so overwhelming that the trial judge's errors didn't matter.

A successful investigation.

May Mr Humble rest in peace.

2021.10.29 Warrantless entry into a Residence

The threshold of a residence poses a legal barrier to every police officer. You need lawful authority to cross it.

Whether that threshold is the door of a tent in an encampment of homeless people (consider R. v. Picard, 2018 BCPC 344), or the portico of a palace in the British Properties or York Mills, you generally require lawful consent, a warrant, or exigent circumstances.

After a couple of armed robberies by four masked men, police arrested Mr Duliepre. He named Mr Reilly, 2021 SCC 38 as one of the other men. Security video and other evidence tended to support this identification. Officers went to Mr Reilly's place to arrest him.

Without a warrant.

Mr Reilly's probation officer told the officers that he had a curfew. During curfew hours, all they needed to do was call him, and he would present himself at the door.

They went to his place. They knocked on the door. He did not answer. But they didn't phone him.

One officer, a big guy, went in to look for Mr Reilly.

Another officer followed, for officer safety. Two more went in.

When the big officer found Mr Reilly in his bedroom, the officer tackled and arrested him. After the arrest, officers cleared the residence. During that operation, they saw items relevant to the robberies: a mask, product from a store.

Overnight, they got a warrant to search for the things they saw during the clearing search. The next day, they found those things, and a gun, and more.

The judges hated the illegal entry. They liked the warrant, but noticed that it asked only for the things that the officers saw during the clearing search. The trial judge and one judge of the Court of Appeal felt that the evidence could be used at trial. (Reilly, 2020 BCCA 369) The rest of the judges of the Court of Apppeal, and all of the judges in the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the evidence found in the search. They did not want to appear to condone the action of the junior officer of barging into Mr Reilly's house without lawful authority. They did not want to condone the conduct of all of the other officers in following him in.

If you have a Feeney warrant, you can cross that threshold to arrest a person inside. If you don't, then you need to follow a plan that results in a lawful arrest.

2021.10.22 Self-defence - The Supreme Court examines the 2013 amendment

Before 2013, the Criminal Code contained definitions of self-defence which few judges could correctly explain to juries. Parliament replaced them. You can find the result of Parliament's work in s.34. It creates three key questions for assessing the claim "I was defendin' m'self". In 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada first fully considered Parliament's efforts after Mr Khill, 2021 SCC 37 killed a man who was stealing from his pickup truck.

Self-defence matters in homicide investigations. Self-defence matters when you handle difficult citizens. This section matters to you.

In the middle of the night, Mr Khill's girlfriend woke him. She heard noises. He looked out the window at his truck in the driveway. He could see the dashboard lights. He grabbed his shotgun and loaded it with two shells.

He sneaked through the dark, his gun at the ready, close to the truck. He found Mr Styres, leaning in through the passenger side. Mr Khill yelled:

"Hey, hands up!

As Mr Styres started to turn, Mr Khill fired.

He racked his gun and fired again.

As Mr Styres lay dying, Mr Khill searched him for a weapon. Nothing in his hands. Only a folded knife in a pocket.

At the murder trial, Mr Khill explained that in the darkness, he mistook Mr Styres' movements. He thought Mr Styres brandished a weapon.

The defence urged the jury to consider how dangerous that moment would have seemed when Mr Styres turned toward Mr Khill.

The Crown urged the jury to consider how Mr Khill made that moment dangerous by sneaking up too close, and creating a killl-or-be-killed confrontation.

The trial judge focussed on the moment. The Court of Appeal ordered and new trial, and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed. The jury ought to consider all of the circumstances, including the defendant's role in setting up the fatal confrontation. In so doing, they analyzed provision for the first time.

Most investigators simply need to know that you should investigate all of the circumstance around the use of force. Whether you investigate a low-level domestic assault or a high-end murder, s.34(2) identifies obvious avenues of interest relevant to almost every use of force:

  1. the nature of the force or threat;
  2. the extent to which the use of force was imminent and whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force;
  3. the person’s role in the incident;
  4. whether any party to the incident used or threatened to use a weapon;
  5. the size, age, gender and physical capabilities of the parties to the incident;
  6. the nature, duration and history of any relationship between the parties to the incident, including any prior use or threat of force and the nature of that force or threat;
  7. any history of interaction or communication between the parties to the incident;
  8. the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force; and
  9. whether the act committed was in response to a use or threat of force that the person knew was lawful.

Homicide investigators might find the nuances interesting.

The section defines three elements to self-defence:

  1. the catalyst - the force or threat that the defendant feared;
  2. the motive - whether the defendant used force to defend himself (or someone else), or for some other purpose; and
  3. the response - what force the defendant actually used.

Those boil down to three questions to ask the suspect:

  1. What did you think was going on? (Were the suspect's thoughts reasonable under the circumstances? If the suspect were sober at the time, would s/he have thought the same thing?)
  2. What were you trying to achieve with your response?
  3. Was that response a reasonable one?

Homicide investigators should read the decision.  Regular investigators should at least read s.34.

And every officer who will use force in the execution of their duties should consider how this section would apply to you if you draw your weapon and kill someone. See whether it fits into the use of force models you learned in your training.

2021.10.22 Fixing a Broken Undertaking to Appear

Ever released someone to attend court on the wrong date? Common mistake. What are the consequences? How can you fix it?

Jimmie hit Sally.

Cst Rookie arrests Jimmie to prevent him from hitting her again. Cst Rookie figures that the usual no-go and no-contact provisions will protect her. Therefore, s.498 of the Criminal Code compels him to release Jimmie. Cst Rookie uses an undertaking, in order to impose those conditions on Jimmie.

Good work, Rookie.

Section 501 describes the obligatory and optional contents of an undertaking. It must state a specific date for Jimmie to attend court.

Because of Cst Rookie's name and role in this discussion, he get the date wrong.

When does the undertaking take effect? How long does it last? What can be done to fix the problem, so that Jimmie doesn't go back to Sally and hit her again?

A provincial court judge in Alberta answered the first two questions: R v Gladue, 2021 ABPC 50

The undertaking started when Cst Rookie released Jimmie.

It ends when:

  1. Someone changes it pursuant to s.502;
  2. At the time of the laying (or rejecting) of charges, the justice cancels it;
  3. The date for appearance at court arrives, but no charge has been laid.
  4. The court acquits or sentences the defendant.

The good judge did not answer the most important question: how do we fix Cst Rookie's mistake?

It depends on the mistake.

If Rookie left the court appearance date blank, then he did not issue an "undertaking" as that thing is defined in s.501(2). Fill in the date, and give the suspect the completed undertaking. If Jimmie hit Sally between the time of release and the time that Rookie fixes this mistake, the defence lawyer can reasonably argue that Jimmie was not yet bound by the conditions, and therefore he can not be convicted of breaching it.

If Rookie entered a date that came and went before any charges were laid, then the undertaking is dead. Lay charges pronto. Whoever swears the charges needs to explain to the justice why there are reasons to fear that Jimmy will hit Sally again, so that the justice will issue a warrant for Jimmie's arrest pursuant to s.512.

If Rookie told Jimmie to come to court on a provincial or Federal holiday (Remembrance Day is coming soon), then s.26 of the Interpretation Act allows that the appearance can be made on the next day.  But it would be wiser to amend the undertaking.

If Rookie told Jimmie to come to court on the wrong day, Rookie might solve the problem by asking Jimmie to consent to amend the undertaking to attend on the right court date. See s.502(1). Don't forget to ask the prosecutor to consent as well.

If Jimmie doesn't want to cooperate, you can ask the prosecutor to apply to court to replace the undertaking. s.502(2). Get that done before the returnable date on the undertaking.

2021.10.03 Affiant Drafting - An Easy Mistake to Make and Strategies to Prevent It

Drafting an affidavit for wiretap or an ITO for a search warrant requires summarizing evidence accurately.

When the evidence compels strong conclusions, we naturally start thinking and talking about the conclusions instead of the evidence.

For example, an officer investigating a drug importation conspiracy received a security video from a witness who worked in a warehouse. The witness told the officer that Mr Duncan, 2021 ONCA 673 attempted to take possession of the shipping container that contained the drugs. The witness gave the officer a video-recording of the event.

In the affidavit, the officer wrote that he watched the video and "observed DUNCAN attempt to take possession of cargo container AKE 2219 TS, within approximately an hour of CBSA seizing and removing cargo container AKE 2290 TS from the Cargo Zone warehouse.”

The video did not show such detail. It showed one man walk up to another man, talk, and then leave. The video was grainy. Nobody could identify the parties just by watching the video. Nobody could hear the conversation by watching the video.

Instead of narrating what the video actually showed, the officer wrote what he believed it showed.

It sounds like a dumb mistake, but it's remarkably easy to make. The officer had good reason to believe that his narration was accurate: the warehouse worker told him what happened. The more firmly you believe your investigative theory, the easier it becomes to fall into this trap.

Fortunately, the officer fully and accurately described in the ITO what the warehouse worker said. Although defence counsel at trial complained loudly about the error, the error did not mislead the issuing judge, nor did the trial judge find the mistake important.

But beware. Many earnest investigators have fallen into this trap.

How do you avoid it? Here are some ideas:

2021.10.03 Search for Officer Safety - Understanding the Principles

This case isn't new. I stumbled on it this weekend. But it provided a clear example of a common problem. A police officer may reasonably want to search a person for officer safety before sufficient grounds develop to search lawfully. What should you do?

In deep Canadian winter, 100km out of town, a car crashed.

Two police officers attended. They found four cold people who needed help. Their car couldn't start. The officers found no evidence of any crime.

The officers recognized a couple of them - from past domestic violence calls. And they recognized Mr Williams, 2020 ONSC 4880, who police suspected, from past information, might be involved in the drug trade.

The officers offered to drive the four back to town. But the officers put a condition on this offer: they must submit to a pat-down search for officer safety. None of the four objected. (How could they? They were in real danger of freezing to death.) But none gave explicit consent.

When an officer checked Mr Wiliams' right side, Mr Williams took a pill bottle out of his left pocket. That seemed suspicious. The officer looked at the botte. It bore a tattered prescription in Mr Williams' name. And even more suspicious, the prescription date omitted the year of issue. An officer looked inside and found oxycodone. Figuring that the prescription was lapsed or fake, the officer arrested Mr Wiliams for possessing narcotics. That led to a search of his backpack, which revealed more drugs, cash and a debt list.

At his trial for drug charges, Mr Williams complained that the search violated his right under s.8 of the Charter to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

The judge agreed that the officer lacked sufficient grounds to justify a safety search. Read paragraphs 33-42.

When explaining safety searches, I find that police officers often try to justify their actions by identifying what they don't know. For example, these officers didn't know whether these four cold people carried weapons.

That's good risk management. When you invite strangers into your space, you make yourself vulnerable to them. You should assume that they pose you a risk until you discover reasons to trust that they will not harm you.

But it's illegal. There's a gap between risk management and lawful authority to search. As the judge explained, at law, the four cold people had rights to privacy. You can infringe on their privacy only when you know there are reasonable grounds to fear. A lawful search for officer safety depends upon what do know, rather than what you don't know.

If you don't have any evidence or information to justify a safety search, then you need to protect yourself using other strategies. Any good armchair quarterback reading this case can identify alternate strategies these officers could have used. For example:

  1. They could have asked for consent to search. (Indeed, the officers tried that approach. But they didn't go all the way. See paras 43-47 for the requirements of an effective consent.)
  2. They could have placed any bags or bottles in the trunk of the police vehicle, without searching them.

In this case, the officer opened the pill bottle. If he searched for the purpose of protecting himself from harm, one may reasonably wonder what firearms or knives he expected to find inside the pill bottle. What really happened here was that the officer switched from officer safety to investigation of an offence.

Bad idea. Even if he had sufficient reasons to search for officer safety, or even if he had valid consent, it was only to search for weapons.

Judges who see police officers abusing the power to search for officer safety will respond by tightening up the law. The existing limits already pose risk management problems. You don't want stricter limits.

Therefore, I suggest reading this case to understand the principles, and then discussing lawful risk management strategies to use in situations like this one.

2021.09.18 "What were he thinking?" - Drawing Inferences from Behaviour Before and After the Crime

For all criminal offences, the law demands proof not only of what the defendant did, but also what he thought:

Some crimes require general proof of the defendant's thoughts. For example, when someone drives dangerously, it suffices to prove that the driver didn't think about the dangers he created when he ought to have done so.

Other crimes, such as murder, require proof that the defendant intended a specific thing, such as death.

One way for a defendant to beat the rap is to claim that his brain wasn't working well enough to appreciate the consequences of his acts. "I was intoxicated." "I suffered a brain injury" "I was suffering madness."

Mr Scott, 2019 BCSC 313 loved a woman. But she loved another man. Mr Scott shot that man dead. Four shotgun blasts to the head.

At his trial, he raised all these issues, but the trial judge convicted him anyway. The Court of Appeal found no fault with her logic (2021 BCCA 337).

What made the difference was the police investigation of Mr Scott's actions before and after the killing. If his brain was so addled before the killing, he would not have:

Likewise, in the hour after the killing, he would not have:

Investigation of the defendant's actions before and after the event can shed light whether he was thinking straight during the incident.

