Category Archives: Search and Seizure

Consent – not as clear-cut as it was in the yesteryears…

Reeves (R. v. Reeves 2018 SCC 56) shared a home with Gravelle, his common-law spouse. They were joint titleholders and had lived with their two daughters in this home for ten years. In 2011, Reeves was charged with domestic assault following an altercation with Gravelle and her sister. After this incident, a no-contact order was issued which prohibited Reeves from visiting the family home without Gravelle’s prior, written, and revocable consent. In October 2012, Gravelle contacted Reeves’ probation officer to withdraw her consent. She also reported that she and her sister had found what they believed to be child pornography on the home computer. They had found it in 2011.

Later that day, a police officer arrived at the family home without a warrant. Gravelle allowed the officer to enter. Gravelle signed a consent form authorizing the officer to take the home computer, which was located in the basement, a shared space in the home. The officer testified that he sought Gravelle’s consent because he did not believe he had reasonable grounds to obtain a warrant to search the home and seize the computer. The computer was owned and used by both spouses. Reeves was in custody on unrelated charges when the computer was taken by the police.

The police detained the computer without a warrant for more than four months, but did not search it during this time. They failed to report the seizure of the computer to a justice, as required by s. 489.1 of the Criminal Code, during this period. In February 2013, the police finally obtained a warrant to search the computer and executed it two days later. The police found 140 images and 22 videos of child pornography on the computer. Reeves was charged with possessing and accessing child pornography.

Reeves succeeded on a pre-trial application to exclude evidence based on a breach of his s. 8 Charter rights. The application judge found that Reeves had a reasonable expectation of privacy both in his home and its contents, including the computer. He found that Reeves’s rights were violated through the warrantless search and seizure of the computer from the home because he did not consent, by retaining the computer for four months without reporting the seizure to a justice and that the ITO relied upon to secure the warrant to search the computer was insufficient, so the warrant should have been denied. The judge found that the Charter-infringing conduct was serious as was the impact on Reeves’s Charter-protected interests and ordered that the evidence be excluded. As a result of the exclusion of evidence, the Crown’s case was gutted and an acquittal was entered. The ONCA found that while Reeves was a joint owner of the home, he had a minimal reasonable expectation of privacy in it as he could not access the home without his partner’s consent, she had revoked her consent, and he was in custody at the time. Seizing the computer did not interfere with Reeves’s heightened expectation of privacy in it or imperil any of his legitimate interests. Reeves’s partner could consent and her consent was valid as it was voluntary and informed. As a result, the evidence was admissible and a new trial was ordered.

Before I get into the SCC’s decision here, recall for a moment the R. v. Vu 2013 SCC 60 decision, which essentially ruled that:

[i]f, in the course of a warranted search, police come across a computer that may contain material for which they are authorized to search but the warrant does not give them specific, prior authorization to search computers, they may seize the device but must obtain further authorization before it is searched (para. 3; see also para. 49).

So, part of the issue here was no statutory or common law authority could have justified the computer seizure in this case. If the police had had a warrant to search the home, Vu would have justified the seizure — but not the search — of the computer. The key issue in this case, then, was whether the police officer could rely on the consent of Reeves’s spouse to take the shared computer from their home?  To a lesser degree, whether the police infringed Reeves’s Charter rights by (1) entering the shared home without a warrant; and (2) taking the shared computer without a warrant.

The SCC said that, in short, the issue of whether police entry into a shared home with the consent of one resident violates the Charter raises complex questions that require a considered response, and they would be best answered in a case that directly turns on this issue, with the benefit of full submissions. Therefore, in this case, the legality of the police entry did not affect the legality of the taking of the computer.

At para. 47:

“…in light of the deeply intimate nature of information that can be found on a personal computer, Reeves’s subjective expectation of privacy was objectively reasonable. His spouse’s consent could not nullify his reasonable expectation of privacy in the computer data. Indeed, both the Crown and the Court of Appeal appear to have recognized that Reeves had a reasonable (although diminished) expectation of privacy. While Reeves’s reasonable expectation of privacy in the computer was limited, given that he shared control over the computer with his spouse, it still suffices to trigger the protection of s. 8 of the Charter …. Indeed, “[a] reasonable though diminished expectation of privacy is nonetheless a reasonable expectation of privacy, protected by s. 8 of the Charter” ….

The SCC then turned to the alternative proposition that underlied the Crown’s argument — that Reeves’ Charter rights were waived by Gravelle’s consent. The presumptive warrant requirement for seizures captured by s. 8 of the Charter is not triggered if Reeves’s Charter rights were waived. The Crown’s argument that there was no seizure within the meaning of the Charter when a party with an equal and overlapping privacy interest provides consent would effectively permit the consenting party to waive the privacy rights of the other parties. This would be inconsistent with the Court’s decision in R. v. Cole 2012 SCC 53, said the SCC (the third-party consent doctrine – although a person may not have exclusive control over the home and computer, control does not need to be exclusive to support a reasonable expectation of privacy. By assuming the reasonable risks of shared living, a person does not assume the risk that the police can enter a shared home and seize its contents at the sole discretion of a co-resident).

According to the SCC, Reeves had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the shared computer, and his rights had not been waived. Accordingly, the taking of the computer by the police constituted a seizure within the meaning of s. 8 of the Charter. This warrantless seizure was not reasonable because it was not authorized by any law. The seizure therefore violated Reeves’s rights under s. 8 of the Charter. Given the seriousness of the state conduct and of its impact on Reeves’s Charter-protected interests, the application judge was correct in concluding that the admission of the evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The evidence was excluded and the acquittal restored.

