Ontario Proclaims Police Record Checks Reform Act

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On December 1, 2015, the province of Ontario passed the Police Record Checks Reform Act, 2015 (“PRCRA”), which is intended to uphold public safety in conjunction with respecting privacy and removing barriers that individuals may face when inappropriate information is disclosed in police record checks. The Act will come into effect on November 1, 2018.

The legislation will limit police disclosure of “non-conviction records”, allegations found in police computers that were never proven and 911 mental health calls that police attended.

This legislation was drafted in response to the Toronto Star’s “Presumed Guilty Investigation” in 2014 that exposed that tens of thousands of Canadians have records in police databases despite never having been convicted of a crime. The investigation found that the disclosure of these records has damaged careers, squashed ambitions and limited international travel.

According to research from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, one in three Canadians have some form of non-conviction information found on police computers. Police record checks disproportionately affect people who have more contact with the police, such as those individuals living in poverty or those with mental health or developmental disabilities.

Marie-France Lalonde, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, commented on the new legislation:

People in Ontario must not lose out on opportunities because of an inappropriate disclosure of non-criminal information. It is also vitally important that we have an up-to-date, rigorous record checks process that ensures that employers have access to appropriate information. …Once in force, this legislation will bring down barriers to opportunity and will help people across Ontario become more involved in their community.

WHAT IS A POLICE RECORD?

Police records originate from interactions with local police service related to both criminal and non-criminal matters. These interactions may include:

  • An individual providing their name through informal contact with a police officer;
  • An individual calling 911 or was present when the police officers responded to the call;
  • An individual calling 911 for themselves or someone they know was experiencing a mental health crisis;
  • An individual was involved in a police investigation as a witness, victim or suspect;
  • An individual was arrested;
  • An individual was charged with a criminal offence, but was not convicted;
  • An individual was found guilty of a criminal offence; or
  • An individual was convicted of a criminal offence.

WHAT IS A POLICE RECORD CHECK?

A police record check occurs when a search is performed in police databases regarding a particular individual. This “check” can be prompted to evaluate the suitability of an individual for a particular purpose, such as employment at a specific job, volunteer work, application for educational programs, adoption, immigration, or foreign travel.

As it stands today, information searched as part of a police record check can range from convictions to findings of guilty of non-convictions (i.e. an offender is found guilty of a particular offence, but made without conviction) and non-criminal information (i.e. when a person has an interaction with police, but is not charged).

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF POLICE RECORD CHECKS?

There are three types of police record checks that are clearly defined in the PRCRA.

They are as follows:

  1. Criminal Record Checks;
  2. Criminal Record and Judicial Matter Checks; and
  3. Vulnerable Sector Checks.

A Criminal Records Check is a search of the RCMP databases and is usually required for bylaw licences, employment or immigration purposes.  This type of screening will include information regarding criminal convictions and findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act within the applicable disclosure period.

A Criminal Record and Judicial Matter Check is the most comprehensive type of police screening. This check includes information regarding convictions, outstanding warrants, charges and judicial orders available from a local police agency’s records. This screening is intended for applicants seeking volunteer or employment from organizations that require a criminal record check, but it is not intended for those seeking to work or volunteer with vulnerable persons.

A Vulnerable Sector Check screens individuals who are pursuing employment or volunteer opportunities with vulnerable people. A vulnerable person is defined as a person who, because of their age, disability, or other circumstances, are in a position of dependence on others or are at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of authority or trust. Some of the positions that will require a Vulnerable Sector Check include teachers, social workers, taxi drivers, daycare workers, adoptive parents and sport coaches.

THE JOHN HOWARD SOCIETY OF ONTARIO REPORT

The John Howard Society of Ontario (“JHS”) is a criminal justice organization working to deliver services to those in conflict with the law and at risk throughout Ontario.

The JHS conducted in-depth surveys and interviews with employers and individuals with police records to empirically capture the negative effects of police records on employment.

The JHS report entitled “The Invisible Burden” concludes that a large number of Canadians have some form of police record, particularly Torontonians. These records are frequently requested by employers, and likely effect employer hiring practices and employment outcomes. Most importantly, police records disproportionately affect racialized, marginalized and other vulnerable populations.

Requiring a police records check is often part of an organization’s policy. According to their research, the JHS found that 60% of employers required police background checks for all new employees.

The JHS report offered various recommendations to balance employer interests and the need for an inclusive approach for people who need to gain employment. The JHS is a strong advocate of the new PRCRA as a means to standardize police records checks across the province.

If you have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Study Finds Steep Rise in Opioid-Related Deaths in Ontario

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Canada is confronting a national opioid crisis. The increasing number of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids is causing a national public health disaster. In fact, in Ontario the overall rate of opioid-related deaths nearly tripled from 2000 to 2015.

A new study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto reviewed all deaths in Ontario in which prescribed or illegal opioids were found to be a contributing factor between 2000 to 2015. The study found that there were 7,719 opioid-related deaths during that time period.