That requires investigation of more than just the defendant's actions at the time of the killing. The investigative team gathered evidence from many sources. The work paid off. The prosecution team presented evidence from many sources. The judge wrote over 500 paragraphs to analyze it all.

Homicide investigators may find it interesting to read the trial decision thinking "what were the investigative strategies of this team?" It's a long read, but it reveals impressive work.

General duty officers can also learn something from this case. In Mr Scott's case, the homicide investigators did not get an opportunity to interview Mr Scott shortly afterwards. Often, the homicide team arrives too late for that kind of involvement.

Usually, general duty officers encounter the suspect first. If you do arrest a suspect right after a crime, even what he says about innocuous things can help discover whether alcohol, drugs or mental disorder affects his brain.

As a professional responsibility, you should assess the health of the people you arrest in any case. After serious offences, take notes of everything the suspect says and does. Even casual conversation or minor mannerisms may matter.

2021.09.05 Risking Pinging - When Exigent Circumstances Justify Tracking without a Warrant

A daring officer tested the limits of "exigent circumstances". We can learn from his cliff-edge performance.

It all started when Mr Bakal, 2021 ONCA 584, a drug dealer, annoyed his girlfriend. At around 3:00am, she called Toronto police and claimed:

Police believed her - he had a history of violence. She gave the police his phone number. The officers looked up the dealer's brother, and learned that he drove a Jeep Patriot.

The daring officer asked his staff to ask the cell phone company to "ping" the phone, to find out where Mr Bakal was. A senior civilian supervisor at the Toronto Police Service refused to do this without a warrant. The supervisor figured that because police were with Mr Bakal's girlfriend, she was safe.

The officer bypassed the supervisor. The officer called the phone company himself, and persuaded them to send him the locations of the cell towers with which the cell phone communicated from time to time.

That information suggested that Mr Bakal was headed east, to Ottawa.

Highway patrol officers stopped a Jeep Patriot on the highway to Ottawa. In the car, they found the two Bakal brothers, two loaded handguns and two kilos of cocaine.

At trial, the Bakal brothers complained to judge that the police violated their privacy rights by tracking them without a warrant. They explained that in exigent circumstances, police can do some things that would otherwise require a warrant. But not tracking people:

All of the judges rejected this argument. First, the telewarrant idea is wrong. Nothing in the Criminal Code applies the telewarrant section (s.487.1) to tracking warrants. Applying for warrants takes time. The judges figured it would take three hours at the fastest. Those of you who are competent at warrant drafting will know that it takes many hours to draft it correctly. Three hours was too long to wait to get started looking for Mr Bakal.

The judges all agreed that even though the Criminal Code does not provide for tracking people in exigent circumstances,  exigent circumstances such as these justify tracking someone by these means, as a matter of common law.

The Bakal brothers argued that there was no urgency to finding Mr Bakal. The girlfriend was with police. She was safe. No risk, no exigent circumstances.

The judges disagreed.

An angry drug dealer with a history of violence may do harm to others. Carrying kilos of cocaine is a great way to find trouble. Packing a handgun gave him the means to do great harm.

The judges found that the police had reasonable grounds to fear for people other than the girlfriend, and that these grounds for fear justified tracking Mr Bakal.

Does this mean cops can do GPS tracking in exigent circumstances? Not necessarily. This case involved only cell tower locations - which provide only the general area, within a few kilometres, of the phone. But this case involved possible harms. If your case involves a high danger of specific and likely harms, this case suggests you might be able to use more precise tracking.

Does this case mean cops should ignore their stuffy policy-bound supervisors? I didn't say that. It may be that the daring officer had a deep understanding of the principles of privacy and exigent circumstances. Deeper than the supervisor. Or maybe he was a loose cannon who lucked out.

The lessons to draw include:

But wait. There's more in this case...

2021.09.05 Detaining Someone on Imprecise Information - Black can be White

A highway patrol officer in Kingston, Ontario received information that Mr Bakal, 2021 ONCA 584 assaulted his girlfriend, and was now heading east on the highway from Toronto to Ottawa, possibly with his brother in a black Jeep Patriot, possibly in possession of cocaine and a handgun.

He didn't find a black Jeep Patriot on that highway, but he did find a white one, bearing a licence plate registered to a person in Ottawa. Another officer radioed that he had pulled over a black Jeep Patriot. This officer did nothing about the white one. Then, the other officer confirmed that the black Jeep did not contain Mr Bakal. This officer found the white Jeep.

There appeared to be two or more people in the Jeep. The highway wasn't busy.

With backup, the officer pulled it over, and did a high-risk take-down, guns drawn.

He found the Bakal brothers in it. He arrested the one that the girlfriend complained about. He searched the car incidental to arrest.

As described above, it contained guns, cocaine, and Bakal's girlfriend's possessions.

At trial, the Bakal brothers complained to the trial judge that the police officer lacked grounds to stop the car: The officers only had reason to stop a black Jeep Patriot, but not a white one.

The trial judge disagreed:

It was reasonable for the officer to suspect that this Jeep carried the Bakal brothers, even though the colour did not match.

I observe that the officer received imprecise information - that the vehicle was possibly a black Jeep Patriot. Had the officer received clear-cut information that the vehicle was definitely a black Jeep Patriot, the judge might not have been so generous.

The appeal court judges did not rule on this issue.

A lesson to draw from this part of the case is:

But wait. There's more in this case...

2021.09.05 Search Incidental To Arrest - Searching for Supporting Evidence

Relying on information he received from a Toronto police officer, a highway patrol officer in Kingston stopped the car which contained Mr Bakal, 2021 ONCA 584, and arrested him for assault. As described above, the Toronto police officer told him that the complainant reported that Mr Bakal had a handgun with him when he assaulted her, but he did not use it to intimidate her on this occasion.

Could the Kingston officer search the car for the gun?

Most of the judges agreed that he could.

One judge disagreed.

You can only search "incidental to arrest" if you search for evidence of the offence for which you arrested.

This officer did not arrest Mr Bakal for gun or drug offences. Just the assault.

Although Mr Bakal didn't use the gun when assaulting his girlfriend, the gun played a significant part in her story. Finding the gun would tend to confirm her story. Three judges found that the officer could search for it "incidental to arrest". One judge, a renowned legal scholar, thought otherwise.

Several lessons appear from this part of the case:

I'd like to say that's the end of it, but there was still more...

2021.09.05 Dumb Mistakes are Easy to Make

Acting on information from a Toronto police officer, a highway patrol officer in Kingston stopped the car which contained Mr Bakal, 2021 ONCA 584, and his brother. The officer had grounds to arrest Mr Bakal, but not the brother. The officer had grounds to suspect that they possessed cocaine.

Nobody told the brother about his rights. Nobody let him call a lawyer.


The Toronto officer who briefed the Kingston officer told him about cocaine. The Toronto officer made no notes about how he knew about the cocaine. The Toronto officer told the prosecutor that before he made the call to Kingston, he had no knowledge about cocaine. I don't know how what really happened, but the trial judge didn't like it, and didn't trust the officer's evidence.


Fortunately, everything that was important to the case was documented in other places, such as radio calls, other officers' notes. The judge relied on other evidence, and convicted the defendants.


2021.08.29 Ghosts, Hindsight and Keeping Records for Posterity

On April 22, 1983, someone raped and murdered, 22-month-old Delavina Lynn Mack. That year, at his trial for that offence, Phillip Tallio, 2021 BCCA 314 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He protested ever since that he didn't do it. He said he got railroaded into admitting guilt.

In 2009, the UBC Innocence Project at the Allard School of Law took on Mr. Tallio’s case. They asked for re-examination of bodily samples to see whether DNA analysis would identify the real killer.

His team hoped that DNA analysis might clear him. On that hope, they launched an appeal of his conviction, 34 years after the guilty plea.

Using advanced techniques experts managed to extract DNA from some samples taken during the autopsy. It neither exhonorated or identified Mr Tallio as the killer.

Tallio's lawyers attacked the adequacy of the original police investigation. They produced affidavits from residents of the community which asserted that the officers failed to interview the people that they should have interviewed.

To answer the appeal, police, defence counsel and prosecutors wanted records of what happened decades earlier. Most of the files were destroyed pursuant to records retention policies. That meant that they had to find as many original investigators prosecutors, defence counsel and witnesses as they could who were still alive, and ask them what happened all those years ago.

Ultimately, the court rejected Mr Tallio's appeal. The DNA did not exhonerate him. He could not produce evidence that showed that either the investigation or the trial was unfair. And there was some pretty strong evidence that incriminated him.

Mr Tallio went back to jail.

This review of an old conviction cost lots of money. What can we learn from it?

My secret source told me that this case turned on evidence, not law. Good evidence answers questions.

Complete your investigation - the more serious the case, the more important it becomes to investigate all leads.

A code of silence makes this difficult. This murder occurred in the reserve at Bella Coola. At that time, residents there did not generally cooperate with police. Citizens have that right. You can't force them to talk (and it's dangerous if you do). But you gotta try to get them to open up, with all of the best social skills you can muster.

Getting good evidence solves even the seemingly little cases. The complainant in a domestic disturbance may tell you that her partner hit her.

Is it worth the extra effort? Yes. A "he-says she-says" case won't go far in court. But corroboration changes the equation.

Is it worth it? If he hit her this time, I wonder what he will do to her next time.

Documentation matters - Even if your investigation is complete, your report is incomplete until you document all that you did - including the dead ends you reached. If someone declined to give you a statement, you record that fact.

As Mr Tallio's case illustrates, record destruction can cause headaches years later. [So did exhibit preservation.] We can't keep everything; but we need to make wise choices about what to destroy and when. If you make such decisions, you need to take cases like Mr Tallio's into account when determining what risks are acceptable.

It Never Ends - Even if an investigation is complete, it is never "over". Mr Tallio's litigation lay dormant for 34 years, and now, 38 years later, it may even carry on to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Plea bargaining comes with risks - Why did Mr Tallio plead guilty if he was so innocent? He blamed his lawyer. The judges found that the evidence did not support his complaints.

But there was another dynamic. He was 17. The Crown charged him (quite properly) with first-degree murder. He faced life imprisonment, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. When the Crown's case looked strong, pleading guilty to second-degree murder - with eligibility for parole at 10 years - must have looked like the best option.

If you were innocent, but you faced such bleak prospects, what would you do?

Although plea bargains clear a great many trials out of the courts, we must take some care not to make the offers too sweet. We should never get into the business of racking up convictions for their own sake.

2021.08.17 Right to Counsel on Arrest or Detention - Cell Phone call at the Scene

Many of you learned from your training to give your prisoners access to counsel at the police station.

But s.10(b) of the Charter gives your prisoner the right to retain and instruct counsel "without delay".

Most adults in Canada now pack cell phones, so that they can communicate with who they want, when they want. Arrests make many adults want to talk to a lawyer.

Why can't they use their cell phone?

Ms Tremblay, 2021 QCCA 24 swerved all over the road. A police officer stopped her. She confessed to texting while driving, but her red eyes and the odour of liquor on her breath gave her away. The officer demanded that she blow into a screening device.

It said she had too much booze in her.

At 11:40pm, the officer arrested her for impaired driving, and offered her access to counsel. She wanted a lawyer. At trial, she claimed that she wanted to call immediately, but the officers would not let her use her cell phone to make that call.The investigating officer said she wasn't in such a hurry. The judge believed her.

The officers waited for a tow truck, then took the Ms Tremblay to the police station. She reached her lawyer at 12:28am.

The officers explained to the judge several reasons why they did not give her immediate access to counsel at roadside:

The trial judge and two levels of appeal judge rejected these explanations. Ms Tremblay beat the charge

They held that you don't always have to give your prisoner access to counsel by cell phone at the place of arrest. But if you don't, you must have good reasons.

Since then, for similar reasons, that court threw out two more convictions for drinking and driving. Ms Freddi, 2021 QCCA 249 and Ms Cyr-Desbois, 2021 QCCA 305.

They aren't alone. Other courts reached similar conclusions. Rover, 2018 ONCA 745; Taylor, 2014 SCC 50.

What are good reasons for preventing your prisoner from using a cell phone immediately at the scene of detention or arrest?

I've heard stories about people who call their friends, who then make false 911 calls in the hope that the officer who caught a drunk driver will rush away to deal with a gun complaint. Such stories don't suffice to delay access to counsel. You need reasons which arise from the circumstances of the specific arrest or detention.

Prisoners and detainees frequently need access to counsel at the scene of arrest or detention. How do you control such abuse of cell phone access to cousel? Here are some suggestions. I'd be interested in your ideas.

  1. Get management to install cell phones in your cars that you can control.
  2. Supervise the suspect when s/he dials the numbers.
  3. Listen to all calls except the call to counsel.

2021.08.15 Document The Obvious

Police arrested Mr Choudhury, 2021 ONCA 560 for drug trafficking. They got a warrant to search the place where they bought drugs from him. Inside, they found one bedroom contained women's clothing, and a locked bedroom contained man's possessions. The woman's room contained no drugs (but it did contain needles). The man's room contained an open safe, and drugs.