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Godoy – 20 years later – misunderstood or misapplied?

Uniformed officers in R. v. Pireh 2018 ABPC 291 responded to a complaint from a person who resided in a condo complex. The complainant heard what sounded like people were being thrown around and there was yelling, banging, and thrashing going on in the unit; it sounded like they were throwing each other around, but the complainant wasn’t sure if it was fighting or playing. Other information obtained was a smell of marihuana coming from the place. The complainant also believed that there were four people living in that suite. No children that they knew of lived there, and the occupants that lived there were adult males in their early 20’s.

On arrival, police had a conversation with the complainant, whom the police had to contact to gain access to the condo complex. At that time, the complainant indicated that it sounded like the males were fighting in the suite. It sounded like they were being thrown up against the walls. The complainant identified the exact suite where the sound was coming from.

As police approached the door to the suite, it was silent. There were no sounds coming from the suite. Contrary to the information provided by the complainant that there was a smell of marihuana coming from the suite, when the police arrived, they did not smell marihuana coming from the suite. Police knocked at the condo door, and it answered by Pireh, but he simply cracked the door open just enough for him to poke his head out. The officer wasn’t able to see inside the suite. He identified himself and advised Pireh that due to a concerned neighbour that heard what sounded like a physical confrontation in his suite, that they were there to check on the welfare of everyone in the suite.

Pireh was not forthcoming with information and didn’t want police to have access to the suite. Pireh stated that he was just playing around with his cousin, but didn’t want police to come in. The officer advised him that due to the complaint of sounds of people being thrown around into walls and thumping and banging, they were there to check on the welfare of everyone in the suite to ensure nobody was in any medical distress or injured. Again, Pireh didn’t want to let them into the suite. The officer then advised Pireh that they were coming into the suite based on their common law duty to ensure nobody in the suite was in any kind of medical distress or in need of any assistance. At that point, Pireh opened the door and officers entered the suite.

As soon as officers entered the suite, they identified a male as Pireh’s cousin, Eskandar, standing in the hallway. Pireh went into the living room area. An officer followed Pireh into the living room area to discuss what was going on, and to ensure no one was in any kind of need. Both Pireh and Eskandar “appeared sober, calm, no injuries.”

Pireh stood next to the couch and white coffee table in the living room area. Almost immediately, an officer noticed what appeared to be a black handgun on the white coffee table. At that time, the officer grabbed the gun to secure it and verify it was a real firearm. When he picked the gun up, he was able to verify it was a real firearm. He ejected the magazine and found 7 rounds of 9mm ammunition in the magazine. He then worked the action to eject any live round from the chamber. No live round was ejected. He then made the firearm “safe.” There was no trigger lock on the gun and it was not secured in any kind of container. The handgun was a 9mm Smith and Wesson. The serial number was defaced. After making the gun safe, he placed it on the kitchen counter.

After telling his partners that he had found a live handgun, officers arrested Pireh. After Pireh was arrested, and having been informed that 4 males lived in the suite, officers carried on searching the suite to ensure there were no other people that may be injured were there. Officers then searched the laundry room, and then entered a bedroom. No other people were found. The bedroom was messy with piles of clothes everywhere. On exiting the bedroom, an officer noticed a dresser against a wall with some of the dresser drawers partially opened. Inside one of the drawers he noticed a bundle of money wrapped in a rubber band and two clear plastic bags containing what appeared to be crack cocaine (one of the plastic bags was later determined to contain 24.3 grams of crack cocaine. The other bag contained 7 grams. The combined weight was 31.3 grams). Police applied for and later returned to the suite to execute a CDSA search warrant – less than 30 grams of marihuana was also found, and some documents in the name of the other tenants of the condo. Pireh was charged with 11 offences relating to the handgun, readily accessible ammunition, and drugs.

The judge examined that emergency calls can originate from a number of different sources. In many cases, there is evidence of a 911 call, or 911 hang-up call, that may relate to both domestic and non-domestic situations, originating from complainants both inside and outside a private residence. Absent there being a 911 call, the police agency in question had created a list of priority calls, categorized in terms of seriousness and immediacy, as priority # 1, # 2 and # 3 calls. Again, these calls may relate to both domestic and non-domestic situations, and originate from complainants both inside and outside a private residence. Finally, according to the evidence adduced in this case, the agency had created a list of codes to identify a particular situation (i.e., code 1014 – causing a disturbance) that may or may not be ongoing, and may relate to domestic and non-domestic situations, originating from complainants both inside and outside a private residence.

In terms of applicable legal principles, the trial judge drew no distinction between a 911 call and a priority # 1 dispatch call. In the circumstances of this case, the police treated them in the same way as requiring an immediate response to an emergency situation. As well, in terms of applicable legal principles, the judge drew no distinction between a call to the police originating from inside a private residence and a call originating from outside the residence. As the judge cited, an informed caller from outside the apartment describing the nature of the emergency is a more reliable justification for a concern about the health and safety of the occupant of the apartment than is a disconnected telephone call. In the judge’s view, the  analysis relating to 911 calls, and analogous 911 calls, was equally applicable to the police responding to an outside complaint of a code 1014 – causing a disturbance call. In determining if an immediate police response to an emergency situation was required, the court had to examine all the surrounding circumstances, including the context of the complaint, and the situation at the residence on arrival by police.