In Ontario, researchers found that one out of every six deaths among young adults (aged 25 to 34) was related to opioids in 2015. Research also found that one of nine deaths among those aged 15 to 24 was related to opioids (nearly double that of 2010).

Lead author and scientist, Dr. Tara Gomes, reports that young people need more information about the dangers of illicit drug use and education on how to reach out for help. She also suggested that it is time to be more tolerant to providing access to naloxone (the overdose-reversing drug) in locations where young people can access it (i.e. high schools, universities and music festivals).

Regarding the opioid crisis in Ontario, Dr. Gomes stated:

It is striking to see that despite the efforts put into harm reduction, proper prescribing practices, and education around opioid use, the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise. The other alarming fact is how this crisis is increasingly impacting our youth and young adults.

Dr. Gomes’ research revealed that a total of 29,410 years of potential life were lost prematurely due to opioid-related causes in 2015, which exceeds the years of life lost prematurely annually from pneumonia, HIV/AIDs and influenza.

Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in the city of Hamilton, a city which saw 70 opioid-related deaths between January and October in 2017, and declared that situations like theirs were a top priority for his government. The city of Hamilton’s opioid-death rate during 2017 was 78% higher than the provincial rate.

In addressing the opioid crisis, Prime Minister Trudeau stated:

We know that we have to address this. This is getting to be more and more of a problem. We have always put this at the top of our preoccupations as we deal with this public health crisis here in Hamilton and right across the country.

WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?

Opioids are drugs with pain relieving properties that are used primarily to treat pain. Opioids can be purchased at the pharmacy to treat minor aches and pains or prescribed by a doctor to relieve medium to severe pain.

Opioids can produce euphoria, or a high feeling, which leads them to be used improperly. The following are examples of opioids that can be prescribed medications:

  • Codeine;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Morphine;
  • Oxycodone;
  • Hydromorphone; and,
  • Medical heroin.

Dependency, substance use disorder and overdose are serious side effects and risks of using opioids. They have the potential for problematic use because they produce a “high” feeling.

Opioids should only be taken as prescribed, never be used by someone for whom it was not prescribed and never be taken with alcohol or other medication (except as prescribed).

Individuals prescribed with opioids are advised never to share their medication, and are cautioned to store their medication in a safe and secure place and out of reach from children and teenagers. Any unused opioid medication should be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal to prevent the possibility of illegal use and protect the environment from contamination.

HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT RESPONDING TO THE OPIOID CRISIS?

The Canadian government has reserved $231.4 million to respond to the opioid crisis in Canada, with monies dedicated to strategies such as public health campaigns, data tracking and new equipment and tools to allow border agents to better detect dangerous opioids before they enter Canada.

The Ontario government guaranteed it will spend more than $222 million over three years to address the opioid issue. The money will be used in the following manner:

  • To support health care providers on appropriate pain management and opioid prescribing;
  • To increase addictions treatment in primary care;
  • To add more front line harm reduction outreach workers in communities across the province;
  • For specialized support for indigenous communities and developmentally appropriate care for youth.

Furthermore, Ontario is the first province to provide access to Narcan nasal spray in Ontario pharmacies, free of charge, as part of its Ontario Naloxone Program for Pharmacies. This nasal spray is the only needle-free formulation of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. It does not require assembly or any specialized medical training.

Ontario has also announced that more than 30 communities will receive new or enhanced Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (“RAAM”) clinics. There are currently seven community clinics of this kind, which allow patients to receive medical assisted therapy for their addiction and are then referred to healthcare professionals to begin recovery treatment. Kate Hardy, the manager of the RAAM pilot project in Ontario, stated:

Unlike traditional treatment programs there are no wait times, scheduled appointments, or complicated intake assessments. … RAAM clinics are outpatient to allow patients to continue with their work and family responsibilities, and the service providers are non-judgemental.

As both the federal and provincial governments continue in their efforts to tackle the opioid crisis in Canada, Affleck & Barrison LLP will continue to provide updates through this blog.

If you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Woman Asleep in Her Vehicle Convicted of Impaired Driving

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An Ontario Court judge has convicted Erin Medakovic (“Medakovic”) of impaired driving when she was found asleep in a parked vehicle with the engine running and the driver’s door open.

Justice Vanessa Christie ruled that the Crown prosecutor had demonstrated “there was a realistic risk that Ms. Medakovic, who admittedly was impaired behind the wheel, may unintentionally set the vehicle in motion”.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 24, 2017, in the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin, the police were contacted by a man returning from working the night shift who noticed a car driver’s door open, the engine running and a woman in the driver’s seat. Officers attended at 1:50 a.m. and found a woman in a deep sleep in the reclined driver’s seat, with the door open and the engine running. The woman woke up after the officers tapped on the car window for 30 seconds. She sat up, had slow, slurred and laboured speech.

Inside the car, the officers found an LCBO bag with six empty cans and inside a purse they found Medakovic’s identification.

The officers administered a breath sample test which showed readings of 195 and 193, which were double the legal allowable level.