Oh, yeah. And Mr Choudhury's OHIP (health insurance) card.  The officer who found the card planned to return it to Mr Choudhury. And so the officer didn't record it in the list of exhibits seized in the bedroom. Nor did he list it in his notes.

The trial judge was so unimpressed by this lack of documentation of a key exhibit that she ignored the officer's evidence about the OHIP card. That made proving that he possessed the drugs in the safe a bunch harder.

What should you do if you seize something because it has evidentiary value, but you want to return it right away?

If we ignore the irrelevant bits, s. 489.1(1) tells you quite clearly:

where a peace officer has seized anything under a warrant issued under this Act or under section 487.11 or 489 or otherwise in the execution of duties under this or any other Act of Parliament, the peace officer shall, as soon as is practicable,

(a) where the peace officer is satisfied,

        (i) that there is no dispute as to who is lawfully entitled to possession of the thing seized, and

        (ii) that the continued detention of the thing seized is not required for the purposes of any investigation or a preliminary inquiry, trial or other proceeding,

return the thing seized, on being issued a receipt therefor, to the person lawfully entitled to its possession and report to the justice who issued the warrant or some other justice for the same territorial division or, if no warrant was issued, a justice having jurisdiction in respect of the matter, that he has done so...

So the general rule is: Seize it. Document it. Get a receipt from the suspect when you give it back. Report it to a justice.

2021.08.05 Statements of Victims of Property Crimes

Good paperwork busts bad guys.

I missed this decision last year when it came out. It remains just as relevant today as when I first encountered this issue ...  30 years ago: you should take proper statements from victims of property crime.

"Someone" stole a truck from a residence in Stettler, Alberta. "Someone" stole stole a bunch of firearms from a residence in Big Valley, Alberta.

Mr Shaw, 2020 ABCA 86 crashed the truck near Red Deer. It contained the stolen firearms.

Did Mr Shaw know the truck was stolen? Did he know it contained stolen firearms?

Inference of Recent Possession

Considering the distances involved, you would want to know how much time elapsed between the thefts and the crash. If they occurred within hours of each other, you would figure he stole them. But if months elapsed, then you can imagine scenarios in which Mr Shaw might innocently possess these things. The judges call this the inference of "recent possession". If the theft occurred really recently, then the person holding the goods must know about it.

Inadequate Formal Statements

The prosecutor filed statutory declarations from both victims. Attached to those statutory declarations were statements from both victims. Unfortunately, neither the declarations nor the statements stated clearly when the crimes occurred, nor where the property was when it was stolen.

I infer from the way the wording in the declarations that the thefts likely occurred within hours of the crash. But the documents did not clearly say so.

In my experience, this usually occurs because at the time of investigation, everyone involved knows exactly when the thefts occurred, and so nobody bothered to document it formally. The victim knew. The 911 dispatcher knew. The investigating officer received a dispatch which spelled out when the victim complained. The officer probably interviewed the victims on the day after the theft. The date of the theft seemed too obvious to mention in the formal statement. The location of the property when stolen was just as obvious, and so nobody talked about it.

The poor trial prosecutor, a year later, had no admissible evidence to offer the trial judge about these key (but obvious) points:

What's Required?

So when you catch someone possessing stolen property, what evidence will the prosecutor need at trial?

  1. To prove that the property was stolen, we need an owner's evidence that the culprit had no right to possess it. Where there are multiple owners, this can get tricky: can we establish that no other owner lent the thing to the suspect? Sometimes you need statements from multiple owners.
  2. To prove when the the property was stolen, we need a witness to say when they discovered that the thing was missing and a witness to say when and where it was last seen. These may be different people than the owner.
  3. To prove that the thing you found belonged to the owner, we need the owner to recognize it or to recite its serial number and/or licence plate.

Inexperienced investigators often assume that because they know the answers to these questions, the prosecutor will be able to prove those facts.

Not true.

Your computer system may tell you the Vehicle Identification Number of the victim's vehicle. That's hearsay. It isn't evidence that the trial judge will accept as proof that you found the victim's car. If you rely on a serial number, get the victim to give you that serial number in a formal statement, or obtain formal certification of ownership.

Your dispatcher may tell you what time the felon took the car. That's hearsay. The judge needs to hear from the person who saw it taken. Get a formal statement about what the witness saw.

Often, this key evidence can be established by way of a statutory declaration pursuant to s.657.1 of the Criminal Code. But that declaration must include all the key facts - especially the obvious ones. Don't assume that the standard form property owner's affidavit that your office uses will suffice.

Triggering the inference of Recent Possession

Notice item #2 in the list above. Many investigators overlook an obvious fact: the discovery of the theft usually occurs after the theft. The inference of recent possession only works if the theft occurred recently. We need to know who last saw the thing in its proper place. For the purposes of "recency", the clock starts ticking when that person turns their attention away from the thing.


Mr Shaw beat the charges relating to the stolen truck and guns. From the way the report reads, I'm pretty sure he committed them.

What went wrong in that case is nothing new. Investigators (and some prosecutors) have been making those same mistakes for decades. On the day of the arrest, when cops catch the felon red-handed, documentation seems unnecessary. A year later, the absence of formal documentation causes the case to collapse.

Good paperwork busts bad guys.

2021.07.30 Independence of Crown

Back in May, I wrote about Ontario (Attorney General) v. Clark, 2021 SCC 18. In that case the Supreme Court of Canada held that prosecutors have no obligation to protect the interests of police officers when prosecuting criminal cases.

Some folks in law enforcement found that decision disappointing.

This week, police may find some comfort in that decision.

A police officer responding to a 911 call arrested Mr Klassen, 2021 BCCA 294 for assaulting his wife. Mr Klassen and his wife responded forcefully. The Crown prosecuted the Klassens for assaulting the officer. In criminal court, the judge acquitted the Klassens. The judge found that "probably", Mr Klassen did not assault his wife, and therefore, the officer did not act lawfully.

The Klassens sued the officer for arresting them without lawful authority.

In the civil court, the officer's defence team argued that the officer acted lawfully because Mr Klassen actually did assault Mrs Klassen.

The Klassen's lawyer objected: "A judge already decided that question. We don't need to litigate it again!"

The judges disagreed.

Because the prosecutor is independent of the police, and because the prosecutor had no obligation to defend the interests of the police, it would be unfair to the police officer to rely on the criminal decision. If the police officer controlled the criminal trial, maybe the police officer's version of events would have come out differently.

2021.07.27 "Look, Ma, No Hands" - Distracted Driving in BC

Mr Rajani, 2021 BCCA 292 drove a car. According to him, he wedged the cell phone between his right thigh and the seat of the car, in a manner that allowed him to see the screen. (The officer said it was on his lap.) It was plugged-in and charging. The screen was black.

Was he "using" an electronic device while driving?

Section 214.1(a) of the BC Motor Vehicle Act defines "using" to include “holding the device in a position in which it may be used.”

Mr Rajani argued that "holding" requires the use of hands. Because he did not use his hands to secure the phone where he could see it, he was not "holding" the phone, and could not be convicted of distracted driving.

The judges disagreed. Within the meaning of the Act, one can "hold" a phone with a chin, or an arm, or a knee.

According to ICBC, distracted driving causes lots of car crashes. Warnings and tickets may save some lives.

2021.07.27 Breadth of Search & Breadth of Disclosure

I encountered a case which caused me to consider the limits of some basic principles.

Which principles?

  1. An investigation is complete when you have canvassed all reasonably available sources of information.
  2. A report about the investigation is complete if it provides all of the evidence that you gathered.
  3. When charged with an offence, the defence is entitled to disclosure of the fruits of the investigation.

Which case?

Women complained that Mr Dadmand, 2021 BCCA 250 sexually assaulted them. He pretended to operate a modelling agency, and by this pretence, met women that he photographed and video-recorded, even while he engaged in sexual acts with them.

Investigators prepared an Information to Obtain a search warrant, based on information received from six women. They searched his electronic devices, and discovered evidence of more offences against other women. The officers discovered lots of sexual material, some of which involved women they could not identify.  The Crown pursued charges relating to offences against only two of the first six women, and four of the newly discovered victims.

Limits of Disclosure - Relevance

Crown disclosed to defence all of the material relevant to the charges laid, but withheld data that related to the women who complained, but were not the subject of charges.

Defence complained that the police officers scrutinized too much data from his devices: overbreadth of search.

Defence demanded disclosure of the withheld material so that he could prove that the police searched his devices too broadly.

The Crown observed that some material had no relevance to the prosecution, nor to the defence of the case. Sure. But defence claimed that they needed it in order to prove a breach of a Charter right. Yes, the judges held, the defence is entitled to disclosure of evidence tending to establish that police violated his rights.

But what good was this material even to prove a breach of Charter rights? For example, there was a video of Mr Dadmand having sex with a woman who had nothing to do with the charges laid. The prosecution wouldn't use that video to prove the case. The defence would not use that video to show that Mr Dadmand had a defence. The judge would not find that video useful in determining whether the police searched too much.

The court agreed with the Crown. In a challenge to the breadth of a search, the court examines how widely the police searched, not the data that they took away. In this case, the notes and evidence of the people who searched the devices explained what data they examined, and what they ignored. Neither the defence lawyer nor the judge needed copies of the data that police saved from Mr Dadmand's devices in order to determine whether the police limited their searching to the kinds of data authorized by the search warrant.

What the judge and defence needed was a full accounting of what the searchers did to look for data responsive to the warrant, to determine whether they looked further than they should have. Police were able to supply a list of all the keyword searches done on the devices.

Some obvious lessons emerge from this:

Breadth of Search of an Electronic Device

As part of their complaint about the breadth of the search of Mr Dadmand's devices, defence complained that the police did not restrict their data searches by date.

Defence counsel urged have judges to require police to specify in advance precisely which search terms and techniques they should use when searching the target device. So far, judges refused. They appreciated that when the technician starts finding relevant data, the technician may think of new search terms or techniques.

Following that line of thinking, the judges disagreed with defence. Limiting your searches by date may be a good way to keep the search focussed on the searching that warrant authorizes, but it's not the only way.

2021.06.16 "Trust me, I'm a Pro" - When to Express Opinions about the Defendant's Guilt

Mr Daou, 2021 ONCA 380 confessed to murdering Jennifer Stewart. At the time he made this confession, he suffered from a mental disorder; but many of his claims matched hold-back information about the killing.

During the trial, the prosecutor asked the investigator to describe his impressive career in criminal investigation. Then, the prosecutor asked the investigator to identify what parts of the confession convinced him that Mr Daou's confession was true. The investigator reviewed the holdback and compared it to descriptions that Mr Daou gave. The officer explained to the jury that at first he was skeptical, but was eventually convinced by the details that Mr Daou gave that he was telling the truth.

The jury convicted Mr Daou.

Mr Daou appealed to the Court of Appeal: The prosecutor should not have asked the investigator to explain his belief in truthfulness of the confession.

The judges agreed. The officer should not have testified about his opinion on the guilt of the accused.

Hang on!

Police officers often testify about why they stopped or arrested someone, or demanded breath samples. What's wrong with telling the court why you think that the defendant is guilty?

It depends on the issue. When the judge needs to determine whether you acted lawfully, your beliefs about the guilt of the accused justify your actions. The judge needs to hear evidence about what you thought.

When the judge needs to determine whether the defendant acted lawfully, then your beliefs are worse than irrelevant. Your opinions about the guilt of the defendant undermine the justice system.

If the judge permits you to tell the him or her what conclusion to reach in the trial, then an independent observer gets the impression that the cop, not the judge, decides the case. All the money we spent on hiring an independent decision-maker is wasted.

Same problem with a jury.

We go to significant efforts to select jurors who are independent of the investigation. When deciding the case, those jurors had the duty of reviewing the defendant's statement, and comparing it to the hold-back to determine if the defendant was telling the truth. As you well know, sifting through evidence is hard work. The prosecutor tendered impressive evidence of the officer's career, and then the officer said, effectively: "Trust, I'm a pro. The defendant is guilty." It's very tempting for a bus-driver, a cashier or short-order cook to say in the jury room "I don't know much about criminal investigation. That cop has more experience than me in comparing statements to hold-back evidence. I trust his opinion". A juror who reasons this way fails to do the task of deciding the case by analyzing the evidence. Stakeholders like the defendant and his family lose faith in the fairness of a trial in which the jury does what the police officer tells them to do.

Of course, there are exceptions. For example, people qualified as experts can offer opinion evidence within the area of their expertise.

"Okay Waldock," you ask. "You're saying sometimes I must tell the judge my opinions, and other times, I must not. When I'm testifying, how can I tell whether I should or shouldn't?"

  1. Listen to the question. If the question doesn't ask you to explain your thoughts about the guilt of the accused, then don't. Questions that start with "Why did you...?" or "What opinion did you form...?" generally requires explanations about your thoughts.
  2. Ask. "Do you want me to explain what I thought at the time about whether Mr Defendant had done something wrong?"
  3. Communicate with the prosecutor beforehand.

The way this decision reads, the prosecutor bears the responsibility for the legal error. It looks like the investigator followed all three steps.