The judge found that the complaint received by the police in this case was not a 911 emergency call, or a priority # 1 complaint or a domestic situation. Police were not certain that it was, and when viewed along with the totality of the evidence, evidence in this regard was not reliable. The complaint in this case was a police response to an outside, code 1014 – causing a disturbance call, placed by a neighbour who lived in the same building as the accused. Based on the totality of the evidence, the judge accepted that the police had an honest belief that they were entitled to enter the accused’s suite to ensure the safety of everyone that may have been in the suite.

At paras. 136-137:

“The difficulty in this case is that the police only had limited information as to what an outside third party said she heard going on in the suite. The credibility and reliability of the complainant could not be tested because she did not testify in the voir dire. When the police attended at the building and approached the door to the accused’s suite, it was silent. There were no sounds coming from the accused’s suite. Contrary to the information provided by the complainant that there was a smell of marihuana coming from the suite, when the police arrived, they did not smell marihuana coming from the suite. When the accused answered the door, the police described both him and Eskandar… “appeared sober, calm, no injuries. Although the police could not see into the suite, there is no evidence that anything was going on in the suite at the time.”

“When viewed objectively, the limited information available to the police as to what may have been going on in the accused’s suite, what they saw at the scene, and their conversation with the accused at the door, did not give rise to an emergency situation that would entitle this Court to view the code 1014 – causing a disturbance call as analogous to a 911 call. This case boils down to a complaint made by a disgruntled neighbour about sounds… “people being thrown around, yelling, thumping and banging, isn’t sure if it’s fighting or playing…” coming from the suite occupied by the accused and three other males in their 20’s, no women or children or anyone being in distress mentioned.”

The judge ruled that the Crown had failed to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities that the police had reasonable grounds to enter the accused’s suite pursuant to their common law duty to ensure the safety of everyone that may have been in the suite. Therefore, the entry by police into the accused’s suite and search was not authorized by law and violated section 8 of the Charter.

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Warrantless tracking or “pinging” of a cell phone…

R. v. Day [2018] N.J. No. 370 – police were engaged in a police chase of a vehicle. The police stopped the chase when it seemed dangerous but determined the owner of the vehicle (Romaine Fudge – no relation). The owner said the vehicle was loaned to Day and Keefe, an individual known to the police and wanted on an arrest warrant. Keefe was known to be the driver of the vehicle. The police obtained Day’s cell phone number from the owner and requested that OCC conduct a cell phone ping to determine Day’s location. The police did not seek a warrant to authorize the search. The police made several pings. The police later located the vehicle at the owner’s residence. Keefe and Day had returned the vehicle and left on foot. There was no evidence that Day was suspected of having committed any offence. Day and Keefe were located and arrested. It was during the arrest of Keefe that Day resisted arrest, assaulted a peace officer, uttered threats to cause death, and breached conditions of an undertaking.

Day argued that her rights under s. 8 of the Charter were violated. The Crown admitted that the pinging of Day’s cellphone was a warrantless search but argued that it was necessary for officer safety because Keefe had a history of violent and unpredictable behavior.  To officers not familiar to this provision of the Code, Section 492.1 sets forth the grounds upon which the police may obtain a warrant for a tracking device such as a cell phone at subsection (2):

A justice or judge who is satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been or will be committed under this or any other Act of Parliament and that tracking an individual’s movement by identifying the location of a thing that is usually carried or worn by the individual will assist in the investigation of the offence may issue a warrant authorizing a peace officer or a public officer to obtain that tracking data by means of a tracking device.

Section 487.11 of the Criminal Code states:

A peace officer, or a public officer who has been appointed or designated to administer or enforce any federal or provincial law and whose duties include the enforcement of this or any other Act of Parliament, may, in the course of his or her duties, exercise any of the powers described in subsection 487(1) or 492.1(1) without a warrant if the conditions for obtaining a warrant exist but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impracticable to obtain a warrant.

As you can see, Section 487.11 does not reference subsection 492.1(2). The question remains as to whether, in the absence of a warrant and the statutory authority pursuant to section 487.11, the police may rely on a common law authority to conduct a search in exigent circumstances.

This search (“ping”) was not incident to arrest, but any informed officer will know that there does exist a common law authority to conduct a warrantless search even where, as in this case, that authority is not codified. The issue of exigent circumstances appear to rest on two bases: the first basis relates to the risk of imminent loss or destruction of the evidence or contraband before judicial authorization could be obtained; the second basis emerges where there is a concern for public or police safety.

In the case of Day, the Crown did not allege that the exigent circumstances relied upon by the officer were in relation to the loss of evidence but rather that the exigent circumstances involved a danger to people. The trial judge ruled that although there may have been some risk to the police officers and to the public during the high speed pursuit of Keefe which could constitute exigent circumstances, that risk was eliminated once the chase was discontinued by police and certainly once the vehicle was located at the home of the lawful owner. There was no evidence that the officers themselves were in danger and the statement of one officer that “they (Day and Keefe) might break into someone’s home” while evading police was groundless and speculative. The judge was satisfied that the officer chose to disregard the rights of Day to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure based on the convenience of locating Keefe and for fear, not that he might cause harm, but that he may evade the police.

The use of Day’s cellphone to track Keefe was willful and in reckless disregard of her Charter rights and had a serious impact on her reasonable expectation of privacy. Given that the offences occurred when Keefe was arrested, there was no basis to believe that they would have occurred at all if the breaches were not perpetrated. The judge ruled that the admission of evidence obtained by police subsequent to the breach would bring the administration into disrepute.