Medakovic told the officers she had eight beers and had been drinking since 2 p.m. She informed the officers that her last drink was at 11 p.m. and she had been asleep in her car for an hour. Medakovic told officers she thought it was ridiculous that she could not remain in her car and “sleep it off”.

At trial, Medakovic gave evidence that she had driven to Little Current from Sudbury on April 22 and was visiting friends. She parked in her male friend’s driveway, but her friend needed access to his driveway so he moved her car to the grass shoulder in front of his home. She told her male friend that she was trying to stay the night with a couple of friends and if that did not work out, she would sleep in her car. Medakovic gave evidence that her plans did not work out, so she decided to sleep in her car and turned the vehicle on to keep her warm. She could not comment on how or why the driver’s door was ajar.

Medakovic was charged with impaired driving and having more than the legal allowable level of alcohol in her system while driving.

CARE OR CONTROL OF A MOTOR VEHICLE

Medakovic was charged and convicted under Section 253 of the Criminal Code (“CC”), which reads as follows:

253(1) Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railways equipment, whether it is in motion or not,

 (a)  while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or drug; or

(b)  having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred mililitres of blood.

In her judgment, Justice Christie relied upon the Supreme Court of Canada decision of R. v. Boudreault, which outlined the essential elements of “care or control” as it applies to section 253(1) of the CC. The elements are as follows:

  • an intentional course of conduct associated with a motor vehicle;
  • by a person whose ability to drive is impaired, or whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit;
  • in circumstances that create a realistic risk of danger to persons or property.

Justice Christie applied the facts of the case and found that Medakovic did not have an intention to drive that evening after she had consumed alcohol. She also found that the evidence at trial established that the stationary vehicle was positioned in a way that would not cause any safety concern and therefore not a realistic risk of danger. However, Justice Christie did find that the Crown had proven, based upon the evidence, that there was a realistic risk that Medakovic may unintentionally set the vehicle in motion.

Justice Christie found that Medakovic had care or control of a vehicle while impaired based upon the following facts that came out of the trial:

  • Medakovic was seated in the driver’s seat;
  • Medakovic locked the doors of the vehicle after she got in;
  • Medakovic became cold after she entered the vehicle and put the key in the ignition, turned the car on and put the heat on high;
  • Medakovic admitted she was impaired while in the driver’s seat and she was confused when she was awakened by the officers;
  • The officers testified that it took longer than usual to wake Medakovic up and she was initially disoriented and confused;
  • Medakovic’s feet were approximately one foot away from the car pedals;
  • Medakovic admitted she thrashes in her sleep and does not know what she is doing;
  • Medakovic admitted she is a deep sleeper and has slept walked in the past;
  • Medakovic admitted she has done things in her sleep that she is not aware of;
  • Medakovic admitted she could easily sit up and grip the steering wheel;
  • Medakovic had no explanation as to how the driver’s door became open and did not recall opening it; and
  • The vehicle was parked on a residential street, which could cause an immediate safety hazard.

Based on this evidence, Justice Christie found that the Crown had established that there was a realistic risk that Medakovic may unintentionally set the vehicle in motion while she was impaired and therefore Medakovic had the care and control of the vehicle contrary to section 253(1)(a) of the CC.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.

Conviction Upheld for Toronto Cop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the 2016 conviction of attempted murder and six-year jail sentence of Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo (“Forcillo”).

We have previously blogged about the trial court decision where a jury found Forcillo guilty of attempted murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim (“Yatim”).

WHAT HAPPENED?

On July 27, 2013, police were called to the scene with reports about a disturbance aboard the 505 Dundas streetcar.  At trial, the jury heard evidence that Yatim had consumed the drug ecstasy before boarding the westbound streetcar at Yonge Street. He then proceeded to expose himself to women on the streetcar and withdrew a switchblade. The streetcar stopped near Grace Street and all passengers exited the doors.

Forcillo and his partner were the first officers to arrive and found Yatim alone on the streetcar. Forcillo fired nine shots from the street at Yatim after repeatedly requesting that the youth drop a small knife that he was holding as he stood aboard an empty streetcar. Forcillo fired two separate rounds of shots. Yatim was critically injured by the first round of shots, which caused him to fall on the floor of the streecar.

At trial, Forcillo faced two charges: second-degree murder for the first round of gunfire and attempted murder for the second round. The jury found Forcillo was justified in firing the first three shots at Yatim, and therefore not guilty of second-degree murder. However, the jury concluded that Forcillo was not justified in firing the second round of shots, and therefore convicted him of attempted murder.

THE SENTENCE AT TRIAL

Justice Edward Then sentenced Forcillo to six years in jail after the jury convicted him of attempted murder.

At the sentencing hearing, Forcillo’s lawyers argued that a minimum sentence should apply to a police officer on duty.

Justice Then stated that the second round of gunfire was “unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive” and contrary to Forcillo’s police training. He went on to explain that the sentence must match the crime. Furthermore, he expressed his belief that police officers should be held to a higher standard than members of the public and that Forcillo should have used de-escalation techniques to convince Yatim to release his weapon.