2021.06.15 "Home Free" - Preventing Random Traffic Stops

Six years ago, I wrote that in Ontario, an officer who sees a vehicle driving on a driveway may stop the driver for a random safety check even if the driver first pulls into a private driveway. But the officer must make the decision to stop the car before it leaves the highway. I relied on R. v. Heer, 2013 CarswellOnt 18962, 2013 ONSC 7257, [2013] O.J. No. 6432, which is still, unfortunately, not available on CanLII.

The Ontario Court of Appeal now disagrees. The omission of Heer from the databases matters less now.

Mr McColman, 2021 ONCA 382 stopped at a gas station. Police officers noticed his vehicle, and followed it for 200m, intent on stopping it for a sobriety check, pursuant to s.48 of the Highways Traffic Act. Before they turned on any lights or sirens, Mr McColman turned into his private driveway. The officers pulled in behind him.They approached him, and noticed a remarkable absence of sobriety. Although he drove just fine, Mr McColman had trouble walking. He stunk of booze.

At his trial for drunk driving, he complained that the police had no authority to stop him. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act authorizes police to stop drivers who are driving on a "highway" for random sobriety checks. These officers could have stopped him when he was driving on the road, but they didn't. At the time they stopped him he was no longer driving on a highway, but on a private driveway.

The Crown reminded the court that in R. v. Lotozky 2006 CanLII 21041 (ON CA), they decided officers in similar circumstances could walk up the driveway and stop the driver. Surely, Mr McColman's situation was the same.

No, said the court.

In Lotozky, the officers responded to a 911 call. The complaint was of an intoxicated driver. They saw the car in question drive into a driveway. They already had grounds to suspect an offence. In those circumstances, those officers could stop the driver even on his own driveway.

The officers who dealt with Mr McColman had no reason to think that Mr McColman had committed a driving offence. In those circumstances, the court found that the officers could not exercise the random stop power granted by s.48 of the Highway Traffic Act if the driver was no longer driving on a highway. By reaching home before the officers turned on their lights, Mr McColman was "safe". Olly, Olly, oxen free

Did they need to stop him?

Perhaps you're wondering what all the fuss is about. Mr McColman had stopped his car all by himself. If he wasn't driving any more, then the officers didn't "stop" him. They didn't need to exercise the power granted by s.48 of the Highway Traffic Act to stop him. Maybe. But I can see why - in this case - the prosecutor didn't want to make that argument. If the officers weren't relying on their power under that section, then what authorized them to enter private property?

What if the driver parks in a driveway that is not private property, like the parking lot of a bank or a liquor store? You may not have authority under s.48 of the Highway Traffic Act but if the driver stops himself and gets out, then you don't need it. You can watch the driver get out. You can talk to him or her if you want.

What are your powers?

Did you notice that I pasted the link to s.48 of the Highway Traffic Act into this comment six times so far? Why did I do that? Surely, once was enough.

Nope. It's a hint that I want you to read s.48 of the Highway Traffic Act (Oops. I did it again.) Even if you don't work in Ontario. Why?

Because you need to know your powers.

If you work in Ontario, and you're going to use this section, then read it again while thinking of this case. If you don't work in Ontario, read this section, and then compare it to the legislation you use in your province.

What's a "highway"?

When you review your legislation, you'll probably see the word "highway". What is a highway? Your mileage may differ. Different provinces define "highway" differently. For example, in Saskatchewan and Ontario, a business parking lot is not a "highway". Lux, 2012 SKCA 129; Tresham, 1998 CanLII 14756. In BC, it is. Cyr v. Koster, 2001 BCSC 1459.

2021.06.12 "Recent Possession" - A Soft Concept

You can infer a person's involvement in a theft if the person possesses property from the theft shortly afterwards.

For example, if you catch Jimmy driving a stolen car 2 minutes after someone stole it, you may confidently infer that Jimmy stole it.

If you catch Jimmy driving that same car 4 hours after someone stole it, the inferences vary more. If you find him 4 hours' drive from the place where the thief took it, you may still confidently believe that Jimmy stole it. But if you find him driving it closer to home, you may reasonably suspect that Jimmy stole it. But he may have received the car from the thief. If he received it from the thief, you can still be fairly sure that because so little time passed, that Jimmy knows it was stolen, either because he stole it, or because he dealt with the thief so shortly after the theft, that he must have known what was going on.

Of course, the strength of the inference declines with the passage of time and the type of property.

When you apply for a warrant, this inference works in reverse.  You can infer that after a short time after a theft, the felon will still possess the loot.

How long can one expect a thief to hang on to stolen property?

It depends again on the type of property, and whether there are special circumstances. You can expect a thief who steals cash to dispose of it sooner than a thief who steals a unique artwork. A junkie will likely consume quickly the drugs taken in a drug-ripoff. A stalker will likely keep the undergarments he took from his victim's dresser.

Two months after a home-invasion robbery, police located the stolen van which the robbers used to commit the crime. First they found it parked outside one residence, but it moved to a spot outside the residence of Mr Fuller, 2021 ONCA 411. The investigators obtained a warrant to search that residence for property stolen during the robbery.

Defence argued that after two months, there was no reason to believe that any property taken in the robbery would remain in the residence. The warrant should never have issued.

The judges disagreed. They held that although reasonable minds might differ about whether the search would recover stolen property, this warrant was properly issued.

Your mileage may vary. This decision does not establish that 2 months after every theft, you can get a warrant to search the residence of a suspect.

Why did the judges think 2 months wasn't too long? This robbery involved a jewellery box containing earrings and other items. If you sought to profit from such booty, how would you do it without drawing attention to yourself? An obvious strategy would include finding different buyers, and moving slowly.

If time passed between the crime and your discovery of a likely felon, consider your suspect's motives and likely courses of action. In your ITO, a careful articulation of the difficulties involved in disposing of the stolen items may cause the issuing judge or justice to see why you think that the property is still there.

2021.06.03 Search and Seizure - Documenting the Search

How methodically do you search? How do you document it?

Mr Wragg, 2021 BCCA 214 got into a car accident and left the scene. He came back after a while, and grabbed some things from the car and put them in a bag. Two police officers arrived while he was still in the area. One of them arrested him for failing to remain.

At trial neither could recall who did the arresting.

One officer searched the bag, and found 24 packages of drugs. That officer couldn't clearly recall where he did that search. The other officer remembered that he emptied the bag onto the hood of the police car.

At trial, Mr Wragg explained that he didn't know about the packages of drugs. They must have been in his girlfriend's purse, which was one of the things that he grabbed from the car.

The big question at trial became whether the packages of drugs were in the purse or not.

The officer who found the drugs couldn't remember all of the details of the search clearly. He did make some notes of the search. Some of those notes differed from his testimony at trial. He remembered things a bit differently. The defence lawyer highlighted this variation in memory during cross-examination.

Don't laugh at the police officer. This could happen to you. If you do lots of searches, then years later, they will blend together, and you may find yourself struggling on the witness stand to remember find details about the case.

How do you avoid this?


The notes that the officers did make helped greatly. The trial judge didn't laugh at the officer. The trial judge believed him. The appeal court found that the conviction was reasonable, and upheld it.

    With the benefit of hindsight, you can learn much from this case.

For example, why couldn't the officers remember which one of them arrested Mr Wragg?

I'll bet they wrote their reports in the passive voice: "Mr Wragg was arrested." Do you think there would have been any confusion if they wrote their reports in the active voice? "Cst X arrested Mr Wragg."

I hate the passive voice. I use it, but sparingly. When I read the passive voice in police reports, it irritates me. The passive voice conceals the responsible person. "The bag was searched" - who did the searching? "20 small bags of meth were found." - Who found them? Which thing contained them? The active voice answers those question. "Cst Jones searched the bag. He found that it contained 20 small bags of methamphetamine."

What can you do to avoid the problems that these officers encountered? I'll bet some photographs would have helped jog memories. If you're searching a collection of interesting things, you might want to document clearly which container(s) held the objects of interest.

If you apply hindsight to this case, you may discover other investigative angles you might have considered. When I read the decision, I thought about handwriting comparison. You might think of other things you could do next time you encounter a similar situation. That's one of the values of reading case law.

2021.05.23 Delaying Access to Counsel

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about giving the defendant access to counsel at the scene. No delay!

But you can delay, where you have reasons specific to the case.

Police watched Mr Griffith, 2021 ONCA 302 because a tipster told them he sold drugs. What they saw caused them to believe the tip.

When they arrested him, he tried to flee. He carried lots of cocaine, and a loaded handgun.

The officers told him promptly about his right to counsel - they even video-recorded it. He wanted a lawyer. But the officers were getting search warrants for his house and storage locker. They worried that he might abuse the phone call. They didn't know who occupied his apartment, but they did know that Mr Griffith carried a loaded gun, and they had reason to suspect that he sold drugs from there. This sufficed to stall his access to counsel until the officers went in.

It didn't justify delaying his access to counsel for an hour and twenty more minutes. That was a problem which arises all too often.

When you get a warrant, you should always brief your team. Perhaps that briefing should always address how access to counsel will be granted once officers enter the location.

2021.05.23 Explaining the Right to Counsel & Documenting what you Did

Police officers often arrest suspects and explain the right to counsel. One can easily forget routine events.

Most suspects get arrested rather less often. For them, the experience stands out as memorable.

Therefore, when the defendant claims that you failed to explain the right to counsel properly, the defendant has an advantage over you. The defendant's lawyer can often get you to agree that you have no specific memory of what you "usually do". Then the defendant's lawyer will point out to the judge that the defendant has a specific memory of you doing things wrong, and all you can say is what you usually do.

But Cst. Price of the OPP told the court of very specific memories of arresting Mr Luu, 2021 ONCA 311. It was raining heavily when Cst Price arrested him. Cst Price read from card. He noticed that Mr Luu spoke with an accent. He backed up and explained the rights again in everyday language, to make sure that Mr Luu understood. Mr Luu indicated that he understood, but didn't know whether he wanted a lawyer.

How did Cst Price remember those specific details?

I don't know. The decision doesn't say.

I do know that Mr Luu didn't dare contradict him about what happened at the roadside.

Instead, at court, Mr Luu complained that he didn't understand what Cst Price was saying. He complained that Cst Price failed to figure out this comprehension gap.

Mr Luu's complaints didn't impress the judges. Cst Price went further than reading the card. He listened to the answers he got. What he heard made him take another step. Everyone knows that the best communicators are the ones who listen. Because Cst Price took that second step, the judges could be confident that Cst Price wasn't just going through the motions, but he was actually communicating.

How could Cst Price remember all this detail? My guess is that he wrote it down. Maybe in a wet notebook. Or maybe he recorded the interaction.

Investigators should document the interesting stuff that they find. Smart cops document the routine stuff too.

Cst Price busted Mr Luu for conspiracy to traffick drugs. Mr Luu had half a kilo of meth on him when arrested. The conviction and sentence survived appeal. Whatever Cst Price did to record his interaction with Mr Luu, I bet he'll do it again next time, and maybe even better.

2021.05.23 Impaired Driving - Another Document to Give the Driver

In routine impaired driving cases, before you release a drunk driver, you usually give him or her a handful of documents, including:

But there's one more document that you need give the driver.

"We never used to give the driver a copy of that certificate. Why now?"

Because the drunk driving legislation changed in 2018.

"That's a couple of years ago now. Why did Waldock wait so long to tell us?"

Because the answer wasn't clear. Lawyers disagreed about what those changes meant. Judges disagreed too. When judges disagree, lawyers appeal. It takes a while for those appeals to work their way through the system. This week, the first provincial Court of Appeal delivered its opinion on this issue. R v Goldson, 2021 ABCA 193. That provides some clarity.

Judges in your province may disagree. The Supreme Court of Canada may disagree.

If they disagree, then this is a make-work project. Nothing will happen if you fail to serve the extra document. But if they agree, then some prosecutions will fail if you don't do the extra work.

I think the Supreme Court of Canada will agree with the Alberta Court of Appeal. Until the judges give a final answer, I think you're better safe than sorry. The safe route is to serve too many documents rather than too few. For that reason I think you should give the driver a copy of the analyst's certificate, along with notice.

"Notice"? What's that?

There is actually one more document on that list of documents that you usually give the driver.

In my jurisdiction, the "Notice of Intention to Produce" is printed on the same page as the Certificate of Qualified Technician. Some people think it's one document, but the page actually contains two different documents, signed by different people, and saying different things.

Because of the Goldson decision, I think that you now need to give notice that the prosecutor will use two certificates at court.

Therefore, the complete list of documents for service looks like this:

"Bloody heck, Waldock! That's an awfully long list of documents!"

I agree. But we can reduce it by one.

In my view, there is nothing wrong - and much right - about combining the two notices into one document that says "The prosecutor is gonna use the breath tech's certificate and the analyst's certificate in court." Some people may resist that suggestion because it's a bother to re-program the breath testing instrument to print a notice that mentions both certificates.

Yup. It's a bother.

The process of investigating and prosecuting drunk drivers is already pretty complicated. Complications in investigations tend to lead to complications in prosecutions. And from there, it's a short walk to acquittals. 

