Regina v. C.Z. March 2018 – Cannabis Resin Seized Roadside

Pipeline Interdiction officer seizes Cannabis Resin Roadside

Sections  5(2) x 2 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Cannabis resin)

The roving traffic unit is a group of highly trained RCMP officers who use their authority under the Traffic Safety Act to investigate drug offences.  These officers are quite often experienced, and highly knowledgeable about their powers of arrest, detention, search and seizure.  In the course of the so-called traffic stop, they use the observations they make, to formulate the grounds to search the vehicle.

They engage the driver of the vehicle in a Q&A: where are you coming from? where are you going? how long are you staying? what are your reasons for travel? These questions, often interpreted as small-talk, are carefully crafted.  A story that doesn’t add up, will contribute to the grounds to search the vehicle.   The officers will make observations about the contents of the vehicle:

You are staying in town for a month and only have one bag with you?

You’ve only been travelling for 2 hours and there are 6 red bull and 3 Mcdonalds bags in the vehicle?

You have a collection of 16 air fresheners in the vehicle?

These are all observations that contribute to an officer’s formulation of grounds to search the vehicle.

These are difficult cases to defend, as the Supreme Court of Canada has approved these type of investigations. See: The Mackenzie decision 

Whats more, is when it comes to trial, these officers inevitably testify that they were simply running radar and issuing traffic tickets. They deny that they are trained drug investigators, and deny that their purpose on the highway was to investigate drug offences.  Does the drug-sniffing dog in the back of the patrol vehicle also issue traffic tickets?

This case was a traditional pipeline style investigation. C.Z. was driving down the highway when he was pulled over for having tinted windows. Once detain the ed at roadside, the officer approached the vehicle and noted the smell of fresh marihuana emanating.  The current status of the law at the time is that the smell of fresh marihuana  gives an officer grounds to arrest the driver and search the vehicle.  In this case, that is exactly what the officer did.

The search of the vehicle gleaned a substantial amount of cannabis resin. C.Z. recognized that Sean Fagan was a criminal defence lawyer experienced in defending this particular type of drug prosecution and retained his services.  This was an extremely difficult case from the defence perspective, as the officer, arguably, had the authority to do detain, arrest, and search C.Z.’s vehicle. However, due to the effective mandatory minimum periods of imprisonment for these offences, there is often little benefit to pleading guilty.

This matter was scheduled for trial. The Crown, notwithstanding his best efforts, was unable to get the Police to finish the job he started. A police officer’s job is not complete after the handcuffs are on and the drugs are seized.  There are a number of procedural steps that need to be taken in order to ultimately secure a verdict of not guilty. In this case, the evidentiary i’s were not dotted and the t’s were not crossed and drug lawyer Sean Fagan capitalized on the deficiencies. On the day of trial, all charges before the Court were withdrawn.