appeal

Supreme Court of Canada Rules Bail Conditions Must Be Knowingly Violated

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In its unanimous decision last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Chaycen Michael Zora (“Zora”), who had been convicted of breaching his bail conditions. 

The highest court in Canada concluded that an individual accused of breaching his/her bail conditions must knowingly or recklessly violate those conditions in order to be found guilty of breaching them.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Zora was charged with several drug offences in British Columbia.  He was released on bail and required to abide by twelve conditions.  These conditions included that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, report to his bail supervisor, not possess any non-prescribed controlled substances, not possess or have a cell phone, obey a curfew and be present at his front door within five minutes if and when the police or bail supervisor appeared to check on him, amongst other conditions. 

In October 2015, police rang Zora’s doorbell on two occasions and he did not answer.  He was therefore charged with two counts of breaching his curfew and two counts of failing to meet the condition of responding to police at his home during a curfew check.

At his trial, Zora was acquitted of charges of breaching curfew as it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Zora had been outside of his home after curfew.  However, Zora was fined $920 and found guilty of two counts of failing to appear at the door in response to curfew compliance checks.

Zora argued that he did not hear the doorbell as it was difficult to hear it from where he slept.  Furthermore, he testified that he was undergoing methadone treatment, which made him very tired, and was in the process of withdrawal from his heroin addiction.

Zora also testified that he changed where he slept in his home and set up an audio-visual system at his front door to help alert him to further police checks, which ensured that he was complying with his conditions of bail. 

Zora unsuccessfully appealed the trial judge’s decision.  He then proceeded to take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT

Zora appeals his conviction for failing to comply with his bail conditions by not answering the door when police appeared at his residence to ensure that he was complying with his bail conditions.  In failing to do so, Zora had committed the actus reus of the crime (the physical act of the crime).

The Supreme Court of Canada was asked to determine whether Zora had committed the mental element, also known as the mens rea, of the crime, which also must be present, in order to secure a conviction under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code.

It is a criminal offence, under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code, to breach bail.  This crime carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.  Therefore, an accused may be subject to imprisonment for breaching conditions of their bail even if he/she is not found guilty of any of the original charges. 

In writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Martin explained what was required to satisfy the mental element of the crime:

I conclude that the Crown is required to prove subjective mens rea and no lesser form of fault will suffice.  Under s.145(3), the Crown must establish that the accused committed the breach knowingly or recklessly.  Nothing in the text or context of s. 145(3) displaces the presumption that Parliament intended to require a subjective mens rea. 

…The realities of the bail system further support Parliament’s intention to require subjective fault to ensure that the individual characteristics of the accused are considered throughout the bail process.

…Not only is this conclusion consistent with the presumption of subjective fault for crimes like s. 145(3), it is supported by its place and purpose in the overall bail system, the serious consequences which flow from its breach, and how the consideration of individual circumstances is the proper focus both for setting conditions and determining the mental element for their breach.

The Supreme Court held that subjective mens rea can be established when the Crown has proven:

  1. The accused had knowledge of the conditions of the bail order, or they were willfully blind to those conditions; and
  2. The accused knowingly (or were willfully blind to the circumstances) failed to act according to their bail conditions despite the knowledge of them; or
  3. The accused recklessly failed to act in accordance with their bail conditions (i.e. perceived an unjustified risk that their conduct would fail to comply with their bail conditions).

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held that subjective fault is required for a conviction under s. 145(3) of the Criminal Code.  The court found that the lower courts erred in law by applying an objective rather than a subjective standard of fault.  The Supreme Court allowed Zora’s appeal, quashed his convictions and ordered a new trial on the two counts of failing to appear at his door. 

If you have been charged with a bail related offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Appeal Court Expunges the Defence of Self-Induced Intoxication

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, amidst great controversy, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in the cases of R. v. Sullivan and R. v. Chan regarding the application of the defence of self-induced intoxication. 

This significant decision declared that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) is unconstitutional and of no force or effect.

SECTION 33.1 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE

Section 33.1 of the CC established that if an accused caused his/her own intoxication and commits a violent offence, he/she cannot claim that he/she was too intoxicated to be found guilty of even general intent offences (i.e. assault and sexual assault).  This applies even if he/she was intoxicated to the point of automatism (the performance of an action unconsciously or involuntarily), even if his/her acts were involuntary or he/she lacked the mental state to commit the violent act.

In its latest decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal determined that this law breached “virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent, including the venerable presumption of innocence”.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SULLIVAN CASE?