If I managed the alcohol testing programme, I would ask the manufacturers to program the instruments with the following features:

Um, what's this "alcohol standard" you keep talking about?

In case you were afraid to ask, I thought I might explain.

The instruments measure the amount of alcohol in the air that the driver blows into the instrument. In order to show that the instrument's results are trustworthy, the manufacturers design them with a quality assurance cycle. In addition to measuring the driver's breath, the instrument measures air laced with a known quantity of alcohol. Scientists refer to this as a "control" sample. If the instrument finds the right amount of alcohol in the control sample, then it must be working properly. That control sample is the "alcohol standard". (It actually does other things to make sure that it's working properly. Let's not get into that right now.)

The new legislation (s.320.31(1)) says the judge must accept the instrument's measurement of alcohol in the driver's breath if the prosecution proves that the instrument used a good alcohol standard. That's new. In the past, judges accepted the breath tech's word or certificate that the alcohol standard was good. Many lawyers and judges figured that was still okay under the new legislation. The court disagreed. Read the decision to understand why.

2021.05.17 Authenticating Electronic Data - A Story of Scorn

"There are entirely too many ways for an individual, who is of a mind to do so, to make electronic evidence appear to be something other than what it is." Nordheimer J.A. at para 30.

Mr Aslami, 2021 ONCA 249 had a wife. When their relationship ended, she was angry. Very angry. In order to hurt him, she arranged to have sex with a man he hated. She sent him pictures of herself in bed with his nemesis to make sure that Mr Aslami felt some pain.

Shortly afterwards, someone firebombed that man's house.

Who threw the bomb?

The ex-wife testified that she recognized Mr Aslami in a brief and blurry security video of the firebomber.

Before and after the firebombing, the ex-wife and the guy Mr Aslami hated both received several messages, both by text and on social media platforms. Some of those messages suggested that the sender was involved in the firebombing.

Police got those messages only from the phones of the ex-wife and the new guy. They did not recover Mr Aslami's phone.

The ex-wife testified that the phone number and social media account belonged to Mr Aslami.

Did Mr Aslami send the the messages, or was he framed?

In her phone, the ex-wife attached Mr Aslami's name and photograph to several phone numbers, including the one that sent these text messages. But police found no evidence of a phone that Mr Aslami used at the time with that number.

The social media accounts were in pseudonyms which the ex-wife said were Mr Aslami. But the police gathered no communications which clearly identified the sender as Mr Aslami.

Electronic messages on a cell phone can be deceiving. Many systems display a photograph of the sender beside the text. But who associated the photograph to the phone number? Can you attach the wrong photo to a phone number in your phone? Can you set up a fake social media account? Would this woman do such a thing to punish Ms Aslami some more?

Oh yeah. There's one more thing. Before the fire-bombing, the new guy split up with his partner, and moved out of the house. The fire-bombing didn't hurt him.

Was he complicit in framing Mr Aslami?

The trial judge convicted Mr Aslami. The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. The judges worried that the trial judge had not considered the scorned woman theory sufficiently.

What does this mean for your investigations? When you review electronic messages that prove a case, you want to authenticate them. That means finding evidence that proves who typed them.

If you can seize and search the target's cell phone, that will solve the authentication problem.

Another way is to examine the content. Yesterday, I reviewed the statement an officer took from a woman complaining of harrassing messages from her ex-boyfriend. I was pleased to see that he took the time to ask her "but how do we know these messages came from him?" She identified topics in the messages that were important to the ex-boyfriend, topics that they had discussed over the course of their relationship.

Notice that this may require extra seizure. You want more than the harassing messages, but also the ones that tend to identify the person who sent them.

Sometimes that will suffice. Sometimes you need more. What if the woman in my case were framing him, as was proposed in Aslami's case? In the messages I looked at, the sender described something he was about to do. I have independent evidence that the defendant did exactly that.

2021.05.12 Arrest Procedures that Protect You

Some police officers had reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Scala, 2021 ONCA 297 committed criminal harassment, and so they arrested him.

He resisted arrest. The police officers took him to the ground.

Afterwards, he sued the police. A decade after the arrest, he testified in court that the officers beat him up. So did a buddy of his, who said he saw the brutal attack and tried to stop the officers.

Naturally, the officers denied inflicting any violence.

Lots of evidence rebutted Mr Scala's version: cell block video and photographs; Mr Scala's medical records; audio recordings of what Mr Scala said shortly after the arrest.

The trial judge rejected the claim. So did the Court of Appeal. If you read the decision, it all seems so simple.

But the decision refers to lots of evidence. That evidence made all the difference. Where did the evidence come from?

Much of it came from following good booking procedures. Cell-block video recording system. Photographs. Audio-recording the defendant as he goes through the booking process.

There are people who will make false allegations about police officers for their own gain. The cumbersome processes of documenting the prisoners in your custody can protect you against false claims. Even a decade later.

2021.05.12 Independence of Crown - Ontario (Attorney General) v. Clark, 2021 SCC 18

In 2009, some officers arrested Mr Maharaj and Mr Singh for armed robbery. At their trials, each alleged that the police beat them up during the arrest. The Crown dropped the case against Mr Maharaj, but pressed on with the case against Mr Singh. During that trial, Mr Singh asked the judge to stay the charges because of the police brutality. Both Singh and Maharaj testified that the police beat them up.

The Crown did not ask the police officers to explain their side of the story at the trial.

The trial judge convicted Mr Singh. The Court of Appeal found that that the police brutality should have resulted in a stay of proceedings. The judges condemned the officers' brutality, naming them in their decisions.

But Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, and Toronto's Police Service Professional Standards Unit investigated the police misconduct. Mr Maharaj didn't cooperate. Those agencies concluded that likely, the officers did not assault the two robbers. Maybe the prosecutor should have told the judges of the Court of Appeal.

The police officers sued the prosecutors for failing to contest the robbers' claims properly.

The Supreme Court of Canada rejected the officers' claims. The judges found that the prosecutors did not owe any duty to the police officers to protect them from false Charter claims in a criminal trial.


Because Crown Counsel aren't your lawyers.

To ensure the independence of the prosecutor, the prosecutor must not bear any duty to protect police officers' interests.

Does that mean that the results in this case were just? I don't think so. Two robbers beat serious charges by making false allegations against police officers. The Crown didn't fight those false allegations hard enough. The false allegations hurt the careers of some police officers. I don't know exactly why things went wrong. I suspect that there were trust or communication problems between the officers and the prosecutors, either personally, or institutionally.

There are two ways to apply this decision to every-day police work. You can view it as proof that prosecutors are aloof, and not to be trusted. If the relationship between police and prosecutors in your area is bad, then I think this approach will exacerbate the problem.

Or you can recognize and affirm the independence of Crown, but work with them to improve communications, so that they don't lose cases like this one on false allegations.

On of the main reasons I write this website is to promote a good working relationship between police and prosecutors. There are deep reasons why prosecutors and police must remain separate agencies; but there are equally deep reasons why police and prosecutors need to be able to work side by side, with good cooperation and communication. Knowing each others' roles helps us understand what we can and can't do for each other.

2021.05.08 Right to Counsel - Cell Phones at the Scene

"[T]he case law could not be clearer on the issue of when an accused is entitled to avail himself or herself of his or her right to counsel. The right applies immediately following arrest and reading of constitutional rights, insofar as the circumstances of the case allow." LeBlond J.A. in R. v. Landry, 2020 NBCA 72 at para 3 (The report is in French first, then English.)

A police officer stopped Mr Landry just before 3:00am, and investigated him for impaired driving. When Mr Landry (eventually) blew a "fail" on a screening device, the officer arrested him, and took him to the police station for a breath analysis.

When should Mr Landry get to speak to a lawyer? He asked to use his cell phone at roadside. The officer made him wait until they got to the police station. That took 30 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, most lawyers didn't answer their phones in the dead of night. The officer spent almost an hour trying to contact lawyers for Mr Landry. Eventually, the officer called Legal Aid. Mr Landry refused to speak to the Legal Aid lawyer that was available. Shortly after that, the officer gave up and made Mr Landry provide his breath samples.

Why not give Mr Landry his cell phone at the roadside, and let him call his lawyer right away?

The officer had no explanation.

The judges didn't like that.

This officer also read the "Supplementary" (aka "Prosper") warning to Mr Landry. This was a mistake. One reads that warning when your prisoner starts to waffle after first saying he wants a lawyer. But Mr Landry never changed his mind. Nothing triggered a need to tell him that he was entitled to a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.

It wasn't a bad mistake - it merely re-affirmed that Mr Landry was entitled to a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice.

Very shortly after telling Mr Landry that he was entitled to a reasonable opportunity to get legal advice, the officer told him he had to stop calling lawyers, because it was time to provide breath samples.

The judges didn't like that either. They excluded the breath test results, and Mr Landry beat the charges.

Why do you take prisoners to the police station before letting them call for legal advice? I know of several explanations:

Times have changed. Cell phones are everywhere.

Most of these concerns can be addressed.

If the sound quality in the police car is poor, then ask the lawyer to be available when you get your suspect to quieter place - such as a police station.

After you make a breath demand, you need to test the subject's breath "as soon as practicable". If the subject wants legal advice, one of the necessary steps is contacting the subject's lawyer. Calling right away may reduce delay at the police station.

Even if you didn't read a breath demand, s.10(b) of the Charter guarantees the prisoner legal advice "without delay".

Decisions like this one suggest that if you can provide the suspect with access to counsel at roadside, then you must. If you can't, then you need to be ready to explain the reason(s) that prevented it.

Police cars weren't designed for providing access to counsel. Maybe they should be.

2021.05.05 Confidential Informants - It Seems Easy until Later

Two years of service teaches a police officer only the rudiments of the job.

With two years of experience under his belt, an officer received a confidential tip about Mr Dawkins, 2021 ONCA 235 packing something illegal.

The officer had never handled a confidential source before, but he knew that he had an obligation to protect the source from being identified. (Good. He got one fundamental correct.)

Police information suggested that Mr Dawkins as a dangerous guy. He had a history of firearms offences, and he was prohibited both from possessing firearms and - as it turns out - driving cars.

One night, the officer saw Mr Dawkins get into a car, so he pulled it over.

The officer first violated s.10(a) of the Charter: he lied about the reason for pulling over the vehicle.

He did so for officer safety. He was working alone. He didn't want to arrest Mr Dawkins for driving while prohibited until backup arrived. So he told Mr Dawkins that he saw the vehicle swerving. That didn't turn into a problem in the case; but don't make a habit of lying about the reason for detaining someone.

When backup arrived, the officer arrested Mr Dawkins for driving while prohibited. A search of the vehicle discovered a loaded handgun under the driver's seat.

What should the officer do about the confidential source information? Even though the source information formed part of his reason for pulling the vehicle over, he said nothing about it at the scene, and wrote nothing about it in his notes and report. He figured he could sort it out with the Crown if there was a trial.

Defence launched a Charter application. The main point was that the officer lacked grounds to stop Mr Dawkins' car - a breach of s.9. I don't know from the reasons of the Court of Appeal why defence thought this argument would work, but it may have had some substance.

Two weeks before trial, the officer met with the prosecutor, and explained how the source information formed part of his justification for stopping Mr Dawkins. The prosecutor immediately disclosed to defence the fact that the officer acted, in part, on source information.

Things could have gone wrong:

Handling confidential sources gets tricky fast. As you can see from this case, failing to write anything down can backfire. But writing things down in the wrong places (like disclosure to defence) or failing to redact it can also backfire. Beware of shortcuts. Read a manual. Take a course. Learn the procedures that your police force follows.

In this case, the judge found that the officer's inexperience explained why he acted as he did. The judge believed the officer and convicted Mr Dawkins.  If it works, that excuse of inexperience works only once. If you don't know how to handle a source, then get some formal training.

2021.05.02 "Why would she lie about this?" - Interviewing Danger Zone

Mr Bernier, 2021 ABCA 27 had with a young woman at a house party. She said so. And when an officer interviewed him, he agreed. But they disagreed about whether she consented. She said that his sexual acts woke her up. He said she was awake from the beginning and she enthusiastically participated.

During the interview, the police officer repeatedly asked Mr Bernier to explain why she would lie about what happened.

Although you can ask this question in your interview, don't make it the central theme of your interview.

At a trial, the question is improper. At law, the prosecutor can't ask the defendant to explain why another witness might lie, and if the judge relies on the defendant's inability to give a satisfactory answer to the question, then the Court of Appeal will order a new trial. And that's just what the court did in this case.

The court said that the prosecutor ought to have edited those questions and answers out of the interview before tendering it in the trial.

If your interview is going well, perhaps you should simply avoid that topic altogether.

2021.04.27 Victimizing Cops - Investigating Your Own

A drunk assaulted a cop in downtown Vancouver. His name was Eddison, 2021 BCCA 168.

It went badly. The officer took Mr Eddison down, but he fought and struggled.

When the officer's partner stepped in, something broke her leg. Either the drunk fell on her the wrong way, or he kicked her during the struggle.

Once the officers got the drunk under control, other officers canvassed the area for security video and witnesses. They found witnesses, but did not secure any useful video.

Everybody who saw the incident described it differently. Even the two officers gave different accounts. Video would have helped.