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Teacher using concealed camera to make surreptitious video recordings of female high school students – voyeurism?

What defines expectation of privacy for the Criminal Code offence of voyeurism? R. v. Jarvis 2019 SCC 10 was largely about a teacher in a high school who used a covert, miniature camera to take videos of young women’s cleavage over more than a year. It was discovered and he was charged under the relatively new voyeurism offence in the Code. Two essential elements of the offence are that there have to be circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy and the recording has to be done for a sexual purpose. In Jarvis, the recording took place in otherwise “public areas” of the school, so not in washrooms or changing rooms. It also has to be “surreptitious”, but the observation itself was not surreptitious. What was being recorded was largely observed in real-time by the teacher. The recording was surreptitious.

While the trial judge found that the students the accused had recorded were in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, he acquitted the accused because he was not satisfied that the recordings were made for a sexual purpose (it’s hard to get my head around that, as the teacher had many, many recordings spanning more than a year of students’ cleavage and chest areas. I’m not sure what other purpose he could have had, but what do I know?). The Court of Appeal unanimously concluded that the trial judge had erred in law in failing to find that the accused made the recordings for a sexual purpose. Nevertheless, a majority of the Court of Appeal upheld the accused’s acquittal on the basis that the trial judge had also erred in finding that the students were in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy (the court was split on the reasonable expectation of privacy in a “public place” where the young women could generally be observed by teachers and other students). 

The SCC ruled that… “Privacy”, as ordinarily understood, is not an all-or-nothing concept, and being in a public or semi-public space does not automatically negate all expectations of privacy with respect to observation or recording. Rather, whether observation or recording would generally be regarded as an invasion of privacy depends on a variety of factors, which may include (these are not word for word how the SCC listed them):

  • a person’s location – the fact that the location was one from which the person had sought to exclude all others, in which she felt confident that she was not being observed, or in which she expected to be observed only by a select group of people may inform whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy in a particular case.
  • the form of the alleged invasion of privacy – was it an observation or recording? Given that recording is more intrusive on privacy than mere observation, a person’s expectation regarding whether she will be observed may reasonably be different than her expectation regarding whether she will be recorded in any particular situation. 
  • the nature of the observation or recording – relevant considerations may include whether the observation or recording was fleeting or sustained, whether it was aided or enhanced by technology and, if so, what type of technology was used, etc.
  • the activity in which a person is engaged when observed or recorded and the part of a person’s body that is the focus of the recording – relevant considerations may include whether the observation or recording targeted a specific person or persons, what activity the person who was observed or recorded was engaged in at the relevant time, and whether the focus of the observation or recording was on intimate parts of a person’s body.
  • any rules, regulations or policies that governed the observation or recording in question – although formal rules, regulations or policies will not necessarily be determinative, in this case, there was a school board policy in effect at the relevant time that prohibited the type of conduct engaged in by the teacher.
  • the relationship between the person who was observed or recorded and the person who did the observing or recording – relevant considerations may include whether the relationship was one of trust or authority and whether the observation or recording constituted a breach or abuse of the trust or authority that characterized the relationship. This circumstance is relevant because it would be reasonable for a person to expect that another person who is in a position of trust or authority toward her will not abuse this position by engaging in unconsented, unauthorized, unwanted or otherwise inappropriate observation or recording.
  • the purpose for which the observation or recording was done – for example, if a patient disrobes to allow a physician to view her breasts or other sexualized parts of her body for the purpose of receiving a medical diagnosis, the patient cannot complain that the physician has breached any reasonably held expectation of privacy by performing the diagnostic procedure. However, if the diagnostic procedure turns out to be a pretext on which the physician relies in order to view the patient for a non-medical purpose — whether sexual or otherwise — the patient’s privacy will undeniably be violated. The SCC said that sexual purpose, as an element of the offence in s. 162(1)(c), must be established beyond a reasonable doubt for the offence to be proven. In some cases, depending on the entire context, observation or recording may not breach expectations of privacy despite having a sexual purpose. In such cases, the offence in s. 162(1) will not be made out. In other cases, observation or recording may be an obvious breach of privacy regardless of its purpose, and it can ground a conviction under s. 162(1) if the other elements of the offence are made out.
  • the personal attributes of the person who was observed or recorded – considerations such as whether the person was a child or a young person may be relevant in some contexts.

Because Jarvis’ videos were of teenage students, were recorded by their teacher in breach of the relationship of trust and of a formal school board policy, were shot at close range, were of high quality and were focused on the bodies of students, Jarvis acted contrary to the students’ reasonable expectations of privacy. The Court entered a conviction and remitted the matter for sentencing.

I suspect after this case, we will see more court cases and discussions around what is an expectation of privacy in generally public places? We’ll also have to think hard about what role technology plays in privacy, particularly where CCTV cameras are said to be largely equivalent to real-time recordings. This will impact our investigations in the months and years to come. As cited in para. 62 of the Jarvis decsion:

“This is not to say that any person who appears in any public place retains a reasonable expectation that she will not be recorded by anyone for any reason: some types of visual recording in public places are to be expected. Rather, it is to emphasize that there is a fundamental difference between mere observation and recording and that this difference is part of the context that must be considered in analyzing reasonable expectations of privacy.”

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It was just a matter of time – do you recall the Patrick (2017) decision?

“Do you have anything on you?”An all too often posited question by us to an arrestee.