In the case of David Sullivan, the accused over-consumed prescription medication in an attempt to take his own life.  The medication left him in a state of extreme psychosis.  During the psychotic episode, he believed he had captured an alien and proceeded to stab his mother.

At trial, Sullivan was found guilty of the violent offence despite Sullivan’s contention that his intoxication was involuntary as it resulted from a suicide attempt. 

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CHAN CASE?

Thomas Chan, a high school student, stabbed and killed his father and severely injured his father’s partner during a psychotic episode after consuming magic mushrooms.  Chan believed he was a deity and that his father was the devil. 

At trial, Chan also attempted to rely upon the defence of non-mental disorder automatism.  Given section 33.1, which prohibits the use of automatism as a defence in cases of violence when an accused’s intoxication was self-inflicted, this defence failed and Chan was convicted.

THE COURT OF APPEAL’S DECISION REGARDING SECTION 33.1 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE

The Court of Appeal found that section 33.1 of the CC violated the following sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

  1. The right to life, liberty and security of the person (section 7); and
  2. The right to the presumption of innocence (section 11(d)).

Under Canadian law, if a law violates a Charter right, in certain circumstances it can be justified by the Crown and upheld despite the violations.  In this case, the Appeal Court could not find benefits to the law, and instead found that the law was contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal wrote:

Put simply, the deleterious effects of s.33.1 include the contravention of virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent, including the venerable presumption of innocence. …

With very little true gain, Parliament has attempted to cast aside the bedrock of moral fault.

The Court of Appeal held that a person must act voluntarily to commit a crime.  Although lawmakers attempted to help victims attain justice with the introduction of section 33.1 of the CC, the law in actuality violated an accused’s rights by making them responsible for violence they had no control over.  Justices David Paciocco and David Watt wrote:

As for recognizing and promoting the equality, security and dignity of crime victims, it is obvious that those few victims who may see their offenders acquitted without s.33.1 will be poorly served.  They are victims, whether their attacked willed or intended the attack.  However, to convict an attacker of offences for which they do not bear the moral fault required by the Charter to void this outcome, is to replace on injustice for another, and at an intolerable cost to the core principles that animate criminal liability.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Chan as he was only convicted of offences that included an element of assault and those convictions depended upon section 33.1.  On the other hand, the Court of Appeal acquitted Sullivan of all of his charges.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Crown prosecutor has advised that it will be seeking leave to appeal these decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund has strongly expressed its frustration over this Court of Appeal decision and believes that this decision sends a message “that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication”.

However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has expressed that the concern that the floodgates have been opened to men arguing the defence of intoxication are unwarranted.  An accused must still prove that he/she was in a state of automatism, not merely drunk.

Cara Zwibel, Director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, stated:

This is a rarely used provision.  It’s not this widespread, systemic concern.

We will continue to follow the law as it evolves in response to the recent Ontario Court of Appeal decisions and will report any developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1047.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting their client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Supreme Court Finds Driver Guilty as Risks are Reasonably Foreseeable When Driving Three Times the Speed Limit

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this spring, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that a reasonable person should foresee the risk of excessive speeding towards a major intersection and that this behaviour can be a departure from the reasonable standard of care required of drivers in Canada.

The highest court in Canada found that the trial judge in the case of R. v. Chung made two errors of law in a case of dangerous driving causing death.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On November 14, 2015, Ken Chung (“Chung”) drove his vehicle almost three times the speed limit towards a major intersection in a mixed residential-commercial area in Vancouver.  Chung crashed into a left turning vehicle, resulting in the death of the driver at the scene of the accident. 

A dashboard camera video caught 4.9 seconds of the accident showing Chung passing one car on the right and accelerating from 50 km/h to 140km/h before entering the intersection.  Chung was observed almost hitting a Toyota that was making a right turn in front of him and then colliding with the victim’s vehicle at a speed of 119 km/h.

The trial judge concluded that Chung’s speeding through the intersection was objectively dangerous to the public and fulfilled the actus reus (the physical act of the crime) of dangerous driving.  However, there was reasonable doubt as to whether Chung’s conduct met the mens rea (the intention, knowledge or recklessness of the accused) requirement for the crime of dangerous driving.  The test for mens rea in driving cases refers to a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonable person in similar circumstances.  The trial judge held that the momentariness of Chung’s speeding did not demonstrate criminal fault.

