A man who accidentally dropped what turned out be a brick of cocaine in front of Surrey RCMP officers, and was immediately arrested as a result, has his court appeal to have the conviction overturned.
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In her decision, Justice Susan Griffin listed out the reasons for her judgement in the case, which began when two Surrey RCMP officers went to the home of the man, identified as Amanpreet Singh Gill, to execute an “impression” warrant.
“The officers were investigating the appellant’s possible connection to the earlier sale of two kilograms of cocaine to a police agent,” Griffin writes.
The officers found Gill at his home and told him that he needed to come with them to the police station for fingerprint identification.
“In response, the appellant motioned toward the front door of his home and indicated that he needed to go inside to inform his brother,” notes Griffin. “The officers told him that he was not to enter the house and that he was being detained.”
However, Gill “persisted” by pulling towards the door.
At that point, the officers “decided to physically ‘take down’ the appellant to prevent him from entering the home.”
According to court documents, it was after the officers had tackled him to the ground that they noticed “an unsealed envelope had fallen to the ground from his body.”
Upon further inspection, “an officer saw inside it and recognized it as likely a brick of cocaine, and seized it without a warrant,” the judge said. At that point, Gill was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
Following his arrest and subsequent court appearance, the question was ultimately whether police had the right to seize something in plain view without a warrant, or whether or not Gill was protected under the section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees “the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”
In her ruling, Griffin said the key to the application of the plain view doctrine — which “occurs when items fall into the view of an officer who has a right to be in the position he is in to have the view he has had ” — is the “principle that s. 8 of the Charter protects reasonable expectations of privacy against state intrusions.”
Ultimately, “the premise is that a person can have no reasonable expectation of privacy in an item in plain view to officers where the officers have a right to be present and are carrying out their lawful duties,” she noted.
As such, Griffin wrote that in her opinion, “there is no appealable error in the judge’s conclusion that the officer was entitled to seize the cocaine brick without a warrant under the plain view doctrine.”
She also noted that the judge in the original case “was entitled to conclude that the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance that tested positive for cocaine was the object in the envelope,” and that no error had been made in the process of doing so.