To save readers the time in recalling R. v. Patrick (2017) BCCA 57 (application for leave to appeal dismissed by SCC), the BCCA ruled that an officer’s narrowly tailored questions motivated solely by safety concerns are permissible to a detainee about to be frisk searched (the question must be specific to address safety-based concerns and not an attempt on our part to use the search power conferred by Mann as a subterfuge for evidence gathering). The court went on to say that nothing compels a detainee to answer such a question (see my previous post on this case for more details).

Fast forward, in R. v. Fead [2018] A.J. No. 1573, before the officer proceeded with the search subsequent to the arrest of Fead for officer safety, he made an inquiry of her as to what she might have in her possession. The officer had no memory of what he asked her (he made very few notes and had little memory). He provided various possibilities including, “Do you have anything that would hurt me, poke me, stab me?” “Do you have anything on you?” Do you have anything that I need to be aware of, “Do you have anything on you that you should be concerned about?”

Whatever the officer said to her, she responded by acknowledging she had cocaine and syringes in her shoe. The trial judge answered the question of whether it was a narrowly tailored question as to anything in the possession of the detainee that might cause injury to the officer solely motivated by safety concerns in the officer’s favour.  The ABQB disagreed.

The trial judge found as a fact the officer asked “Do you have anything on you?”, but the ABQB ruled that the court record does not support such a finding; therefore, it was an error on the face of the record. It was impossible to conclude the officer asked a narrowly tailored question with respect to officer safety. The officer did ask something, but in his evidence in chief said he had no specific recollection of the question. He testified as to his normal practice as to “anything that would hurt me, poke me, stab me.” He fairly acknowledged it could have been “Do you have anything on you I should be concerned about?” or as broad as “Do you have anything on you?” Interestingly, the syringes could be a response to a safety inquiry, but the cocaine to an evidence collection inquiry. As the ABQB did not know what the officer said, the reasonableness test in Patrick could not be applied.  

The reasonableness test you ask? Well, would a reasonable person consider the question narrowly tailored as to whether a detainee has possession of anything that might injure the searching officer rather than an inquiry to collect evidence? The ABQB found that the warrantless search was unreasonable and a breach of section 8 of the Charter. The evidence should have been excluded.

Lesson for us?  Keep the question specific to address safety concerns in these types of situations; notes, notes, notes…..and if an officer relies on his or her “common practice” as opposed to notes or memory, be prepared to be asked for more evidence respecting your standard practice to further support the reliability of your evidence in this regard, such as how long and how often you have used this standard practice, and how long you have been a police officer, etc.  If defence can show the unreliability of your evidence of common practice (sometimes you do this, but there are times you do that), it won’t fare well for your testimony.

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Can an assistance order under Section 487.02 of the Criminal Code be used to compel an arrestee to unlock their cell phone so that the police can search it?

A judge with the Ontario Court of Justice ruled it can’t.  In R. v. Shergill 2019 ONCJ 54, he was charged with a variety of sexual and child pornography offences in relation to his alleged interaction with a 15-year-old girl. Police seized his smart phone, a Blackberry Priv, incident to arrest. They then obtained a search warrant under s. 487 of the Criminal Code to search the contents of the device, but were unable to execute that warrant because the device was password-protected. Police applied for an assistance order because police argued that currently no technology would allow them to access the contents without risking their destruction. As a result, the police saught a further s. 487 warrant with an assistance order, which if granted, would compel Shergill to unlock the device so that the police could search it.

Shergill argued that the order would be constitutionally prohibited because it would compel him to communicate to the police information currently existing only in his mind for the purpose of assisting them in obtaining potentially incriminating evidence against him. That compulsion, he argued, would be a breach of his s. 7 liberty interests and would not be in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Compelling him to participate in his own investigation by revealing information known only to him would violate his right to silence and the protection against self-incrimination, both of which are principles of fundamental justice. In short, Shergill argued that a court order requiring him to communicate his thoughts for the sole purpose of providing access to evidence which may be used to send him to jail would be an unprecedented and unconstitutional use of the assistance order power.

The judge agreed with Shergill.  While the judge accepted that the current digital landscape as it relates to effective law enforcement and the protection of privacy presents many challenges, on his best application of controlling authority, he was simply not persuaded that the order sought can issue without fundamentally breaching Shergill’s s. 7 liberty interests, a breach which would not be in accordance with the principle of fundamental justice which says that he has the right to remain silent in the investigative context. The judge felt that the data on the Blackberry, which the police are only able to access and obtain if Shergill provided his password, is derivative evidence (basically, evidence which comes to light as a result of a compelled disclosure) and must be protected by derivative use immunity in order for the proposed assistance order not to fall foul of section 7 of the Charter.

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Implications Of Bill C-46 – Impaired Driving

The landscape around drinking and driving has changed with the coming into force of new impaired driving laws on December 18, 2018. The Bill charges the wording of the offence to prohibiting a blood alcohol concentration of over .80 within 2 hours of the time of driving. The additional of the 2 hours of the time of driving eliminates the defence of ‘bolus drinking’ where an accused person would argue that they drank a large amount of alcohol just before driving and therefore were not impaired at the time of driving. What is possible here is that, based on the rate of absorption of alcohol into a blood, a person’s behaviour could be criminalized for driving while having alcohol in their system, even if their ability to drive was not actually impaired by the alcohol.

