constitutional law

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Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms Case

Many people may look at this case in their own ways due to the faulty search and seizure that was conducted and the circumstances behind it but in trial according to the trial judge, he found that the search of Mann’s pocket breached s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  He held that the police officer was justified in his search of Mann for security reasons, but that there was nothing the officer could say or to that would make it reasonable to look inside Mann’s pocket for those reasons.  The evidence was excluded under s. 24(2) of the Charter, due to the fact that its admission would interfere with the fairness of the trial, and the accused was acquitted. The Court of Appeal set aside the acquittal and ordered a new trial, finding that the detention and the pat-down search were authorized by law and were reasonable in the circumstances. To add to the breach of s.8 of the charter, the trial judge stated that the officers had reasonable grounds to detain Mann and to conduct a protective search, but no reasonable reasoning for reaching into Mann’s pocket.  This part of the search was an unreasonable violation of Mann’s reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the contents of his pockets. As the case went on, the trial judge made the decision of making the evidence inadmissible due to the fact of trial unfairness because the marijuana was non-conscriptive, but his decision to exclude it was correct.  The search went beyond what was required to sustain concerns about the officer’s safety and reflects a serious breach of Mann’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.  When the officer reached into Mann’s pocket, the purpose of the search shifted from safety to the detection and collection of evidence. While a frisk search is a minimally intrusive search, the search of Mann’s pocket must be weighed against the absence of any reasonable basis for justification.  The good faith of the officer is but one factor to be considered alongside other factors which speak to the seriousness of the breach and good faith cannot be claimed if a Charter violation is present on the basis of a police officer’s unreasonable error of his authority.  Lastly, although absence of the evidence would substantially eliminate the evidence altogether, the Crown’s case against Mann and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking is a serious offence.

As the case moved to the Manitoba Court of Appeal, more actions had come into play at this level. To begin with, The Court of Appeal ultimately concluded that the detention and pat-down search were authorized by law and exercised reasonably on the facts. As we know, Twaddle J.A. set aside the acquittal and ordered a new trial. He began with the proposition that a warrantless search is upon observation; unreasonable, and that the weight falls on the Crown to show that the search was nevertheless reasonable on a balance of probabilities. The judge then turned to consider whether there existed common law authority for the initial detention. After conducting a test, he held that the detention was authorized at law based on the facts.  He noted that the circumstances fell within the general scope of the duties of a police officer, and that the detention was further justified given the similarity of the appellant’s description to that of the suspect. Knowing the fact that the detention and search power is to be authorized by law, the judge considered whether the search had been conducted reasonably.  He held that it was not unreasonable for the police officer, having found something soft in the front pocket of the appellant’s pullover to continue searching inside the pocket. Twaddle J.A.’s conclusion on the reasonableness of the search was based upon the good faith conduct of the officers in carrying out the protective search.  He said that it was not reasonable for the inside of the pocket to be searched absent a finding on the pat-down search of something that either was or could conceal a weapon.  However, given the safety principle underlying the pat-down search, he was very cautious of placing too rough of a constraint on officers abilities to ensure a safe environment.  Twaddle J.A. held that officers should be allowed some slack in this regard so long as the search for weapons was conducted in good faith.  As the good faith conduct of the officers was unquestioned, Twaddle J.A. concluded that the scope of the search had been reasonable in this case and that there had been no breach of the appellant’s right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure under s. 8 of the Charter. After deep thought, the judge then stated the fact that police officers may detain an individual for investigative purposes if there are reasonable grounds to suspect in all the circumstances that the individual is connected to a particular crime and that such a detention is necessary.  In addition, where a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that his or her safety or that of others is at risk, the officer may engage in a protective pat-down search of the detained individual.  Both the detention and the pat-down search must be conducted in a reasonable manner. The judge applied this statement to the fact in which he stated by going on further about how the appellant closely matched the description of the suspect given from dispatch which led the officers to reasonably suspect that the appellant was involved in recent criminal activity. Also, due to the fact that this neighborhood was considered to be a “high-crime” area it only would have to the officers forced to believe that was there victim. To add, the judge also stated that the break and enter occurred just after midnight and when they arrived on scene, there were no other people in the area except for the person they detained. Upon these actions, the seizure of the marijuana was unlawful and the admissibility of this evidence had to been considered accordingly under s. 24(2) of the charter. The judge had many things to take into considered on the admissibility of the evidence. As stated in the case, pretty much what it came down to was “nature of the evidence obtained and the nature of the right violated” and also the seriousness of the breach. When the judge considered the seriousness of the breach, many factors came into mind such as: whether the breach was committed in good or bad faith, the obtrusiveness of the search, and the individual’s expectation of privacy in the area searched and the existence of reasonable grounds. The judge then concluded that the evidence will be admitted due to the fact that he believed the officer found the evidence in good faith. Along with came the following factors on whether to exclude the evidence or not; (1) the effect of admitting the evidence on the fairness of the subsequent trial, (2) the seriousness of the police conduct, and (3) the effects of excluding the evidence on the administration of justice. The marijuana and baggies seized by the officers upon the search constitute the Crown’s only evidence to the effect that the accused possessed the drug and intended to sell it at some point in time. In addition, the jurisprudence of this Court strongly supports the view that possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking is a serious offence for the purposes of s. 24(2) of the Charter. Back to the search the judge then clarified that the amount of privacy the appellant received was reasonable at the time because that the search occurred late around mid night in a high-crime area, approximately two blocks from the scene of a break-in. Individuals should expect a lesser amount of privacy in public areas frequently patrolled by police.

Having the decision made by the court of appeal judge that the officers acted in good faith did not contravene s.8 of the charter, the decision was a appealed to the S.C.C with individuals taking part such as Criminal Lawyers Association, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Attorney General of Ontario, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The appeal was allowed and the acquittal was restored. The marijuana seizure constituted a sec. 8 Charter violation. The evidence was excluded under sec. 24(2) Charter. The S.C.C backed up there conclusion by stating the facts in which there is no general police power to detain for investigative purposes. This means the Supreme Court of Canada did not recognize an automatic investigation detention power that is all encompassing in any circumstance. The S.C.C. then called for Parliament to decide whether this authority should become a statutory law. Although there is no general investigative detain police power, there is limited police power to detain for investigation. Investigative detentions are limited to situation where the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is connected to a particular crime. Furthermore, The S.C.C. stated that the phrase “reasonable grounds to suspect” cannot be confused with “reasonable grounds to arrest” as used in sec. 495 of the Criminal Code. “Reasonable grounds to suspect” means a mere suspicion belief that is justified by relevant evidence that exceeds something in which might be the case. To elaborate; mere suspicion must be explained by circumstances that caused the belief that the suspect was connected to the crime. The S.C.C. then brought up the idea that police powers and police duties are not necessarily correlative. While the police have a common law duty to investigate crime, they are not empowered to undertake any and all action in the exercise of that duty. They continued with that fact that a justified investigative detention search authorizes a protective pat-down search of the detained person. This means that weapons must be the target of search, evidence cannot be the target of the search, and the method of the search cannot exceed pat-down. Lastly, an investigative detention does not obligate the detained to answer questions by the police; this rule has always existed and hasn’t changed.

Due to the reasoning stated the S.C.C restored the acquittal and the accused was free to go with no charges.