But one witness gave a different account. He claimed that he saw the event, and the video security system at the place where he worked recorded the whole thing. He said that two officers came and looked at it, but did not request a copy. A different officer testified that she actually did look at that recording, but found no useful evidence.

At trial Mr Eddison's counsel used that as an opportunity to attack the cops: The witness proved that the one video was probative. Three cops looked at it, but they didn't want anyone to see what it contained. "Negligent investigation!" By failing to secure the video, those three cops were covering up the truth.

It's a common tactic to accuse police officers of inadequate investigation or cover-up, and it sometimes works. Here's why: when police fight with civilians, all the investigators look biased.

Remember when Iran shot down a commercial airplane. When Iran released its official investigative report, critics found the investigation inadequate. The lack of independence of the investigators from the investigated undermined the credibility of the report.

When you investigate the circumstances of an assault of a police officer, or any other victimization of your brothers and sisters in blue, your critics may suspect you of bias, or even cover-up.

The judge in this case rejected the notion that there was a police conspiracy to frame Mr Eddison. He had good reason. The two main police witnesses had quite obviously not colluded. They provided different accounts of what happened. But the independent witnesses generally agreed that Mr Eddison was the aggressor, and the police reacted appropriately.

The judges concluded that Mr Eddison was guilty.

Think how much harder the case would have been without independent witnesses.

The trouble is, when someone hurts you or your colleague, there are no independent investigators you can call on to perform a credible investigation. The only resources available are the people you work with.

What do you do?

Don't make the victim, or the an officer who witnessed the crime take the role of investigator. That aggravates the problem of apparent bias.

Get other officers to investigate the crime ... and document the investigation.

What do I mean "document the investigation"?

A good example can be drawn from the Eddison case. Remember the one officer who looked at the security video, and concluded that it was not relevant? She behaved like it was a routine investigation. Suppose, at that moment, she thought to herself "I am a cop investigating an assault on a cop. Someone will claim I am part of a conspiracy." What would she do to show she was not? Perhaps she might take a copy of the useless video. Or photograph the screen of the video system to show that it recorded the wrong area.

In these situations, if you can't bring in an independent investigator, then investigate transparently.

On the witness stand, you might get asked "why did you do something different than a routine investigation?" You can answer, "it wasn't an routine investigation. I knew the victim. I knew someone might suspect me of slanting the evidence. So I took extra steps to show that I didn't."

2021.04.19 Innocent Possession - "I'm just holdin' it for a friend"

Mr Faudar, 2021 ONCA 226 found a handgun and ammunition in his makeshift music studio. That wasn't cool, in part because a judge had prohibited Mr Faudar from possessing firearm. So he moved it to his bedroom. A friend texted him, asking him to hang onto the gun until the friend got back into town.

About a week later, before the friend returned, police raided Mr Faudar's place, and seized the gun.

At trial, Mr Faudar said he was innocent. He was just hanging onto the gun until the friend took it back.

There is such a thing as innocent possession. If a citizen finds a kilo of cocaine in the playground, the citizen can grab it, take it home, and call police for assistance.

But it ain't so innocent, if the citizen holds it for the drug dealer.

Same thing for Mr Faudar. He didn't try to turn it in. He was going to put it back into the hands of the guy he got it from. His "defence" was not a defence, but evidence of guilt.

For lawyers, the case got somewhat more interesting.

Why did the police raid Mr Faudar's place? They had a confidential informant.

Who did Mr Faudar suspect? His friend.

Mr Faudar retained a lawyer to help him. Who did he retain? His friend's former lawyer.

Was the lawyer acting in conflict of interest? For lawyers, there's some interesting discussion about conflict of interest. In this case, the answer was "nope, not a conflict".

Mr Faudar's conviction stuck.

2021.04.16 Entrapment by a "Cutie"?

Police logging onto a chat site as jail bait is not entrapment.

In November 2012, a police officer logged onto a chat site using username "mia_aqt98". This suggested that "she" was 14, and a “cutie”. Mr Ghotra believed "her". Mr Ghotra, 2020 ONCA 373 chatted with "her", and "she" confirmed that "she" was a 14-year-old girl. He turned the conversation rapidly towards sex. Within a few days, he proposed that she meet him. Police arrested him at the meeting place.

He called this entrapment. Most of the Court of Appeal disagreed with him. So did all of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. R. v. Ghotra, 2021 SCC 12


Because the officer merely provided the opportunity for Mr Ghotra to lure a 14-year-old girl. Mr Ghotra is the one who took the initiative.

2021.04.11 Digital Forensic Experts Don't Know Everything

Let's talk about a narrow technical point and a broad philosophical idea.

Narrowly, when a computer forensic expert examines a computer or phone, don't assume that they have all of the expertise necessary to interpret the data. The field of computer science now has many areas of specialty.

But broadly, when you investigate a crime, should you investigate innocent explanations for the evidence you have found?

When a forensic expert examined a cell phone and computer seized from Mr Gauthier, 2021 ONCA 216 she found evidence of child pornography, including Skype chats containing child pornography.

A fair bit of evidence linked Mr Gauthier to the chats. Heck, the user name of the Skype account used his mother's maiden name.

Defence asked some difficult questions about Skype:

The expert didn't know enough about Skype, how it worked, and what data to look for in the logs to say whether this theory was right or wrong.

Fingerprints don't stick to digital information.

When investigating digital information in a computer or cell phone, it isn't enough to find the data of interest in a computer or cell phone. You want to know how it got there. And you may need to consider all alternative means for it to get there, like this defence lawyer did.

The best investigation of a digital crime involves investigating inside the box and outside the box. What does the computer or the cell phone hold? What human evidence outside that box can you gather to eliminate (or establish) innocent explanations?

I'm not dissing these investigators. It's clear from the report that they investigated outside the box. But they didn't know what their expert didn't know.

But perhaps the investigators would have found out more if they pressed their expert with the question: are there any other ways for this data to get onto these devices than Mr Gauthier putting it there?

They'll get a second kick at the cat. The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. The prosecution may need the help of a Skype specialist. I hope they don't ask me. Although I have a B.Sc. in computer science, I lack the knowledge to be of any assistance.

2021.04.11 Section 10(a) - Keeping the Investigation Alive by Stopping a Suspect on a Ruse

Hells Angels are known for making their money by breaking laws. You make your money by upholding laws. The Charter says that when you stop someone or arrest them, you must tell them why. That law applies to you even when you are arresting someone who breaks laws.

Mr Bielli, 2021 ONCA 222 belonged to the Hells Angels. Police had good reason to believe that he and his gang made money from illegal online gambling. The investigators learned of a day when he would deliver a quantity of cash. They wanted to relieve him of the ill-gotten gains without alerting the gang that the police were on to them.

The lead investigator wanted to stop Mr Bielli on some pretext, and then "discover" the cash as if by accident.  But he realized that the plan required police officers to lie to Mr Bielli about the reason for the stop. He asked a lawyer, Andrew Sabadini, whether he could get a General Warrant which would authorize him to stop Mr Bielli on a ruse. Mr Sabadini told him:

Nope. General warrants authorize searches. Lying to someone isn't a search.

Mr Sabadini gave good legal advice. He answered the question in 2011. The Ontario Court of Appeal delivered a decision 5 years later that showed that the lawyer was right. (Poirier, 2016 ONCA 582)

The officer decided to proceed with the plan, without a warrant.

He instructed two officers to detain Mr Bielli for a traffic matter, give him access to counsel, search his car, and scoop the cash. And then give him access to counsel all over again. He instructed them not to mention in their notebooks what they knew about the big project he had running against Mr Bielli and his friends.

They stopped Bielli but they didn't tell him all about why. They scooped $75,000 cash and a laptop. A subsequent audit suggested that the gambling operation grossed $100M over 5 years.

The trial judge found that the officers breached s10(a), but admitted the evidence.

The Court of Appeal noted that the officers deliberately breached s.10(a), and even made misleading notes and reports. That wilful disobedience of the law led them to exclude the evidence from the trial.

I've long felt that there needs to be a judicially-granted authorization like a general warrant by which police may arrest or detain a suspect on a ruse. But it still doesn't exist.

In the mean time, don't give false reasons for stopping or arresting someone.

2021.04.09 Measuring the Prospects of a Search Warrant - "Might" differs from "Will"

The bearded prospector heads out into the wilderness filled with hope. He leads his donkey, packed with tools for mining gold.

Hope is no substitute for knowledge. Unless he knows what he is doing, his wanderings in the wilderness will not enrich him.

He must dig in places where gold will likely be found.

The same principle applies to police officers who apply for judicial authority to violate privacy.

In R. v. Muddei, 2021 ONCA 200, the cold squad had a problem investigating a bar-room murder. When it happened, lots of people were present. Nobody wanted to talk to police. Well, almost nobody. A couple of witnesses who weren't present told police what they heard from people who were present. The stories didn't exactly line up. Tipsters told police a few more details. 7½ years passed, without substantial breaks in the case.

The investigators decided to try wiretap. "Let's tell all the suspects and likely witnesses that we've reopened this case. Put out press releases asking for witnesses. And then let's listen to what they say to each other."  A common stimulation technique.

They put together an affidavit explaining this plan, and a judge granted them authority to listen to private communications between the main players.

The interceptions didn't dig up the gold they were looking for. No evidence about the murder. But they did find gather some precious stones: the intercepted communications included key evidence which proved two different offences. Two guys trafficked drugs. Two other guys did a home invasion.

At the two trials of each of those cases, the defendants complained that the authorization should never have been granted. The affidavit explained only a hope that listening to these conversations would reveal new information about the murder, but not reasons why it was likely.

The two trial judges disagreed whether the authorization was properly granted. The traffickers were convicted. The home invaders beat the rap because the trial judge threw out the wiretap evidence. The two trial judges can't both be right. Both cases went to the Court of Appeal, and were heard together. The Court of Appeal agreed with defence. Everybody walked free.

For affiants, the learning point is a simple one. Most of the interesting warrants and authorizations require that you show reasonable grounds to believe that evidence or information will be obtained by the intrusion into privacy that you propose. You don't need to be certain, but you must show that you will likely strike gold.

For managers, the learning point is also simple.

Every prospector needs hope of success to motivate them. Prospecting involves hard work.

Likewise, in tough cases, you need keen investigators. They also need hope of success to motivate them.

But hope is also a problem. An ignorant prospector will toil in places where he has no chance of finding gold. Hope will keep him working until his food runs out.

Hope is a problem in investigations too. Hope of success sometimes causes keen investigators to believe that a search will bear fruit even when, objectively, it's a shot in the dark.

That's why, in your group of keen investigators, you may need a contrarian, a devil's advocate, whose job it is to distinguish hope from reasonable belief.

2021.04.03 Interviewing Witnesses doesn't Breach s.8 of the Charter

I first saw this case over a year ago. When I revisited it this morning, I thought it worthy of mention.

A mom left her 4-year-old daughter with Mr Molyneaux, 2020 PECA 2 for a short time. Afterwards, while he slept, she snooped through his cell phone because she doubted what he said about his past relationships. To her surprise, she found pornographic photographs of her daughter, evidently taken that evening.

She told a social worker, who told police, who invited her to give a statement. And she did.

Mr Molyneaux complained to the judges that the mom violated his reasonable expectations of privacy by snooping through his phone. (She sure did.)

And the police knew about this violation from what the social worker told them. (Yup.)

Therefore, asking her to recount what she saw violated his right under s.8 of the Charter to be free from unreasonable search.


The Charter restrains government action. If a police officer searched Mr Molyneaux's phone, without a warrant, while he slept, the police officer would violate his right to privacy. (R. v. Fearon, 2014 SCC 77)

But the officer didn't search his phone. The officer merely probed her memory. And that didn't violate his rights.

So if a citizen violates the Charter rights of a suspect, you are free to ask the citizen about it.

But this does not create a warrantless back door into the private lives of your suspects.

If you ask a witness what they saw, you're generally safe. But if you ask a witness to snoop on your behalf - whether into a phone or onto property - then you turn the witness into your agent. If the witness does what you ask, then the Charter applies.

(I note that you can't ask a nurse or a doctor or a psychologist to reveal what they know from their treatment of a patient. Doing so violates s.8 because you cause the professional to violate a professional obligation of confidentiality. R. v. Dyment, [1988] 2 SCR 417)

There's another lesson to draw from this case: To obtain a consent search, you must give the suspect a real choice to permit or deny the search.

When the police got a statement from the mom, they contacted Mr Molyneaux, and asked for his consent to search his phone. He agreed. The officers searched, and found the pictures.

I gather that the officers did not obtain consent in a way that left Mr Molyneaux any meaningful choice. Probably, they said "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. You can consent, or we can get a warrant. Do you consent?"

At trial, Mr Molyneaux's lawyers sought exclusion of the pictures on the basis that the consent wasn't truly voluntary. The Crown agreed. Pictures excluded.

So be careful about how you ask for consent to search.

That error was not fatal on this occasion. The prosecutor relied only on the testimony of the mom. The trial judge convicted Mr Molyneaux, and he lost his appeal.

2021.03.28 Accounting for What You Seize - Preserving Evidence

Mr Hillier, 2021 ONCA 180 ran when he saw police officers.