Perhaps the biggest change for us as police officers is that we will now be able to ask for an ASD demand of any lawfully stopped driver, regardless whether we have a reasonable suspicion that they have been drinking. Prior to this change, we needed at least a reasonable suspicion that someone had been drinking. This threshold was a relatively low one to meet: the admission of consumption of alcohol, often coupled with any indicia of impairment, such as glossy eyes or an odour of alcohol, etc. would be enough to give us grounds for an ASD demand. The ability to ask for a demand absent any suspicion of impairment has attracted much criticism from lawyers for violating the right to be free from search and seizure, and will very likely be the subject of a constitutional challenge in the courts.

In addition, Parliament created an offence of having too much drug in your blood. The judge doesn’t have to find that it impaired you, only that the concentration of the drug exceeded the legal limit. Here is the link: https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/laws/regu/sor-2018-148/latest/sor-2018-148.html

Marihuana is looked at differently: if the driver has between 2 and 5 ng/ml of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in his or her blood, then it’s a criminal offence, but it has a lower penalty than regular impaired driving. If the driver has 5ng/ml or more of THC in his or her blood, then it’s punishable by the same penalty as impaired driving or over 80mg% of alcohol. As well, driving with a combination of 50mg% of alcohol and 2.5ng of THC in the blood also carries the same penalty as impaired driving. Although this table is not exhaustive, I’ve attempted to summarize the important changes for officers (I apologize for the table format – WordPress is not user-friendly for creating tables!):

Offence (CC) Old (CC) New (CC) Changes
Dangerous
Driving
249 320.13(1) No substantive change but simplified as
conveyance (new) rather than separate
paragraph offences for motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, etc. (old).
 
Impaired
Driving
253(1)(a) 320.14(1)(a) No substantive change but now specifies
impairment to any degree.
       
.08 or Over 253(1)(b) 320.14(1)(b) The offence
changes from
having too
much alcohol
in your blood
while driving to having too
much alcohol
in your blood
in the 2 hours
after driving. 
Also, old was
“exceeds 80mg%” – new is
“equal to or
exceeds
80mg%”. Note – the exceptions are given in
subsection (5).
 
Over Drug
Limit
253(3)(a) 320.14(1)(c) The offence is
committed in
the 2 hours 
after driving.
For THC
(marihuana)
there are two
limits: 2ng/mL and 5ng/mL
Note – the
exceptions are given in
subsection (6).
 
Lower
Marihuana
Limit
253(3)(b) 320.14(4) Lower
penalties for 
2ng/mL of THC (marihuana).
 
Over Limit for Alcohol & Drug Combined 253(3)(c) 320.14(1)(d) 50mg% alcohol + 2.5ng/mL of
THC.
 
Refusal 254(5) 320.15(1) Wording added “knowing that a demand has
been made”
and added
separate
offences of 
liability
regarding 
respecting
injury or death at time demand made.
 
Failure to Stop/Remain 252 320.16(1) Old offence was a specific intent offence – “with intent to escape civil or
criminal
liability”. New
offence is a
general intent
offence – the
Crown need not prove any
purpose for the flight. 
Reputable
presumption – “without
reasonable
excuse”
 
Flight from
Police
249.1 320.17 Simpler
language but
repealed bodily harm and
death offences.  As well, only
mentions
“motor vehicle or vessel”, not
conveyance as
the other new
provisions have
 
Driving While
Prohibited
259(4) 320.18(1) Change of
language from
“disqualified”
to “prohibited” – no substantive change.

 

I expect a lot of constitutional arguments in the months and years to come, especially since the new legislation now allows, where legislation compels drivers to report accidents (e.g. provincial Motor Vehicle / Highway Traffic Acts), police to use that information to form grounds for demands.  I’ve made several posts over the years on courts ruling that “statutory compelled statements/reports” are inadmissible when pursuing a simultaneous criminal investigation, so this one will be interesting. Also, because the drug screening equipment isn’t perfect, and gives false positives, defence will argue it’s unconstitutional to use it for sure.  One final note for this post: because of the changes in the presumption sections, breath technicians will need new certificates which detail the results of blank and standard alcohol tests. If you’re a breath technician, you’ll have to start using these new ones now.

 

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Is there a reasonable expectation of privacy in a Facebook page?

A judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice doesn’t believe there is.  In R. v. Patterson 2018 ONSC 4467, the accused used Facebook Messenger to lure a 15-year-old boy for the purpose of committing a sexual offence [luring]. The victim of the alleged offence provided investigators with his Facebook password and gave them permission to download his communications with the accused. The Toronto Police Service then made a request to the US seeking an order from an American court requiring Facebook to provide the complete record of the accused’s Facebook communications from its servers in Texas. The request was granted and Facebook sent all of the requested records directly to the officer in charge of this investigation.

Patterson applied to exclude the evidence obtained both from the alleged victim and from Facebook based on a violation of his rights under section 8 of the Charter. It was the position of the defence that Patterson has a privacy interest in those messages and that investigators were obliged to obtain warrants from a Canadian judicial officer prior to reviewing the Facebook page or opening the records forwarded by U.S. law enforcement officers.

The defence position is premised on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R.v. Marakah 2017 SCC 59 (a case I posted about earlier). As backdrop, in Marakah the court found that the accused had a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages which had been seized from his co-accused’s cellphone. Defence in Patterson argued that Marakah is good authority for the proposition that Patterson retains a reasonable expectation of privacy in electronic messages that he sent and received over Facebook despite the fact that those records were saved in the victim’s own Facebook account as well as the Facebook servers in Texas.