Forcillo had been granted bail pending the appeal decision, but he has been behind bars since late last year as a result of breaching his bail conditions. He has been charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice and is currently suspended without pay from the Toronto police.

THE APPEAL

In October, 2017, Forcillo launched an appeal. Forcillo requested that the Court of Appeal substitute a not guilty verdict or order a new trial. On appeal, Forcillo’s lawyers raised several questions about the trial and the sentence, including:

  • Whether the conviction for attempted murder can stand?
  • Whether the trial judge erred in excluding evidence regarding Mr. Yatim’s state of mind?
  • Whether the trial judge erred in sentencing Forcillo beyond the five-year mandatory minimum sentence?

This week, the Court of Appeal dismissed Forcillo’s appeal of both his conviction and sentence. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the six-year prison sentence was “fit” considering the surrounding circumstances of the crime, including Forcillo’s failure to express remorse.

The Court of Appeal found that the jury’s verdict was reasonable as there were obvious differences between the circumstances when Forcillo fired the first set of shots and when he discharged the second set of gunfire (given that Yatim was hit and laying on his back during the second round of gunfire).

The Court of Appeal stated:

[Forcillo] knew from his training that Mr. Yatim did not pose an imminent threat to anyone merely by re-arming himself with a knife. He knew that he was not entitled to kill Mr. Yatim in these circumstances, yet he proceeded to fire six additional rounds fixed with that lethal intent.

Forcillo has the option of appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In order to do so, Forcillo would have to demonstrate that there is an issue of national importance. Forcillo’s lawyers are currently considering whether to appeal. We will keep you updated as this matter continues to develop.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Supreme Court Upholds First Degree Murder Convictions for Death of 6-Year-Old

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has upheld the first-degree murder convictions of Spencer Jordan (“Jordan”) and Marie Magoon (“Magoon”), who were charged in the death of six-year-old Meika Jordan (“Meika”).

Defence lawyers requested that the SCC reverse a decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which upgraded Jordan and Magoon’s second-degree murder convictions after ruling that Meika had been confined prior to her death (a condition that automatically increases the severity of a murder offence).

Under the original second-degree murder convictions, Jordan and Magoon had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for a minimum of 17 years. The upgraded first-degree murder convictions carry an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On November 14, 2011, Meika died after spending the weekend at the home of her father, Jordan, and stepmother, Magoon. The six-year-old was tortured for days leading up to her death by being forced to run stairs, dragged up and down the stairs by her ankles, repeatedly hit and even burned. She suffered damage to her internal organs and a subdural hematoma and cerebral swelling caused by at least five blows to her head. No medical attention was sought until Meika was in complete cardiac and respiratory failure. Jordan and Magoon told police that Meika had fallen down the stairs, however, the medical evidence supported a pattern of frequent and intentional violence.

Jordan and Magoon were charged with first degree murder and convicted of second degree murder at trial in 2015. They appealed their convictions and the Crown prosecutors appealed the first degree murder acquittals. The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the accuseds’ appeals, but allowed the Crown appeals. The Appeal Court held that the accused unlawfully confined Meika rendering them liable for first degree murder under section 231(5) of the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”).

The SCC refused to hear an appeal to have the convictions entirely quashed, but did hear arguments on the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to upgrade the charge from second-degree murder to first-degree murder.

The nine SCC justices took less than 10 minutes to come to the decision to dismiss all appeals in November, 2017. The SCC found that the Court of Appeal did not err in substituting verdicts of guilty of murder in the first degree. The written reasons for the ruling were released on April 13, 2018.

MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE

The crime of murder is deemed as the most vicious of crimes in Canadian society. This is reflected in the harshness of the sanctions and punishments for this crime.

In Canada, there are two divisions of murder and one of manslaughter. First degree murder is planned and deliberate (with a few exceptions), whereas second degree murder is defined as murder that is not first degree (not premeditated). Manslaughter is defined as a homicide committed without the intention to cause death.

First degree murder bears an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Once on parole, offenders remain on parole for the rest of their life and must report to a parole officer and are subject to conditions of their parole. If any of the conditions of parole are broken, they are sent directly back to prison without a hearing.

WHAT IS FIRST DEGREE MURDER UNDER SECTION 231(5) OF THE CRIMINAL CODE?

There are some homicides automatically deemed first degree murder, even if they were not intentional or planned. These include assassination of a police officer or prison employee on duty (section 231(4) of the CC) or murder committed in conjunction with one of the following offences (section 231 (5) of the CC):

  • hijacking;
  • sexual assault;
  • sexual assault with a weapon;
  • aggravated sexual assault;
  • kidnapping;
  • forcible confinement;
  • hostage taking;
  • terrorism;
  • intimidation;
  • criminal harassment; or
  • any offence committed on behalf of a criminal organization.

The section of the CC that was applied in Meika’s case was section 231(5)(e), which reads as follows:

(5)       Irrespective of whether a murder is planned and deliberate on the part of any person, murder is first degree murder in respect of a person when the death is caused by that person while committing or attempting to commit an offence under one of the following sections:

            (e) section 279 (kidnapping and forcible confinement);

The case of R. v. Pritchard explained Parliament’s intention to “treat murders committed in connection with crimes of domination as particularly blameworthy and deserving of more severe punishment”.

