Criminal Law – Controlled Drugs and Substances Act – Possession for the Purposes of Trafficking – Cocaine
Constitutional Law – Charter of Rights, Section 9
The co-accused were jointly charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking contrary to s. 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The charges resulted from an investigation by a specialized police unit, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), comprised of RCMP and Prince Albert Police Service officers, into criminal organizations and drug trafficking above street level dealers. One of the officers in the unit received information from an officer in another unit, the Integrated Street Enforcement Unit (ISEU), devoted to street-level drug-trafficking investigations, that one of his confidential informants said that a Black male with the name K.J. was at a house in Prince Albert for the purpose of supplying others with cocaine and methamphetamine for distribution and sale. The informant had also advised that K.J. was driving a white Dodge Ram. The CFSEU officer ordered surveillance of the house after it was confirmed that a truck matching that description and bearing Alberta licence plates was parked in the driveway of the house identified by the informant. Later a team of police officers from both units followed three Black men and an Aboriginal woman after they left the residence and boarded the truck. The officers had a photograph of the accused K.J. and had been informed that the accused D.D. was the registered owner of the truck. Both men were in the truck. The team followed the truck until they reached the intersection to the only highway into Beauval where they stopped the truck on the instruction of the CFSEU officer. The officer had received more information from another confidential informant who said that three or four Black males, one of whom was named K.J., were on their way to Beauval for the purpose of supplying cocaine to the community. The CFSEU officer then believed that he had the necessary grounds to order the police to stop the truck and arrest its occupants. After the arrest, the police searched the truck and found 53 grams of rock cocaine separated into three chunks. One was in a sock in a bag in the back seat where K.J. had been seated. The other two chunks were inside plastic bags hidden in a rubber boot located in the box of the truck under a tonneau cover. The two accused alleged that their s. 9 Charter rights had been violated. They claimed their arrest was unlawful and therefore the search was unlawful and sought to have the evidence found subsequent to their arrest be excluded from trial.
HELD: The two accused were each found guilty. There had been no breach of their s. 9 Charter rights and the evidence obtained during the warrantless search was admitted. The court found that their arrest was lawful as was the subsequent search of the truck. The CFSEU officer’s grounds for arrest were reasonable when viewed objectively and supported his belief that the accused were about to commit a crime under s. 495(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. The court found that the officer had confirmed the information from the confidential informants had been reliable in the past and that neither of them had ever been charged with lying to the police. The court accepted the evidence of an RCMP officer qualified as an expert witness in the area of cocaine distribution and trafficking that the amount hidden in the truck was consistent with drug trafficking and the court concluded that the two accused had knowledge of and were in possession of the cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.