There were warrants for his arrest. And besides, he had some drugs on his person.

But was he also carrying a ball of heroin-fentanyl-meth mixture for the purposes of sale?

A police officer tackled him, and they fell into a puddle. Officers searched him for safety, during which Mr Hillier volunteered that he had drugs in his sock. He did. 5.53 grams of fentanyl mixed with other drugs. In a pill bottle.

They searched his shoulder-bag. They didn't find more drugs.

Then, they put him into a police car.

When the police car arrived at the police station, there were dime bags scattered in the footwell, and meth on the back seat. The officers found a wet pouch on the floor of the cruiser, containing various drugs. And in Mr Hillier's mouth was a 28 gram ball of heroin-fentanyl-meth mixture.

Simple, right? Just prove that the officers searched the car before putting him into it, and it was clean, and then show what it contained after they took him out.

Not so simple.

The two officers who searched the car at the beginning of their shift gave differing testimony about whether they searched it. And they didn't have notes about this mundane task.

But worse, the exhibit officer discarded half of the things that officers seized in this investigation. Without taking any pictures.

At court, Mr Hillier complained: "There's no way I could have possessed the pouch. Police searched me on arrest, and didn't find it. They took my bag away. My clothing was too tight to conceal it. That pouch must have been in the car before I was placed in it. But by destroying so much of the evidence, I can't show how big that pouch was, so as to prove I wasn't carrying it."

He claimed that the 28 gram ball was lying in the cruiser when the officers put him into the car. For fear of being accused of putting it there, he popped it in his mouth. He claimed he did not know what it was.

The judges did not like the destruction of evidence. They found that any evidence obtained from after placing Mr Hillier into the vehicle had to be excluded. Including the big ball of drugs.

Though he's probably guilty, Mr Hillier beat the PPT charge because the exhibit officer failed to document what was seized.

What does this mean for investigators?

  1. Those routine things you always do at the beginning of the shift matter. Do them, and make a note. In 99 shifts, it means nothing. In the 100th shift, it will be essential.
  2. The exhibits you seize are not only for proving guilt but also for establishing innocence. Even if the thing doesn't inculpate the suspect, it might be relevant in exculpating him. Document what you seize. Destroy with care.

2021.03.28 Following the Money - Private Parts of the Trail

An old man fell for a classic fraud. He received a letter informing that he won a big lottery prize. He followed the instructions. He paid fees for delivery of his big prize. And more fees. And more. The fees exceeded $150,000. The big prize never came.

It took four years to bust the fraudster, Freddy Mawick, 2021 ONCA 177. It took a couple of years to convict him. Naturally, he asked the court of appeal to overturn his conviction.

That big prize never came either.

The investigators followed the money. The victim sent certified cheques by UPS. The fraudster instructed him to keep the tracking numbers. The victim followed that instruction too.

The police used those tracking numbers. Even without a warrant or production order, UPS told them where the packages went and who signed for them.

Mr Mawick complained that he enjoyed an expectation of privacy over that information. The court said he didn't.

That makes sense to me. The victim paid for the UPS service. The victim received the tracking number for the purpose of tracking the package. The fraudster could only expect that the victim would eventually use that tracking information to determine where his money went. No expectation of privacy.

As the investigator closed in on the prey, things got trickier. Some financial agencies revealed information about the the accounts through which the cheques were negotiated. Without a warrant or production order.

That could have derailed the case. People generally enjoy pretty high expectations of privacy in their financial records.

Lucky for the investigator, Mr Mawick cashed some cheques through an account that belonged to someone else. Mr Mawick did not enjoy an expectation of privacy in someone else's account.

I think the investigation reveals the value of the old adage "follow the money". But be careful when you follow the trail into the banking system.

Those of you who do follow the money should beware of expectations of privacy. Your investigation may require stepwise production orders before it reaches the prize.

I've never been a big fan of criminals who prey on vulnerable elderly people. I think the investigators deserve kudos for sticking with it over the years.

They pursued the prize of busting Mr Mawick by following the money.

Their big prize did come.

2021.03.20 No-knock Entry - Search and Seizure

The Supreme Court of Canada set the rules for no-knock entries into residences:

When executing a search warrant, always knock before you enter (and wait for someone to answer).


If knocking would endanger you or result in the loss of evidence, you can enter without knocking.

R. v. Cornell, 2010 SCC 31

Normally, we call it "home invasion" when armed people burst uninvited into a residence to imprison the occupants and take their property. The usual sentence for this crime is a federal sentence.

Even if you had a warrant authorizing you to enter and search a house, a judge will review carefully whether you executed the warrant reasonably. If you entered without knocking, the judge will want to know why.

At 1:43pm, police raided Mr Pileggi's 2021 ONCA 4 house. They had a warrant, and good reasons to think he trafficked oxycodone. During the raid they found oxycodone, and cocaine.

But they didn't knock first.

At trial, defence cross-examined the officers, trying to get them to agree that they had a policy of always doing hard entries without knocking.

All the officers denied it, but the defence came pretty close. When explaining why in 90% of the drug warrants his team executed, they did not knock on the door, one officer said:

"If we were knocking on drug trafficking doors, I’m going to suggest that we would never seize cocaine."

If defence established that the police had a standing policy of hard entries when searching for hard drugs, the judge would have excluded the evidence.

Junior officers may not appreciate the legal obligation to knock. Unless someone educates them, they may agree with suggestions that police never knock when searching for hard drugs.

Whoever makes the decision to enter without knocking needs full information about the investigation, and what risks may lie on the other side of the door.

If you're thinking that you might need to enter without knocking:

At the scene, keep investigating whether you need to enter without knocking. Change the plan in response to what you discover.

You don't need judicial pre-authorization for a no-knock entry. (Al-Amiri, 2015 NLCA 37)  If you don't discover the reasons for the no-knock entry until you arrive on scene, you can still execute the warrant. But once you have the scene under control, document why you didn't knock.

This Pileggi doesn't change the law. But it explains existing law quite well. It illustrates some common problems that arise during searches. I recommend it as worthy of discussion at police training sessions.

2021.03.20 After Arrest, Offer Access to Counsel Promptly

Prisoners are like exhibits. At trial, you must account for what you did with them. (And to keep them in your custody, you must promptly ask a justice.)

Police raided Mr Pileggi's 2021 ONCA 4 house. They had a warrant, and good reasons to think he trafficked oxycodone. During the raid they found oxycodone, and cocaine. I don't know how carefully they handled the exhibits, but they did not handle the suspect with care.

The first officer found him in a bedroom with his wife. That officer arrested him for PPT. The officer handcuffed him and made him kneel on the floor.

The second officer stayed with him while other officers cleared the house.

Seven minutes later, a third officer told him that he could get legal advice.

At trial, Mr Pileggi complained that police did not explain him his rights sufficiently promptly. The officers explained to the judge that they were busy getting the scene under control: once the officers knew they were safe, they explained to their prisoner his right to legal advice.

The trial judge and the appeal judges agreed with the officers on this point.

When Mr Pileggi learned he could get legal advice, he told the third officer that he wanted to call his father, and ask him to arrange a lawyer. The third officer promised to call the father on Mr Pileggi's behalf.

When the third officer started taking Mr Pileggi out the door, a fourth officer intercepted them. The fourth officer read the search warrant to Mr Pileggi. Mr Pileggi responded "my wife has nothing to do with it". The fourth officer then asked Mr Pileggi if he would like to tell police where "anything" was. Mr Pileggi said "no".

At trial, Mr Pileggi complained that the fourth officer tried to get him to incriminate himself before Mr Pileggi got the legal advice he wanted.

The appeal court judges agreed with Mr Pileggi. After an arrest, you have a duty to "hold off" eliciting evidence until the person has exercised or declined to exercise the right to legal advice. When cross-examining the fourth officer, defence counsel noted that there was no law requiring the officer to read the search warrant to Mr Pileggi. The lawyer accused the officer of reading the search warrant for the purpose of eliciting a response. The officer disagreed. The judges leaned toward the defence view. They said reading the warrant to the suspect was risky. It did look like an effort to get Mr Pileggi to talk about the drugs before he got access to counsel.

A fifth officer drove Mr Pileggi to the police station.

A sixth officer received him, and arranged for him to speak with duty counsel. That officer didn't know about the promise to call Mr Pileggi's father.

Transferring a suspect from one officer to the next renders it unlikely that the last officer will know what conversations the earlier officers had with the suspect. This causes two problems:

  1. What access to counsel did Mr Pileggi ask for? The last officer won't know. What promises did earlier officers make about arranging it? The last officer won't know.
  2. If Mr Pileggi makes incriminating remarks about the crime to the last officer, the prosecution will want to prove that those remarks were voluntary. Ordinarily, that requires producing every officer in the chain, and asking them to recount what conversation they had with Mr Pileggi. The weakest links in the chain are the officers who did the least. They tend to make no notes. Those officers have a hard time a year or two later explaining what they did with the prisoner.

When processing exhibits, you would try to avoid passing them through the hands of six different officers. That's because accounting for what happened to the exhibits afterwards would require all six to testify about what they did with the exhibit.

With humans, you must answer questions about conversation and physical treatment. What discussions about right to counsel did you have? Did you tell the next officer? Did you discuss the offences at issue? Did you raise the prisoner's hopes of liberty or softer sentence by hinting that he should talk about the offence. Did you feed the prisoner? Tend to his wounds?

Accounting after the fact is easier if you reduce the number of officers involved in the chain.

Respecting the prisoner's requests for counsel is easier if each officer informs the next what legal advice the prisoner requested.

If some officer gives you a prisoner to transport, ask the officer (and the prisoner) what access to counsel the prisoner wants. And make some notes.

2021.03.14 After Arrest, Explain the Right to Counsel Promptly

Mr Mann, 2021 ONCA 103 called 911 saying "I'd like to report a murder". He explained he choked and beat his girlfriend to death with his hands. The dispatcher heard a loud banging, consistent with someone's head being banged against a wall. The dispatcher asked him if he was sure that the victim was dead. He replied "Uh pretty sure, she’s going to be [unintelligible] anyway."

She didn't die, but she suffered brain damage.

When police attended and arrested him, he started talking about how he was considering killing himself, and then he "lost it on her".

It took the officers 5-10 minutes to get around to telling him about his right to counsel and his right to silence. All the while, Mr Mann kept talking.

The trial judge thought it might be okay to admit this "spontaneous" evidence. The appeal court didn't:

"It is not up to the police to decide when they will get around to providing rights to a person whom they have arrested. The failure of the police to understand this basic proposition is a serious matter and must be treated as such when it is breached."

The judges did not mind that the officer, on seeing blood on Mr Mann, first asked if he was hurt. He was not. But the judges did mind that the officers delayed in explaining his rights.

2021.03.14 Don't Talk to Jurors During Trial

A juror asked an innocent question of someone wearing a uniform. The juror had trouble understanding a statement of admissions. The juror wanted to know more about it, and whether a witness would come to court and explain it.

The juror asked a deputy sheriff.

Instead of telling the juror to ask the judge, the sheriff asked the prosecutor about the exhibit.

The prosecutor explained the exhibit. Before the sheriff could explain the exhibit to the witness, defence counsel asked for a mistrial.

The judge turned down the application, but removed the sheriff from the case. R. v. Athwal, 2021 BCCA 84

Nobody should ever explain anything about the case to a juror, except in open court. The sheriff should not have attempted to get answers about the case for the juror.

Things might have gone differently if the sheriff had returned to the jury and explained the exhibit. The entire murder trial would have gone off the rails.

In other cases, police officers who were involved with or connected to the investigation thought it wouldn't be a problem to have dinner or drink a beer with a juror. They were wrong. The trials had to be done again.

After a trial, you can discuss the evidence with jurors, but you tread dangerous ground. A juror who discusses the jury's deliberations commits an offence under s.649 of the Criminal Code. A police officer who engages in such a conversation will usually be in contempt of court.

But during a trial, any conversation about the case could cause a mistrial. Even the possibility that you discussed evidence will cause the judge to worry. If defence learns that you, a witness, talked with a juror, during the trial, they will assume that you discussed the evidence until satisfied that you didn't. If a juror asks you to directions to the washroom, you can answer, but a wise officer will report that conversation to counsel.

2021.02.28 Spousal Privilege ends with Divorce

Wiretap might record what the killer told discussed with his wife about the killing. But s.189(6) of the Criminal Code and s.4(3) of the Canada Evidence Act prevent a court from admitting the recording. It's privileged. Indeed, the prosecution can't even compel the wife to testify about those conversations.

But if the killer and his wife divorce, spousal privilege ends. R. v. Al-Enzi, 2021 ONCA 81.

You don't need to read the whole decision to follow the reasonably clear explanation which starts at para 168.

2021.02.27 Paperwork that can Kill Your Career

In British Columbia, police officers who catch drunk drivers send reports to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, which generally results in significant penalties including driving prohibitions.

Those reports include a thing we lawyers call a "jurat". It says that you solemnly affirm, or declare or swear that the contents of the report are true.

Be careful of any document that contains one of those. You stake your credibility on it.