The applicable test to be applied in determining guilt of first degree murder under section 231(5)(e) of the CC was set out in R. v. Harbottle. The Crown must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. the accused was guilty of the underlying crime of domination or of attempting to commit that crime;
  2. the accused was guilty of the murder of the victim;
  3. the accused participated in the murder in such a manner that he/she was a substantial cause of the death of the victim;
  4. there was no intervening act of another which resulted in the accused no longer being substantially connected to the death of the victim; and
  5. the crimes of domination and murder were part of the same transaction.

In Meika’s case, the SCC found that although there were no physical restraints used, Meika was physically restrained and restricted to remain in her bedroom or the basement. Furthermore, given the parent child relationship there is less of a requirement for physical restraints due to the unequal relationship that exists. “[D]isciplining a child by restricting his or her ability to move about freely (by physical or psychological means), contrary to the child’s wishes, which exceeds the outer bounds of punishment that a parent or guardian could lawfully administer, constitutes unlawful confinement.” Therefore, the SCC found that the Harbottle test was met.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Fatal Accidents Increase Significantly after 4/20 Celebrations

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

April 20 has become an international holiday where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. These mass marijuana festivities usually begin at 4:20 p.m. and continue well into the night.

A recent study has revealed that there was a slight increase in fatal U.S. car accidents on April 20 following an analysis of 25 years worth of data. Studies such as this one provide important information to the Federal and Provincial governments in deterring marijuana impaired driving in anticipation of the legalization of marijuana this summer in Canada.

WHAT DID THE STUDY ESTABLISH REGARDING THE USE OF MARIJUANA AND DRIVING ON APRIL 20?

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto compared driver deaths on April 20 with deaths occurring on a day of the week before and the week after during the 25 year study of U.S. data. The study confirmed that fatal car crashes were increased by 12% (142 driver deaths) on the evening of April 20. The study also found that the risk of fatal accidents among young drivers (under the age of 21) increased by 38% in the evening of April 20.

Dr. John Staples, lead author and an internist and researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, stated,

The simplest explanation is that some drivers are impaired by cannabis use, and these drivers are contributing to fatal crashes. There should be very clear messaging to the public: don’t drive high.

Although the study lacks evidence on whether marijuana was involved in any of the April 20th fatalities (as there was no police data on drug testing to confirm that marijuana was involved), researchers believe that the drug was responsible for some of the crashes.

DOES MARIJUANA USE AFFECT DRIVING?

Although marijuana has the reputation of being a relatively harmless drug, it can have short-term affects on reaction time, motor co-ordination, divided attention, short-term memory and decision-making skills.

Marijuana affects each individual differently based upon factors such as the person’s tolerance, and the strain and potency of the marijuana being used. Some who use marijuana experience a sense of relaxation, while others may experience panic, fear, anxiety or psychosis.

Following alcohol, cannabis is the substance most commonly associated with “driving under the influence”.

In Colorado (one of the first states to legalize marijuana in the U.S.), the number of deaths caused by auto-related accidents involving marijuana increased by 145% from 2013 to 2016. By 2016, 20% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involved marijuana (in comparison to 10% in 2013).

ONTARIO’S PLAN TO KEEP OUR ROADS SAFE FOLLOWING LEGALIZATION

As we have previously blogged about, Ontario has implemented new measures to keep our roads safe by implementing tougher drug-impaired driving laws.

Ontario has enacted zero tolerance rules prohibiting young (age 21 and under) and novice (G1, G2, M1, M2) drivers from having the presence of a drug in their system. For a first offence, young and novice drivers will face a three-day suspension and a $250 fine. A second offence will result in a seven-day suspension and a $350 fine and all subsequent transgressions will result in a thirty-day suspension and a $450 fine.

Commercial drivers will also be subject to zero tolerance rules prohibiting them from having any alcohol and drugs in their system. For any offence, a commercial driver will face a three-day suspension and a $250 to $450 fine.

Ontario has also introduced escalating monetary penalties to all impaired driving offences starting at $250 for a first offence and increasing up to $450 for third and subsequent occurrences.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As we prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada this summer, we should consider ways to avoid driving while impaired and being a passenger with an impaired driver.

We should all be reminded to:

  • Always have a designated driver; or
  • Call a friend or loved one to pick you up; or
  • Call a cab or a ridesharing service; or
  • Stay overnight and sleep it off.

It is also strongly recommended that we have an open dialogue with our children and reinforce the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is also recommended that parents model safe driving behaviour by never driving any vehicle while impaired.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Proposed Gun Control Laws Aimed at Gun Store Owners

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On March 21, 2018, the Liberals introduced Bill C-71 to improve Canada’s existing gun control legislation. This legislation includes measures to broaden background checks for gun owners, toughen rules around the transportation of handguns, and tighten record keeping requirements for the sale of firearms. Bill C-71 proposes to make changes to the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and repeals changes made by the previous Conservative Government.

