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POWERS OF SEARCH AND SEIZURE - Warrantless searches - Residence - Plain view exception

Wednesday, December 02, 2020 @ 6:05 AM  


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Appeal by Stairs from his conviction for possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking. A civilian reported to police that he observed the male driver of a vehicle striking his female passenger. Police officers located the vehicle parked in the driveway of a residential address. No one came to the door of the residence. The police entered the home and found a woman who appeared to have fresh facial injuries. While in the home, the police arrested the appellant and found methamphetamine in a clear container while doing a sweep of the home for safety hazards. At trial, the appellant’s Charter application was dismissed. He was convicted of assault and breach of probation in addition to the possession offence.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge correctly concluded the entry into the home was justified under the common law ancillary powers doctrine, given the legitimate concern of the police regarding the safety of the female car occupant. The duties to protect life and assist victims of crime were front and centre when the police entered the home. Entry into the home was reasonably necessary in the circumstances. There was ample justification for the appellant’s arrest from both a subjective and objective perspective. There was strong circumstantial evidence that the people located in the home were the ones seen by the civilian. The police were not required to leave and obtain a “Feeney” warrant to make the arrest in a home they were already lawfully in. It was not unreasonable for the police to do a sweep of the home. The fact the methamphetamine was sitting out in plain view meant it could be seized. There was no breach of s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Dissenting reasons were provided.

R. v. Stairs, [2020] O.J. No. 4590, Ontario Court of Appeal, J.M. Fairburn A.C.J.O., I.V.B. Nordheimer and A.L. Harvison Young JJ.A., October 27, 2020. Digest No. TLD-November302020006