Criminal Law – Controlled Drugs and Substances Act – Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking – Cocaine
The accused was charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking contrary to s. 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The charge arose as a result of a surveillance operation conducted by members of the Saskatoon Integrated Drug Unit (SIDU) in which officers were tipped off that trafficking was occurring in the parking lot of a restaurant. During the course of the surveillance, an officer testified that he saw the accused leave the restaurant and get into a vehicle that had just arrived in the parking lot. While in the vehicle, the officer testified that he saw the accused appear to hand something to the driver. After 30 seconds, the accused returned to the restaurant. The officer testified that this behaviour was consistent with drug trafficking transactions he had witnessed in over 50 operations. Shortly after this incident, the accused left with other men. The police followed the men to a motel. The accused returned to the restaurant, and when he was exiting the vehicle, the officers identified themselves as police and said that he was under arrest. The accused then started running and was chased by the police. One officer fell on the accused and tried to wrest the accused’s cell phone from him. Other officers, acting on the premise that dealers discard items during a chase, retraced the route taken by the accused. A bag was found behind the tire of a vehicle that was parked very near where the officer and the accused had fallen. The bag contained three bags in which were baggies containing various amounts of cocaine, the total weight of which was 14.7 grams. After the accused’s arrest, the officers returned to the motel and searched the room and found numerous computers and cell phones. One officer took calls on the cell phone and purported to be the intended recipient of the call. The caller advised him to pick up another man at a certain location. The officers followed the instructions and arrested the caller at the location specified. Two bags containing numerous baggies of cocaine, weighing in total 29 grams, were found on his person. At trial, a police officer testified as an expert witness regarding dial-a-dope operations. In his opinion, the accused was part of such a trafficking operation. The accused argued that the Crown had failed to prove that he was in possession of the cocaine. He admitted that if he was in possession of the cocaine found, the Crown had proven it was possessed for the purpose of trafficking.
HELD: The accused was found guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking. The court found that the evidence strongly supported a finding of fact that the accused was a participant in a dial-a-dope operation at the time of the incident. The court accepted the evidence of the expert that the amount of cocaine found in the parking lot indicated that it was to be used in trafficking and not personal use. The court determined that there were no other rational inferences to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence and that the accused dropped or threw the bag as he was apprehended.