In Canada, crimes involving firearms have increased by 30% between 2013 and 2016, with 2,465 offences occurring in 2016. Homicides involving guns have increased by two thirds between 2013 and 2016, with 223 homicides occurring in 2016.

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, stated:

While Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, increased gun crime has caused too much violence and taken too many lives in communities of all kinds. … With this legislation and our other measures, we are taking concrete steps to make our country less vulnerable to the scourge of gun violence, while being fair to responsible, law-abiding firearms owners and businesses.

GUN CONTROL LAWS IN CANADA

Gun control in Canada is governed by the Canadian Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. This legislation defines different types of weapons and set out rules regarding which weapons are legal in Canada and under what circumstances.

Canadian law classifies firearms as follows:

  • Prohibited:   .32 or .25 caliber handguns or those with a barrel length of 105 mm or less, automatic firearms, short-barrelled long guns;
  • Restricted:   handguns that are not classified as prohibited, semi-automatic long guns with a barrel less than 470 mm;
  • Non-Restricted: those not regulated as either restricted or prohibited.

A Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is required to possess firearms. The eligibility for a PAL includes a background check to determine whether the applicant has been convicted of any of the designated offences, treated for any mental illness associated with actual or threatened violence, or has a history of behaviour that includes violence, or threatened or attempted violence within the previous five years.

Following a background check, an individual must undergo the “Canadian Firearms Safety Course” and pass the corresponding exam. The individual must also fill our forms and provide character references.

PROPOSALS FOR GUN CONTROL

Enhanced Background Checks

Bill C-71 proposes to expand background checks for those who want to buy a firearm. As described above, the current background check looks back on the last five years. It has been proposed that the RCMP examine any relevant information throughout the individual’s lifetime for prospective gun owners and those who have to renew their gun licences. The RCMP will complete an extensive background check looking into criminal, mental health, addiction and domestic violence records before authorizing an individual a licence to possess a firearm.

Once a licence has been issued, background checks will be ongoing to see if a licence holder has become a public safety risk.

Gun Shop Owner Obligations

Bill C-71 proposes changes to the responsibilities placed on gun vendors in Canada.

Under the new legislation, commercial gun shop retailers will be required to keep information about sales and inventory for at least 20 years, including the firearm’s serial number, the licence number of the transferee, the reference number and the day the reference number was issued. This requirement will not apply to private sellers.

Also, anyone selling or gifting a non-restricted firearm will be required to verify that the person they are providing the firearm to holds a valid firearm licence through the Canadian Firearms Program.

Police investigating a firearms crime can trace the owner of a gun through the licence number, but they are required to get a warrant in order to access the records held by gun shop retailers.

Transportation Regulations

Bill C-71 proposes that owners of restricted or prohibited firearms will need to obtain Authorization to Transport (ATT) documents every time they wish to take their guns anywhere other than a shooting club or gun range. Therefore, taking a firearm for servicing by a gunsmith or to a gun show would require separate authorizations to transport the firearm. However, authorizations to transport will not be required for non-restricted firearms.

If you have been charged with a firearm/gun offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Major Changes Proposed to Unclog Canada’s Criminal Courts

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, the Liberal government proposed a new bill, Bill C-75, to modernize Canada’s criminal justice system and speed up court proceedings by amending the Criminal Code, Youth Criminal Justice Act and other laws. The changes include eliminating preliminary inquiries (except in cases of crimes that carry a life sentence), ending peremptory challenges in jury selection, addressing intimate partner violence, creating a higher threshold for bail and increasing sentences for repeat offenders.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the new bill aims “to make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient while respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. More importantly, it will make a significant contribution to a necessary culture shift in the way our criminal justice system operates.”

Here are some of the highlights from Bill C-75:

PRELIMINARY INQUIRIES

One of the most controversial features of Bill C-75 is the proposal to eliminate preliminary inquiries in the majority of criminal proceedings.

A preliminary inquiry is an optional hearing requested by either the accused or the Crown prosecutor. It is available where an adult is charged with an indictable offence and elects to be tried by the Superior Court. Preliminary inquiries determine if there is enough evidence to send the accused to trial. It is a process by which the Crown and the accused test the evidence to be used at trial.

Under the proposed legislation, only an adult accused of a crime punishable by life imprisonment would be able to request a preliminary inquiry. The preliminary inquiry judge would also be able to limit the issues to be considered and the witnesses.

The government justifies this proposal claiming that it will reduce the number of preliminary inquiries, thus freeing up court time and reducing the burden on some witnesses and victims. Specifically, this would protect sexual assault victims from having to testify twice – once at the preliminary inquiry stage and once at the trial.

This proposal will eliminate the number of preliminary inquiries by 87%. There are currently more than 9,000 preliminary inquiries held each year.

Many criminal defence lawyers oppose this proposal. They take the position that the preliminary inquiry process can eliminate cases that do not have enough evidence to proceed to trial. Furthermore, preliminary inquiries can save a lot of time down the road by narrowing issues, shortening trials and sometimes even eliminating the need for trials.