At his trial, Chung was acquitted of dangerous driving causing death under section 249(4) of the Criminal Code (this section has been repealed and replaced with section 320.13(3) of the Criminal Code).  This crime requires two components:

  1. The prohibited conduct:  Operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner resulting in death; and
  2. The required degree of fault:  A marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised while driving in the circumstances when the incident occurred.

On appeal, it was found that the trial judge had erred in law by finding that Chung had lacked the mens rea of the driving offence, and in finding that the momentary acceleration in speed could not satisfy the mens rea component of the crime  Therefore, the acquittal was overturned and a dangerous driving conviction was entered.

Chung appealed the conviction and took his case to the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”).

THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA DECISION

The SCC found that the trial judge made two errors of law by applying the wrong legal principle and by failing to apply the correct legal test by not assessing what a reasonable person would have foreseen and done in the circumstances.

Justice Sheilah Martin, writing for the majority of the SCC, found that Chung’s actions were not comparable to momentary mistakes that a reasonable driver may make.  She wrote:

A reasonable person would have foreseen that rapidly accelerating towards a major intersection at a high speed creates a very real risk of a collision occurring within seconds.  This is what actually occurred in Mr. Chung’s case.  Risky conduct at excessive speeds foreseeably can result in immediate consequences. 

… A reasonable person understands that driving is an inherently risky activity.  It is made all the more risky the faster we drive, the harder we accelerate, and the more aggressively we navigate traffic.  Although even careful driving can result in tragic consequences, some conduct is so dangerous that it deserves criminal sanctions.

The SCC concluded that the test for mens rea is whether a reasonable person would have foreseen the immediate risk of travelling almost three times the speed limit towards a major intersection.  Therefore, it held that Chung’s driving was a “marked departure from the norm”.

Justice Martin warned that there may be cases where excessive speed may not be a discrepancy from the standard of care.  She explained:

Only when there has been an active engagement with the full picture of what occurred can the trial judge determine whether the accused’s conduct was a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable and prudent driver.

The SCC dismissed the appeal and restored Chung’s conviction.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Reduced Sentence for Drunk Driver Who Killed Three

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The driver of a vehicle who was involved in deadly car accident has had his sentence reduced from nine years to seven years by the Ontario Court of Appeal who found that the trial judge erred in reviewing punishments imposed in similar cases.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 10, 2016, Prithvi Randhawa (“Randhawa”), 22 years-old at the time, drove his vehicle, including four friends, at a high rate of speed through a residential neighbourhood after a night of drinking at Luxy night club in Concord.  Randhawa was found to have twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

Travelling at 135 km/h on Jane Street, Randhawa collided with a traffic signal pole near Sheppard Avenue West, the vehicle went airborne and crashed upside down.  The four passengers were all ejected from the vehicle.  Three of them died and one was serious injured.  The passengers ranged in age between 19 to 24 years-old.

The surviving passenger, Atul Verma, suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured ankle, knee damage, a lacerated liver and lumbar spine fractures.  At the time of the trial, he continued to suffer from constant pain, sleepless nights and the deprivation of some of the activities that he used to enjoy.

As a result of the crash, Randhawa sustained a traumatic brain injury and collapsed lung.   He regained consciousness in hospital two days following the accident.  Due to the injuries he suffered, he lost all memory of the events starting from his time inside the nightclub until he regained consciousness.

Randhawa was found guilty of three counts of impaired driving causing death and one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm.  Justice James Chaffe sentenced him to nine years in jail and a driving ban of 93 months.

Justice Chaffe reviewed three similar cases before imposing a sentence.  He held that Randhawa’s conduct was “egregious” and worse than the cases he reviewed. One of the cases reviewed by Justice Chaffe was the sentencing of Marco Muzzo who killed three children and their grandfather while impaired in 2016.  The sentence Justice Chaffe imposed on Randhawa was a year less than the sentence in the Muzzo case.

THE APPEAL

Randhawa appealed Justice Chaffe’s sentencing decision arguing that the trial judge erred in determining his sentence within the ranges available.  More specifically, it was argued that the sentencing judge failed to consider or misconstrued facts regarding other similar cases when considering an appropriate sentence.

On behalf of the Court of Appeal, Justice Nordheimer found that Justice Chaffe failed to explain why Randhawa’s offence was worse than two of the cases that he had reviewed.  Justice Nordheimer stated:

I am unable to find a basis upon which the sentencing judge’s finding could be supported.  This is of concern because, as I have said, it is this finding that clearly drove the sentencing judge to determine that a sentence of nine years was appropriate.