In Marakah, it was clear that the applicant had a direct interest in the communications because he was a participant in the text conversations and the author of the messages which were introduced as evidence against him. Patterson’s Facebook activities included several different types of communication: text based conversations with the victim which constitute the actus reus of the offence of child luring; images and text received by Patterson as a member of a Facebook group where members would exchange images of child pornography and fantasize about the sexual abuse of children; the Facebook profiles, background images, and subscriber information which Patterson used to create the Jim Jay, Josh Jay, and Ric Patterson Facebook accounts.

The judge found that Patterson has no direct interest in the first category of communications (the text messages which he sent to the victim). Those messages constitute the actus reus of the offence of child luring. The constitutional rights which protect our privacy have never gone so far as to permit an accused to claim privacy in respect of his own criminal offences, ruled the judge.  As for the second category, the judge said that when a Facebook user joins such a group, he implicitly consents to receiving any communication sent to the group by another member and also consents to his own messages being distributed to every other member. The members of the group have very limited means of confirming the identity of other members and they have no means of preventing members from distributing their communications outside of the group. Patterson arguably has a direct interest in his own contributions to the group but it would be very difficult to find that he has a direct interest in the entire group’s conversation simply because he was a member of it.

The judge said Patterson does have a direct interest in the third category of his Facebook communications (the account details and profile pages for his three Facebook accounts). Bearing in mind that these communications were deliberately left open to any Facebook user to read, the expectation of privacy may be almost negligible but at least it can be said that Patterson has a direct interest in the content.

The judge said in Marakah, text messaging is a narrow, targeted form of communication. Facebook is a broadcast. Depending on the user’s privacy settings, a Facebook page can be read by anyone in the world who is connected to the Internet. Patterson deliberately fashioned the Josh Jay and Jim Jay accounts in order to draw a particular type of Facebook user to his page. He was trolling for young gay males. The female officer was able to navigate to the profile page for both accounts and read the posted biographical information without any need to be accepted as a “friend”. She was able to see the profile pictures that Patterson selected for Jim and Josh Jay, read their biographical information, and see the profiles of those who had befriended them on Facebook. A significant portion of what Patterson sought to exclude is information which he previously invited the world to see.

Thus, said the judge, Patterson’s claim to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his Facebook records dies here. No reasonable person would expect that communications such as these would remain private. Patterson was messaging with a 15 year old boy who had given him no assurance of confidentiality. The communications were conducted over Facebook messenger, a medium which seemingly keeps an indelible record of supposedly private communications. All of the messaging took place over the Internet with snippets and artifacts of the conversation being captured on devices, servers, and systems at every juncture of the communication. As the judge said, a reasonable Internet user might hope that such communications would remain private but no one with even a modicum of understanding of information technology would expect it.

 

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Search warrants and typographical errors

R. v. Campbell 2018 NSCA 42 – police executed a search warrant at a home in Brooklyn, N.S. The respondent was subsequently charged with drug and firearm offences. The respondent challenged the validity of the search warrant. He submitted the warrant was fundamentally flawed on its face and, as such, the search undertaken of his home constituted a breach of his right under s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. He further argued that the evidence collected by virtue of the search ought to be excluded.

In challenging the warrant, the respondent did not suggest that the information contained in the Information to Obtain (ITO) did not give rise to reasonable grounds to believe evidence of an offence would be found at his residence. The sole basis of the respondent’s challenge was in relation to an error on the face of the warrant itself. He submitted this error alone was sufficient to render it invalid.

Police had responded to a call earlier in the day from the general public about a male walking down the road with a shotgun. Arriving on scene, police observed a male entering a mini-home on Gaspereau River Road, Brooklyn, N.S., carrying a firearm. Police followed him to the mini-home and arrested the man for firearm related offences. The first male was taken to the police station for further questioning. A search of the property was subsequently undertaken by three officers for public and officer safety. Cannabis plants were located in the kitchen and in a greenhouse in the backyard. Officers also found an unsecured .22 caliber rifle next to the cannabis plants in the greenhouse. The police officers left the residence and began conducting surveillance while awaiting a search warrant to be approved. During the surveillance period, a second male (the respondent) arrived and advised the officers that he lived at the mini-home. He was arrested and transported to the police station as well. The search warrant was approved by a Justice of the Peace

The error?

This warrant may be executed between the hours of 6:00 p.m. on the 7th day of May, 2016 and 9:00 p.m. on the 7th day of January, 2016.

Maybe a ‘cut and paste’ error, or the wording in a prior template (search warrant) not being corrected (my thoughts, not the court’s).  Of course, the question to address was, “Was this merely a typographical error, or was it a serious fundamental defect that makes the warrant invalid?”  The NSCA discussed that the trial judge was well aware that a warrant could contain a typographical error which would not impact on its presumptive validity. However, some errors went beyond such harmless errors and may be problematic. The trial judge clearly understood that some errors on the face of a warrant could be trivial and did not import into her reasoning a standard of facial perfection.

Where a search warrant appears regular and valid on its face, issued by the proper justice, it represents, until quashed by subsequent proceedings, full authority to the officer in entering, searching and detaining goods according to its terms and directions. The search warrant should, on its face, appear to be issued in the form prescribed by the statute, and issued by the proper court officer, in order to the officer to act upon it. The executing officer will then be justified in carrying out its mandate even though the information may have been legally insufficient to authorize the issuing of the search warrant, and even though the search warrant might be set aside if an application is made (cited from Fontana and Keeshan in The Law of Search & Seizure in Canada, 8th ed. at page 61).