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE

Under the proposed legislation, the more inclusive “intimate partner” wording would replace “spouse” and “common-law partner” and the definition would be broadened to include past partners.

Bill C-75 also introduces a reverse onus imposed at the bail hearing of an accused charged with an offence involving intimate partner violence and repeat abusers (rather than placing the onus on the Crown to make a case for keeping the accused incarcerated).

The new legislation would make strangulation an elevated form of assault (in conjunction with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm) and allows a higher maximum penalty in cases involving repeat domestic abusers.

BAIL

Bill C-75 proposes to update and modernize bail practices by allowing police and judges more flexibility to deal with criminal charges.   Police would be given the authority to impose appropriate conditions on accused individuals without having to seek court approval.

JURY SELECTION

The impetus to rework the jury selection process in Bill C-75 comes in response to the public’s reaction to the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, which we have previously blogged about. In this case, an all-white jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man.

The government proposes to improve the jury selection process and seeks to encourage diversity by abolishing peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges allow defence counsel or Crown prosecutors to exclude a potential juror without giving a reason. The government maintains that ending peremptory challenges will prevent counsel from excluding minority candidates from juries. The proposed legislation will allow judges to decide whether to exclude jurors that have been challenged by either the prosecution or defence.

Bill C-75 still needs to be debated and approved before becoming law.  We will continue to provide updates regarding the status of this Bill as it becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7.

Two Ontario Cases Fall Apart As a Result of Police Failure to Immediately Inform of Right to Counsel

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Justice has recently excluded significant evidence in two criminal cases involving impaired driving after ruling that police had violated the accuseds’ Charter rights by failing to immediately inform them of their right to counsel.

In the first case, Justice Craig Parry excluded breath samples from the driver’s trial due to a Charter breach, which resulted in a charge of driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit to be dismissed.

In another case earlier this month, a man was found not guilty of having care or control of a vehicle while impaired by a drug when Justice Scott Latimer threw out the evidence after ruling that police had violated his Charter rights.

RIGHT TO COUNSEL

The right to counsel is a fundamental right included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”).

10.  Everyone has the right on arrest or detention:

b.  to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right;

Under the Charter, the detainee must be informed of the right to retain and instruct counsel “without delay”, which has been interpreted to mean “immediately”. The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear in the case of R. v. Suberu that avoiding delay helps to protect against the risk of self-incrimination and interference with an individual’s liberty. This obligation also requires police to abstain from obtaining incriminatory evidence from the detainee until he/she has had a reasonable chance to contact a lawyer, or the detainee has unequivocally waived the right to do so.

The police have both an informational duty and an implementational duty upon arrest or detention. The police must both inform the accused of the right to retain counsel and must provide the detainee with a reasonable opportunity to retain and instruct counsel. Justice Abella, speaking for the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Taylor, stated:

The duty to inform a detained person of his or her right to counsel arises ”immediately” upon arrest or detention (Suberu, at paras 41-42) and the duty to facilitate access to a lawyer, in turn, arises immediately upon the detainee’s request to speak to counsel. The arresting officer is therefore under a constitutional obligation to facilitate the requested access to counsel at the first reasonably available opportunity. The burden is on the Crown to show that a given delay was reasonable in the circumstances.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF COLIN MITCHELL?

On October 9, 2016, a report was received by police of a possible impaired driver exiting Highway 401 at Highway 8. Constable Karen Marquis received the dispatch and pulled over the vehicle that Colin Mitchell (“Mitchell”) was driving. Mitchell failed a breathalyzer test and was then arrested. The officer waited 11 minutes after the arrest to read Mitchell his rights to counsel. In the back of the police cruiser Mitchell told the officer that he wanted to call a lawyer. He was not allowed to make the call until he arrived at the police station. Mitchell was finally given the chance to make a phone call to duty counsel 51 minutes after being placed under arrest.

On February 22, 2018, Justice Parry found that the officer breached her obligation to inform Mitchell of his right to counsel without delay and breached her implementational duty to facilitate access to counsel at the first reasonable opportunity. Justice Parry concluded that the evidence gathered in this case (the breath samples) was evidence that was attained in a manner that infringed the accused’s right to counsel. Justice Parry stated,

Exclusion of the evidence is the only remedy that can, in these circumstances, prevent bringing the administration of justice into further disrepute. To do otherwise would be to condone a perpetual indifference to the knowledge of the basic obligations created by one of the most important Charter rights.

Justice Parry, therefore, excluded the results of the breathalyzer test due to the delay in informing Mitchell of his right to counsel. The charge of driving with more than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood was dismissed.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF ANDREW DAVIS?

On July 17, 2016, a civilian reported a case of bad driving to the Waterloo Regional Police. Constable Tyler Shipp located the vehicle in question in a parking lot in Waterloo and Andrew Davis (“Davis”) was found in the driver’s seat. The officer spoke to Davis through an open window. Davis had sunglasses on, no shirt and was slightly dishevelled. Davis’ speech was described by the officer as garbled. The officer directed Davis to remove his sunglasses and observed Davis’ eyes to be “swollen, half open, very drowsy”.  Another officer, Constable McKenna, arrived on scene to administer a Standard Field Sobriety Test.