Justice Nordheimer ruled that Randhawa’s conduct was most similar to two of the cases under consideration, involving impairment, driving too fast and multiple deaths.  Justice Nordheimer also found that the sentencing judge failed to give consideration to Randhawa’s young age and the fact that Randhawa suffered very serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, in the crash.

Randhawa also argued that the sentencing judge did not consider that he will be facing numerous civil lawsuits arising from the accident, and subject to large judgments.  Justice Nordheimer did not find this to be an error made by the sentencing judge and is not a mitigating factor that is required to be considered when determining a sentence.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Alexandra Hoy was of the opinion that the sentencing decision was appropriate.  She felt that it was within Justice Chaffe’s discretion to conclude that Randhawa’s conduct was more egregious than the drivers in two of the cases.  Furthermore, Randhawa was driving even faster than Muzzo and in a busier area.  She also made note that Randhawa had a worse driving record than Muzzo, including infractions for speeding and running a red light. 

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

New Trial Ordered for Homeowner Who Killed Car Thief

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a unanimous decision, a Hamilton-area man who killed a car thief in front of his home has been ordered to stand trial on the charge of second-degree murder. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned Peter Khill’s (“Khill”) finding of not guilty.

On appeal, the court has ruled that the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Khill’s conduct leading up to the moment he pulled the trigger and killed Jon Styres (“Styres”), a First Nations man.

In June 2018 (please see our blog regarding the trial), Khill, a homeowner and former army reservist, was found not guilty following a 12-day jury trial where he maintained that he fired his gun in self-defence.  An individual can use reasonable force to alleviate a threat to themselves or others under the laws of self-defence in Canada.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On February 4, 2016 at approximately 3 a.m., Khill and his girlfriend were woken up by two loud, banging noises.  When he looked outside, Khill saw that the lights were on in his 2001 GMC pickup truck.

Given his military training, Khill proceeded to grab a 12 gauge shotgun from his bedroom closet.  He loaded it with two shells and ran outside to confront Styres, who was trying to steal his truck.  He came up behind Styres, who was leaning over the passenger-side seat, and shouted “Hey, hands up!”.  Styres reacted by turning toward Khill with his hands sweeping forward in a motion that allegedly led Khill to believe that he had a gun.  Khill argued that this response provoked him to fire two close-range shots that killed Styres, almost immediately. 

At his trial, Khill told the court:

I felt that I was being threatened and that I wasn’t in control of the situation.  I needed to gain control of the situation and neutralize any threat that was there. … I thought my life was in danger and I think the right to self-defence is overlapping between military and civilian life.

The Crown prosecutor argued that Styres did not pose a reasonable threat and that Khill and his girlfriend should have called 911 and waited for police to arrive, rather than approach Styres with a loaded shotgun. 

At the trial, the jury learned that Styres did not have a gun that night and was only carrying a folding knife in his pocket.

Khill pleaded not guilty and his lawyer argued that the shooting was “justified” as Khill believed that Styres had a gun and he feared for his life.  Furthermore, it was argued that Khill was following his training as a military reservist and was acting reasonably to defend himself under the circumstances.  A Hamilton jury found Khill not guilty of the murder of Styres.

THE APPEAL

At the appeal, the Crown prosecutor argued that the trial judge made four errors.  It was argued that three of the errors involved instructions to the jury regarding self-defence and the fourth error was in regard to the admissibility of evidence from an expert.

The appeal court agreed with one of the Crown’s submissions of an error by the trial judge, allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial on the basis that the trial judge failed to appropriately instruct the jury.  Specifically, the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Khill’s conduct leading up to the moment the trigger was pulled leaving them incompetent to evaluate the “reasonableness” of his actions.

The Appeal Court said:

Mr. Khil’s role in the incident leading up to the shooting was potentially a significant factor in the assessment of the reasonableness of the shooting.  The failure to explain that relevance and to instruct the jury on the need to consider Mr. Khill’s conduct throughout the incident in assessing the reasonableness of the shooting left the jury unequipped to grapple with what may have been a crucial question in the evaluation of the reasonableness of Mr. Khill’s act.  On this basis, the acquittal must be set aside and a new trial ordered.

Khill’s lawyer has stated that he is reviewing the appeal court decision and considering whether to make an application for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Khill is also facing an ongoing civil lawsuit for more than $2 million brought by Styres’ spouse and two young daughters.

We will continue to follow any updates regarding this case and will provide any new developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise. 

Joyriding Teen Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in 2011 Police Death

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A young man, known only as S.K., has recently pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter for the death of York Regional Police Constable Garrett Styles. 

