Mar 17, 2014

Summary of R. v. Switucka

R. v. Switucka, 2009 SKQB 260 (CanLII)
The accused is charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking contrary to s. 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The case against him is purely circumstantial. As a result of information received from a confidential informant, the police obtained a search warrant to enter an apartment in Saskatoon, where they found a locked safe containing approximately 4.2 kilograms of high grade cocaine. The accused approached the back door of the apartment building in his truck; however, when he noticed that police were present, he left the scene. He was stopped by the police a few minutes later. The police told the accused to turn off the ignition and throw his keys on the ground, which he did. One of the keys unlocked the safe. The issue is whether or not the Crown has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.HELD: The accused is found guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking. 1) The evidence of possession is purely circumstantial. It is not essential that there be direct evidence of the accused's knowledge of the presence of the cocaine in the safe. Knowledge of the cocaine may be inferred from circumstantial evidence. The Court finds that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had knowledge and control of the cocaine found in the safe, sufficient to constitute constructive or joint possession as defined in s. 4(3)(a)(ii) and (b) of the Criminal Code. The accused was found in possession of the key to the safe that contained the cocaine. With the key the accused had control, solely or jointly, of the safe and its contents. Control of the safe, in the circumstances of this case, equates to knowledge and control of its contents. It is relevant that the key for the safe was located on the same key ring that contained the key to the accused's truck that he was driving and that was registered to him at the time he was stopped and arrested by the police. The existence of the two keys on the same key chain is more than just a literal link, it also serves as an additional figurative link between the accused and the safe. It is also significant that the accused was found in close proximity to the apartment that housed the safe. This is more than a mere coincidence. The accused was in the company of Ryan Wilson, who had been given an apartment key by the tenant, who had been seen inside the apartment and whose fingerprint had been found on a bag of cocaine in the safe. 2) The Crown expert testified that the quantity of cocaine seized was fairly substantial by Saskatchewan standards. The possessor of that amount of cocaine, in Saskatchewan, would be higher up than a street dealer. The quality of the cocaine was high grade. The expert testified that it is common for large quantities of cocaine to be secured in places such as a safe and it is common for traffickers to stash their illegal product in 'safe houses' such as an abandoned or empty apartment. The amount is not consistent with personal use. The police found a scale and other items in the apartment consistent with possession for the purpose of trafficking. The Court has no hesitation in concluding that it was possessed for the purpose of trafficking.