At para. 36 in Campbell:

Implicit …..is the expectation that an executing officer should assure him or herself that they are about to act in accordance with the terms of the warrant. That necessitates that they read it. Here, the warrant was not “regular” on its face — it contained an obvious error with respect to the time frame for execution. It was well within the purview of the trial judge to infer either that the obvious error was not noted by police, or conversely, they acted on it notwithstanding the error. No evidence was offered to explain why or how the police acted in the face of an obvious error on the warrant.

Due to the negligence of the police in obtaining and executing the search warrant, the resulting grow op and firearms evidence was excluded.

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Checking on child welfare does not necessarily permit warrantless police searches

In R. v. McMahan 2018 SKCA 26, police received a call from the local Mobile Crisis Unit regarding an anonymous tip concerning the well-being of the children living in Ms. McMahon’s residence. Specific concerns identified by the tipster were poor living conditions and children not fed properly. Since the tip had been received by Mobile Crisis on a weekend, and because it had no staff in proximity to McMahon’s home, Mobile Crisis asked the police to “go and just take a look, find out what things were like and report back to them”. Two police officers attended the residence and McMahon greeted them outside. After being informed of the reason for the police visit, McMahon requested a few minutes to clean up the home, but was denied. The officer denied her request, stating it would be inconsistent with the purpose of a “spot check”. The discussion that took place outside McMahon’s home lasted no more than five minutes. McMahon then turned, opened the door, and entered her residence.

The officers followed her inside. Upon entering the home, the police smelled burnt marihuana. One of the officers also observed a jar of marihuana bud and the adults in the home were arrested (McMahon and two others). As there were no adults left to supervise the three children, the police determined that they should be taken into care. While assisting the children in preparing to leave the residence, one of the officers entered a room and noticed a number of marihuana plants. A search warrant was later obtained and 191 marihuana plants were seized pursuant to the warrant. McMahon applied to have the marihuana plants that were seized from her residence excluded from evidence at trial on the grounds that the police had entered her home and seized the plants without lawful authority. The trial judge allowed the application and excluded the evidence. He found that the investigating officer exceeded her powers by entering the home without a warrant and that the subsequent search and seizure of the marihuana plants amounted to a violation of McMahon ‘s s. 8 Charter rights.

The Crown appealed, arguing that the trial judge erred in finding the police had entered the home without lawful authority, erred in finding that McMahon’s privacy rights were engaged, erred in applying the standards applicable to gathering evidence in a criminal investigation to a child welfare inquiry, and erred in excluding the evidence.

Since the Crown principally relied upon the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) as authority for the warrantless search, this legislation was examined.  The legislation’s purpose is to promote the well-being of children “in need of protection” by offering services designed to maintain, support and preserve the family in the least disruptive manner. Children are considered to be “in need of protection” if the child’s situation meets one of the circumstances described (s. 11), including a circumstance where “there is no adult person who is able and willing to provide for the child’s needs, and physical or emotional harm to the child has occurred or is likely to occur”. Section 12 of the CFSA legally obliges any person who has reasonable grounds to believe a child is in need of protection to report that information to an officer or a peace officer.

Where a report is made to a child protection worker or peace officer, the recipient of that report must investigate the information set out therein if the child protection worker or peace officer, as the case may be, has reasonable grounds to believe that a child is in need of protection. The CFSA lays out a number of approaches available to child protection workers when a child is considered to be in need of protection. The level of intervention ranges from the least disruptive (support services, mediation, agreements with the parents for residential care), to more interventionist measures (apprehension, protective intervention orders, temporary or permanent guardianship orders).

The CFSA does not expressly authorize a peace officer to enter a private dwelling for the purpose of conducting an investigation; it does set out the authority for and conditions upon which a warrant to enter a private home may be obtained, notably, when an officer has not yet determined if a child is in need of protection and needs access into the home in order to make that determination.

The Crown’s position also, both at trial and on appeal, was that warrantless entry into McMahon’s home was justified under the common law police duty to preserve the peace, prevent crime and protect life and safety. In other words, the police response to the anonymous tip about McMahon’s children engaged a positive obligation on their part to assist McMahon’s children who may have been in distress, even if the extent of their distress was unknown to them at the time they received the tip. The Crown argued the anonymous tip was akin to a 9-1-1 call and therefore constituted sufficient evidence of the reasonableness of the police action. Finally, the Crown suggested that once the common law duty is found to exist, the police are both authorized and duty bound to enter a private dwelling without a warrant in furtherance of their power, without considering whether entry was reasonably necessary in the circumstances.

The SKCA found the warrantless entry was not justified by child welfare concerns in the absence of exigent circumstances. The testimony of the officer at trial did not satisfy the trial judge that she believed the life or safety of the children were in danger; she only had a vague, anonymous tip that the children were not being properly fed and the house was in poor condition.  As such, the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that the children were in need of protection. There was no direct evidence that the children were in distress. The anonymous tip, which was received second hand and came from an unknown source, was vague and not compelling or credible. The warrantless entry was without McMahon’s informed consent. McMahon was not advised of her right to refuse police entry or of the ability of the police to get a warrant under the Child and Family Services Act. No matter how well intentioned the officer was, the warrantless, non-consensual, non-urgent search of her home was a serious violation of her s. 8 Charter rights.

Of note, even though the legal basis (principles) discussed in this decision appear sound, your provincial legislation may grant or authorize other powers that the CFSA in Saskatchewan does not, so please refer to the relevant legislation in your territorial jurisdiction for guidance.

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