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CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES - Legal rights - Protection against arbitrary detention or imprisonment

Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 8:44 AM  

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Appeal by the accused, Cuff, from convictions for possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and breach of probation. Police pulled over the accused for speeding following a short pursuit that ended in an apartment parking lot. The accused approached the police vehicle on foot. The officer asked the accused for his licence, insurance and registration. The accused ran. A back-up officer apprehended and arrested the accused following a foot chase. The accused identified himself and another officer confirmed the identification based on prior interactions with the accused. Over the next 30 minutes, the accused was read his right to counsel and the police completed computer checks, after which the accused was arrested for breach of probation and taken to the police detachment. Meanwhile, the keys to the vehicle driven by the accused could not be located and the vehicle was impounded. An inventory search of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of a bag in the back seat that appeared to contain drugs. A warrant was obtained, pursuant to which 72 grams of cocaine were seized from the bag. A pre-trial ruling found no standing to assert a s. 8 Charter claim and found any s. 9 breach would not have affected the admissibility of evidence. The accused was convicted at the conclusion of the subsequent trial. The accused appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge did not err in finding the accused did not have an objectively reasonable privacy interest in the vehicle. He did not own the vehicle, and he was incapable of regaining possession of it upon his return to the scene given that the keys were either lost or discarded. The trial judge did not err in concluding that the vehicle was lawfully seized pursuant to s. 221(1) of the Highway Traffic Act on the basis of apparent abandonment. Having properly seized the vehicle, the police were under an obligation to keep the vehicle and its contents safe. The fact that the police may have suspected that they would find drugs while searching the vehicle did not alter their authority to conduct an inventory search. Once they found the drugs, the police acted responsibly, ceased their search, resealed the car and obtained a search warrant. Although the trial judge erred in declining to address the accused’s s. 9 Charter claim, no such breach of the accused’s rights occurred. The accused was lawfully detained for failure to identify himself and was lawfully detained thereafter during the police investigation into his identity. The convictions were thus affirmed.

R. v. Cuff, [2018] O.J. No. 1789, Ontario Court of Appeal, P.S. Rouleau, G. Huscroft and J.M. Fairburn JJ.A., March 21, 2018. Digest No. TLD-May72018007