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Is the evidence against you admissible? It may depend on the reasonableness of the search and seizure.

If you are looking to hire the best criminal lawyer in Surrey for your case, you need to make sure to hire a skilled and experienced criminal defence lawyer who is familiar with the laws of evidence. It is often said that the outcome of a trial depends on the specific facts of each case. It is also true that the outcome often depends on what admissible evidence is accepted as fact in each case.  The best criminal lawyers in Surrey, and elsewhere, will make sure to present the court with an interpretation of the facts that favours their clients. They will also ensure that the court only considers evidence that the extensive rules of evidence allow.

One example of inadmissible evidence is evidence that the police obtain from an improper search or seizure. For example, in Canada, police can’t simply enter your home on a whim, seize incriminating evidence and later admit that evidence at your trial. That would be an example of an improper search and seizure.  When a search is improper, the court must find that evidence inadmissible and make its decision as if that information did not exist. 

Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the legal heart of what protects Canadians from illegal police searches. It says that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” The Supreme Court of Canada, our highest court, recognizes this as a core value in Canadian society and interprets this to mean we have the right to a reasonable expectation of personal privacy. However, this does not protect you from search and seizure where it is reasonable for law enforcement to perform a search. The circumstances determine the reasonableness. The following case involving a client of Surrey criminal lawyer, Marvin Stern, illustrates the rules.

Marvin Stern appeared in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court in January 2015 to successfully argue that a client had been unlawfully searched.  In this case, the police smelled marijuana on Mr. N. at a roadblock. The police decided to search the car and found 28 pieces of crack cocaine, three cell phones and over $500 cash. Based on the discovery of these items, Mr. N. faced drug charges, specifically possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. Under the circumstances, the judge agreed with Marvin Stern, and found that the search was unlawful and dismissed all charges.

 Does this mean that police can never lawfully search a car they have routinely stopped? The law is not that simple. For example, in R. v. Belnavis, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy when police stopped three young women for speeding and noticed bags of clothes with price tags still on them in the back seat. The passengers gave conflicting stories about who owned the bags and were charged with possession of stolen property. The court agreed that this was a legal search and seizure and that the evidence could be used at trial.  

Remember that every case has its own unique set of facts, and that it is critically important to have experienced defence lawyers on your side who can navigate the law in your specific circumstances to give you the best possible defence.

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