Following the sobriety test, Davis was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back of the police cruiser. Drug paraphernalia, prescription drugs and what the officer thought was a meth pipe were located inside Davis’ vehicle. Eight minutes after his arrest, Davis was read his rights to counsel by police. These rights should have been read immediately following his arrest.

On March 6, 2018, Justice Latimer held that a violation of section 10(b) of the Charter occurred as a result of the police failure to provide Davis with his rights to counsel without delay upon arrest. Due to the Charter violation, Justice Latimer excluded important evidence, including all of the items seized from Davis’ vehicle and his post-arrest statement made to the police. Justice Latimer concluded that the Crown had failed to prove that Davis was impaired by a drug at the time of his care or control of his motor vehicle.

If you have been charged with impaired driving or any other driving offence, contact one of the experienced Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP for a free consultation. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. Contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.

Ontario Sets 12 Month Ceiling for Youth Cases

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As we have previously blogged about, the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan established that adult criminal cases decided in the provincial courts must be resolved within 18 months. In circumstances where cases exceed the 18 months ceiling, it has been found that the accused’s rights under section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) have been violated and a stay of proceedings may be granted, except under “exceptional circumstances”.

The Ontario Youth Court of Justice recently held that a 12-month ceiling should apply for youth cases. In the case of R. v. D.A., the Court applied section 3(1)(b) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (“YCJA”) which states that youth court proceedings should be carried out with “promptness and speed…given young persons’ perception of time”. This is the first reported decision to specifically establish a lower ceiling for youth cases than adult cases.

The accused, D.A., applied for an order for a stay of proceedings under section 24(2) of the Charter arguing that his rights have been infringed pursuant to section 11(b). He maintained that it will take 18 months and 7 days for the completion of his trial, which is unreasonable and exceeds the presumptive ceiling set by the SCC in R. v. Jordan. Furthermore, the accused submitted that a young person should be subject to a lower presumptive ceiling.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On a date between January 1, 2015 and November 4, 2016, the accused allegedly was observed to be grinding his penis into a three years old’s buttocks as he lay on the floor.

During this same time period, the accused allegedly pulled down his pants and underwear exposing his penis to a nine-year-old boy (the accused’s first cousin) and a four-year-old boy. The accused allegedly asked the boys to touch his penis, which they did.

On December 6, 2016, the accused was interviewed by police without the presence of his mother. At that time, he provided a partially incriminating statement.

The accused was then charged with 8 offences, including sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. He was released on an undertaking to a peace officer and a promise to appear.

THE NEED FOR TIMELY RESOLUTION OF CRIMINAL COURT MATTERS

The judicious conclusion of criminal court cases is a fundamental right of all accused individuals found within section 11(b) of the Charter. It is also an important factor in ensuring public confidence in the Canadian criminal justice system.

The timely culmination of criminal court matters is also important for witnesses, victims and their families. Proceeding in this manner assists with the accurate recall of information related to the crime and allows for emotional and psychological closure.

The SCC case of R. v. Jordan set out a new framework and timelines for processing criminal court cases in Canada. The Court set out a “presumptive ceiling” for completing criminal court cases and anything beyond these time periods is deemed unreasonable. However, if a delay is caused by the defence it will not count towards the presumptive ceiling (ie. requesting unnecessary adjournments). Once the presumptive ceiling has been exceeded, the burden is on the Crown prosecutor to justify the delay on the basis of exceptional circumstances.

BRINGING YOUTH MATTERS TO TRIAL EXPEDITIOUSLY

Individuals who are charged between the ages of 12 and 17 are processed through youth courts in Canada, which operate independently from adult criminal courts. The YCJA provides more proportionate accountability for young persons through age appropriate sentences and the promotion of rehabilitation.

Canada has acknowledged the necessity that criminal proceedings involving young persons should generally be brought to trial faster than adult matters. This has been codified in section 3 of the YCJA.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has also provided reasoning for the belief that young persons should be brought to trial faster in several its decisions. These reasons include:

  • The ability of a young person to appreciate the connection between offending behaviour and consequences will weaken the longer the proceedings take to complete;
  • The perception of time for a young person may be distorted when compared to that of an adult; and
  • The need to sentence young persons while they remain in his/her formative years.

In the case of R. v. D.A., Justice P.T. O’Marra found that the total delay was 555 days less the defence delay of 28 days, resulting in a total delay of 527 days (17 months and 2 weeks). Justice O’Marra irrefutably stated there should be a reduced presumptive ceiling of 12 months for youth cases that are non-complex cases. Therefore, Justice O’Marra held that the delay in this non-complex case was not reasonable, was well over the “youth presumptive ceiling of twelve months” and accordingly the application was allowed and the proceedings were stayed.

If you are a youth that has been charged with a crime, or are the parent of a young person that has been charged with a crime, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.