Following an appeal of his conviction and sentence, the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for S.K.  Both the Crown prosecutors and lawyers for S.K. agreed on a plea deal.  S.K. was sentenced to two years probation and several conditions are in place regarding his operation of a motor vehicle. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

On June 28, 2011, 15 year-old S.K. took his father’s minivan for a drive with his friends, without his parents’ consent.

At 4:45 a.m., S.K. was stopped by Constable Styles for traveling 147 km/h in an 80 km/h zone.  S.K. was advised that the minivan would be impounded and he was repeatedly ordered to get out of the vehicle.  S.K. refused and pleaded with the officer to let him go.  Constable Styles proceeded to open the driver’s door and attempted to undo S.K.’s seat belt.  At that point, S.K.’s van began to move and Constable Styles was caught between S.K. and the steering wheel.  Constable Styles eventually jerked the steering wheel to the left causing the van to leave the highway, enter a ditch, proceed up an embankment, become airborne and roll 360 degrees.  Constable Styles was ejected from the van, which then fell on top of him.  He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

As a result of this incident, S.K. suffered a spinal fracture that rendered him quadriplegic.

S.K. was charged with first-degree murder.  The key question at the trial was whether S.K. intended to drive away (alleged by the Crown prosecutor) or whether he accelerated by accident (alleged by the defence). 

S.K. was tried and a jury found that he intentionally accelerated and should have known that his actions were “likely” to lead to the death of the police officer.  S.K. was convicted and was sentenced to one day in custody in addition to time served (8 months) and a conditional supervision order for nine years to be served in the community. 

THE APPEAL

S.K. appealed his conviction on 5 separate grounds alleging that the trial judge made several legal errors. 

The three judge panel all agreed that the trial judge erred in failing to instruct the jury of the importance of S.K.’s age and level of maturity in assessing whether he knew his dangerous driving was likely to cause Constable Style’s death.

Justice Janet Simmons wrote:

This was a tragic case in which a police officer was killed as a result of the irresponsible acts of a headstrong 15-year-old.  In these circumstances, it was necessary for the trial judge to caution the jury that 15-year-olds do not have the same life experience as adults and that, as a result, a 15-year-old may not have the level of maturity to foresee the consequences of a particular course of action.

However, the judges of the appeal court panel disagreed as to whether the trial judge erred in excluding a statement that S.K. made to his father 26 days after the crash.  Following the crash, S.K. was intubated and unable to speak for three weeks. S.K. had told his father that he did not intentionally set the van in motion.  S.K.’s lawyers sought to introduce the statement as evidence of his state of mind during the police incident, however, the judge ruled against it.

Justice Simmons held that the statement should have been admitted “to respond to an implicit allegation of recent fabrication and to provide overall context for the jury about what the appellant had said close in time to the incident.” 

On the other hand, Justice Michael Tulloch and Justice David Brown ruled that the trial judge had made the right decision in not admitting the statement as evidence. 

On October 1, 2019, the appeal court allowed the appeal, set aside S.K.’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

GUILTY PLEA

Earlier this month, York Regional Police Services released a statement to confirm that a plea agreement had been reached between the Crown and S.K.  In coming to this decision, the Crown considered whether the family of Constable Styles could bear another trial and the impact another trial would have on witnesses, including first responders. 

Following numerous discussions between the parties, S.K. agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to two years probation and conditions were placed on his ability to operate a motor vehicle.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Alberta Court of Appeal Sets Minimum Sentencing for Fentanyl Trafficking

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As the country copes with the opioid crisis, the highest court in Alberta has now set a new sentencing starting point for those convicted of fentanyl trafficking.  The court recognized the peril that Alberta is in and stressed that it is up to the courts “to protect the public by imposing sentences that will alter the cost-benefit math performed by high-level fentanyl traffickers”.

A special five-justice panel of the Alberta Court of Appeal heard two appeals by the Crown prosecutor regarding fentanyl trafficking and unanimously ruled that convictions for wholesale fentanyl trafficking should receive a minimum sentence of nine years.

THE APPEAL DECISION REGARDING CAMERON PARRANTO

Last year, Cameron O’Lynn Parranto (“Parranto”), who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for trafficking in fentanyl in Edmonton.  Police seized the equivalent of a half-million doses of fentanyl.

Parranto pleaded guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking in fentanyl and other drugs for two sets of offences. 