If you deliberately assert false information over a jurat, you are committing the crime of perjury. That will end your career quickly.

If you mistakenly assert false information, you could find yourself seriously embarrassed in a court room.

Q: Officer, today you say you saw my client was unsteady on his feet at the roadside?
A: Yes.
Q: You didn't see that in the police station?
A: I don't remember.
Q: You completed a report to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles about this?
A: Yes.
Q: You were required to explain to the Superintendent why you thought he was too drunk to drive?
A: Yes.
Q: You understand that the Superintendent uses these reports to determine whether a driver should be prohibited from driving?
A: Yes.
Q: So you told the Superintendent all of your observations that day?
A: Yes.
Q: In that report, you listed the odour of liquor and the slurred speech, but did not mention anything about unsteadiness on his feet?
A: What? Oh. Um. I must have forgotten to write that part in. I filled out that form in a hurry.
Q: Officer, before you submitted the report to the Superintendent, you solemnly declared that it was true?
A: I filled in the part at the bottom.
Q: The words say that you solemnly declared that it was true.
A: I guess so.
Q: And it wasn't complete.
A: Well I did see him unsteady on his feet.
Q: I suggest to you that the report was accurate, and you are lying today.
A: No, I did see him unsteady on his feet.
Q: You so solemnly affirm today?
A: Yeah!
Q: But you solemnly affirmed something different when you wrote the report! Were you perjuring yourself then or are you perjuring yourself now?
[If it truly was a mistake, then you did not commit the crime of perjury. Perjury requires intent to deceive. But lawyers who cross-examine like to ask dramatic questions like that one.]

When you "fill in paperwork", make sure the sworn documents are completely true. When you come to court to testify, review carefully any documents you swore to be true. You can bet defence counsel hopes you will say something different on the witness stand.

A couple of officers nearly avoided all of that trouble, by failing to get a Commissioner for the Taking of Oaths to witness their oaths. Kuzmanovic v. The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, 2021 BCCA 83. Someone in the office of the Superintendent noticed, and got the officers to submit sworn documents. The manner in which they patched it up became an issue in the litigation.

The legislation requires the officer to submit sworn (or affirmed) information. The case discussed what makes a properly sworn document.

The basic idea is simple. Only the document that starts or ends with the officer's solemn oath or affirmation is a sworn document. If you file other documents with it, they are not evidence. But if the contents of the sworn document refers to other specific documents and adopts them, then those become part of the sworn document "by reference". Like this:

"This investigation is accurately described in my report dated 2021-02-27 which is attached."

Please make sure that your report is, indeed, accurate.

2021.02.15 Swearing Charges and Seeking Process - Should it Be Recorded?

When a peace officer or public officer lays a charge, the justice of the peace follows the process set out in s.507 of the Criminal Code. That section does not require the justice of the peace to make a formal recording.

Lawyers for Mr Orr, 2021 BCCA 42 argued that it should. The trial judge rejected their application. The appeal court said they they followed the wrong procedure when making their complaint.

Mr Orr's lawyers weren't crazy. Swearing a charge is serious. Getting a warrant for someone's arrest is serious. They urged that every request for a warrant be recorded. If police get a warrant for someone's arrest without good reason, lawyers for the accused can do something about it.

At the trial, the officer who swore the charges against Mr Orr was made to testify. The officer had to explainwhat steps he took to assure himself that a warrant was needed in that case.

The poor officer could not remember the case. Like many court liaison officers, he swears many many charges in the course of his work.

But he could explain his usual procedure. That procedure ensured that whenever he asked for a warrant, he had good reasons.

And that was was why the judges approved of what he did.

If you swear a charge, read the file. Know why you think the accused is guilty.

If you ask for a warrant, read the file, and check background information. Know why you think it's in the public interest to arrest the accused rather than merely summon him/her to court. And tell the justice your reasons for wanting a warrant.

I add: if you think a summons is all you need for this file, check the background information. Every so often, our office handles a case where a victim needed protection from the accused, but the police sought only a summons.

Maybe one day, the process of laying charges will be recorded. Even if they aren't, you want to be able to answer questions like the ones Mr Orr's lawyers posed this officer. Follow a procedure that ensures that you know why you think the suspect is guilty and why a warrant should be issued.

2021.02.15 Videorecording Interviews Is a Good Idea

Mr Schneider, 2021 BCCA 41 put Natsumi Kogawa's naked body into a suitcase, and lugged it to a vacant lot. But did he kill her?

The pathologist who examined her decayed body could not clearly determine how she died. But suffocation was a live possiblity.

A police officer interviewed Mr Schneider. During the conversation, Mr Schneider explained that there was an angry argument. He briefly placed his hand over his nose and mouth, demonstrating what he did to her. He demonstrated this twice.

Naturally, that gesture took on great importance in the trial.

Too bad it wasn't video-recorded.

You don't want to be the officer who must explain why such an important interview was not video-recorded. You don't want to be the officer on the witness stand trying to explain what the gesture looked like.

Use the video-recording system for interviews. Not just for suspects, but also important witnesses, and children, and aged and vulnerable people. Check the system, to make sure it's working.

In the field, even your cell phone may record video.

2021.02.14 Translating Evidence

Mr Abdullahi, 2021 ONCA 82 spoke Somali. Toronto police intercepted his communications, and busted him for trafficking in firearms.

I infer that there were many interceptions that required translation.

At trial, defence challenged the translator, and cross-examined him for a long time. The trial judge accepted the translations. The jury convicted him. The appeal court agreed.

What did the Toronto Police Service do correctly?

First, they had a team of three Somali interpreters. Two did the initial translation. The third reviewed the recordings, and proof-read the transcripts. He kept the original translations, and made note of the changes he made to the efforts of the first two.

The prosecutors probably liked this: at trial, only one witness needed to testify about the translations - the third interpreter.

That interpreter would listen to the whole of the recording for himself. Then he would listen to it bit-by-bit, and confirm for himself that the translation was correct.

The judges seemed to like that procedure. The first step allowed him to grasp the meaning of the conversation for himself, without prejudicing himself by reading the work of the other interpreters. The second step permitted a careful proof-reading of others' work.

Defence complained that he lacked sufficient qualifications: he had no formal certification as an interpreter.

The judges dismissed this concern rapidly. The translator was born and raised in Somalia until he was 5. He used the Somali language for the rest of his life with his family, watching Somali TV, and engaging with the Somali community. He worked for several years doing translation work before he worked on this case.

Judges prefer experts to be independent of the parties. This translator was an employee of the police service. Considering the sensitivity of the investigation, I imagine that the investigators would not want to retain an outside expert on the Somali language. But that could throw some doubt on his objectivity.

This translator testified that he took care not to insert his opinions about what the speakers meant. The judges liked that.

Because the recordings and translations were disclosed well in advance of trial, the judges knew that the defendants could challenge any translations with which they disagreed.

To summarize:

2021.01.28 Mr Big and Mr Small

Security video recorded Mr Quinton, 2021 ONCA 44 as the last person to visit Mr Gilby, a drug dealer. The next person to enter that apartment found Mr Gilby dead in a pool of blood. Someone smashed his head in with a hammer. A set of his keys went missing.

Naturally, police suspected Mr Quinton.

Mr Quinton lived on disability benefits - which were slim. He abused drugs and alcohol so much that he arranged for his disability cheque to be managed by someone more trustworthy than him. Mr Quinton took medication for anxiety and depression. 

When undercover police befriended Mr Quinton, they gave him work. They paid him small sums - by most people's standards. But for Mr Quinton, these sums dramatically increased his disposable cash.

The undercover officer often visited him carrying a 6-pack of beer, which they shared, while Mr Quinton smoked marijuana - which was illegal at the time.

Mr Quinton suffered a stroke. The undercover officers assisted him in his time of need, caring for him when nobody else would.

When they turned up the pressure, he confessed to the murder, and led them to the drain where the victim's keys had been hidden.

After his conviction, defence argued that the confession should be excluded. The police had made Mr Quinton too dependent on the undercover officers.

Without deciding the question, the appeal court ordered a retrial. It bothered the judges that the officers prevented him from getting his medication before getting him to confess. They worried that admitting the confession might be an abuse of process, and suggested that the trial judge review the circumstances carefully at the new trial.

For officers conducting Mr Big operations, you'll want to review this one. Judges get skittish when Mr Big's kindness toward Mr Small creates a relationship of dependency. The operation should not take unfair advantage of the suspect's illnesses.

2021.01.17 Solicitor-Client Privilege - Careful What you Read

When police arrested Mr Borbely, 2021 ONCA 17 for murder, he had been driving his car. When the officers searched his car, they found a sealed envelope addressed to his lawyer.

The officers placed it - unopened - into another sealed envelope, awaiting the day that a judge could determine whether it was privileged.

That day came before the trial. The judge opened the envelopes and looked inside. He found a diary which described the events leading up to the disappearance of the deceased, and a letter to the lawyer.

Communications between lawyer and client are privileged: don't touch. The judge put the letter back into the envelope.

But the judge found that the diary did not record communications from the Mr Borbely to the lawyer. Therefore, it was evidence that the police and prosecutors could read and use.

The investigators behaved wisely. Judges and lawyers take privilege very seriously. If the officers had opened the envelope and read the privileged letter, a judge might well have stayed the entire prosecution.

If you encounter communications between suspect and lawyer, follow the lead of these officers: treat it like it's radioactive. Seal it up, and call in the lawyers.

(And don't secretly listen to your prisoners talking to their lawyers.)

2021.01.17 Reasonable Expectation of Privacy - Guest in a Bedroom

Does a guest enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy?

The expectations of privacy in a bedroom differ according to the people making the claim of a violation of their privacy.

Mr Sangster, 2021 ONCA 21 stayed for 3 weeks at the apartment of a friend. Mr Sangster and his girlfriend slept in the friend's bedroom while the friend slept in the living room. But the owner's clothes and property were in the bedroom.

Someone got stabbed in the hallway. While police investigated this violent assault, social workers came to check up on the friend. They brought a police officer along for safety. The social worker asked the friend to let them into the bedroom. There, the social worker saw Mr Sangster holding a gun. She screamed and fled.

Police got a warrant and searched the place. They found the gun, and evidence linking Mr Sangster to the stabbing.

Mr Sangster complained that the police violated his reasonable expectation of privacy. The trial judge disagreed. So did the appeal court.

Does that mean guests have no expectation of privacy? No. It all depends upon the circumstances. In this case, the homeowner consented to the social worker's entry into the bedroom. Mr Sangster had minimal control over the bedroom. He made no contribution to he house. He shared the use of the room with everyone else in the apartment. Other guests may enjoy greater expectations of privacy.

2021.01.17 Warrant Drafting - Confidential Sources - "Step Six"

May drug dealers, and some other offenders, get busted because people in the criminal underworld tell police what they did.

When someone gives information on condition of anonymity, you owe him or her privacy. You must not reveal to the target - or anyone else - who informed on the target.

But the information serves no purpose if you can't use it.

When seeking a warrant to search or surveil the target, you can tell an issuing judge all about the confidential source and the information. Indeed, you need to explain why you can trust the source, as well as anything that suggests that should not trust the source. But if you do, you must seek a sealing order. Otherwise, the application for the warrant will be public, and the target will discover the identity of the source.

But a sealing order doesn't solve all of the problems. Confidential sources seem easy to deal with, but they get complicated fast.

If you bust the target, and he gets charged, he will demand a fair trial. Part of a fair trial involves reviewing the police work to see if it was done properly. That includes reviewing the application for the warrant.

And so we engage in the imprecise science of redacting.  We give the defence a copy of the application, but we remove from the copy anything which might identify the source. The defence then tells the judge that the redacted application lacks sufficient detail to justify the warrant, hoping that the judge will agree.

That's what happened in the case of Mr Perkins, 2021 BCCA 9. And the trial judge agreed that the redacted application failed to support the warrants at issue.

Not all was lost.

The Crown asked the judge to take "step six of the procedure laid out in R. v. Garofoli, 1990 CanLII 52 (SCC)".

The prosecutor showed the judge some of the original application, and provided a summary to defence of what it contained. The judge agreed that the summary adequately informed defence of the contents of the hidden material that defence could check to see if police did their job properly.

Complicated? Yes. Successful? Yes. The trial judge found that the additional information justified the production order at issue. That led to Mr Perkins' conviction.

On the appeal, defence complained that the redactions left the application looking imprecise and vague.  For example:

Source E “picked up cocaine [redacted] from the person he identified in the booking photo” as “[name]”

Suppose the redacted word was "scales" or "pipes" instead of "powder".

This argument could have succeeded. It didn't in this case.

Officers who draft applications for warrants, production orders, tracking devices and the like would be wise to draft in anticipation of the redacting, and judicial review.

In this case, the defence argument would have been avoided by writing:

Source E “picked up cocaine in the form of powder     from the person he identified in the booking photo ...

A redacted version of this sentence would not reveal the form of the cocaine, but would clearly establish that Source E acquired cocaine.

You might ask why there is extra space after the word "powder". That's to make it more difficult for someone to figure out what the redacted words are. One can't type the possible words and see if they fit.

If you don't understand "step six", this decision explains it fairly well.

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