After a search warrant was executed at Parranto’s home, police recovered 27.8 grams of fentayl, 182.5 grams of methamphetamine, 82.6 grams of cocaine, 396 morphine pills and 168 oxycodone pills.  They also found $55,575 in cash, a loaded handgun, ammunition, police and sheriff badges, body armour, a dozen cell phones, scales and a cash counter.

Following Parranto’s release for his first set of offences, he was arrested three months later when greater quantities of fentanyl, methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and the date rape drug GHB were uncovered. 

Parranto pleaded guilty to both sets of offences and was handed an 11-year sentence for eight offences, five years for the March 2016 offences and 6 years for the October 2016 offences. 

The court of appeal increased Parranto’s sentence to 14 years, minus credit of 3 ½ years for pre-sentence custody.

THE APPEAL DECISION REGARDING PATRICK FELIX

Earlier this year, Patrick Felix (“Felix”), a wholesale drug trafficker in Fort McMurray, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in trafficking fentanyl after pleading guilty.  Investigators seized approximately $1 million worth of drugs and 3,000 fentanyl pills.

Felix obtained drugs and stored them at a “stash” location.  He employed “runners” to take orders, retrieve the drugs from the stash location and complete the deals.  “Food bosses” were also used to manage the runners, collect money from the sales and then provide Felix with the proceeds.

In 2015, Felix sold drugs to an undercover police officer on six separate occasions.  Felix provided 2,388 fentanyl pills and 2.5 kilograms of cocaine for a total price of $173,400. 

At trial, Felix pleaded guilty to four counts of trafficking in fentanyl and cocaine.  He was sentenced to seven years for each count of fentanyl trafficking and four years for each count of cocaine trafficking to be served concurrently.  A concurrent sentence occurs when all sentences are served at the same time, with the longest sentence period controlling the length of time in jail. 

The Crown prosecutor appealed the sentence and requested that the appeal court establish a minimum sentence for those convicted of wholesale trafficking in opioids.  On appeal, the Crown also argued that the trial judge made “case-specific errors that affected the fitness of the sentence imposed”. 

At the appeal, Justice Antonio wrote that the sentence imposed by the trial judge was “demonstrably unfit” in part due to the judge’s failure to distinguish between commercial trafficking and wholesale trafficking and failing to take into account Felix’s role in the organization.

Justice Antonio, writing on behalf of all the judges on the bench, stated:

Mr. Felix’s role was at the top of his organization, which is a weighty aggravating factor.  He energetically ran a business that was structured to maximize profit while minimizing the chance of criminal consequences to himself.  He was responsible for pouring poison into his own community and potentially others, jeopardizing the health and lives of untold numbers of end users.

Trafficking in cocaine has a four-and-a-half year starting point for sentencing.  A starting point for sentencing of a low-level commercial dealer of heroin is typically five years. 

The court will take into account the dangerousness of the drug and the scale of the offender’s involvement in the drug operation when establishing a minimum sentence for those convicted.  The court of appeal found that wholesale trafficking is more morally blameworthy than commercial trafficking as it presents a grave danger to individuals, communities and the greater public interest.  The appeal court defined wholesale trafficking as one that traffics large amounts of one or more drugs or distributes drugs on a large scale, possibly for resale.

Given the appeal court’s comments, the Crown was successful on appeal and set a starting point for those found guilty of commercial trafficking at nine years.  Felix’s overall sentence was increased by the court to 10 years.

If you have been charged with a drug related charge or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice. 

Drug Conviction Overturned on Appeal as Police Delayed Access to Lawyer

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned Daniel Marlon Noel’s conviction for drug offences.  The court found that Durham Regional Police breached his Charter rights by not allowing him to promptly speak to a lawyer on the night of his arrest.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On December 21, 2015 at 10:28 p.m., Durham Regional Police entered a residence where Daniel Marlon Noel (“Noel”), his partner and his brother were living pursuant to a search warrant.  All three individuals were suspected of operating a small-scale cocaine trafficking operation, which was under investigation by Durham Regional Police.  That evening, Noel was arrested at gunpoint by Officer Aiello in a bedroom containing his belongings and identification.  Officer Aiello did not advise Noel of his right to counsel.

Noel was taken to a central location in the house and within five minutes of the police’s entry into the residence Officer Gill read him his rights to counsel.  Noel asked to speak to a lawyer, however, no efforts were made to allow for his right to counsel.

The police search of Noel’s bedroom recovered $5,670 Canadian, $71 U.S., 73 grams of cocaine, 55 grams of marijuana and a digital scale.

Noel was transported to the police station at 11:04 p.m. and arrived at the station at 11:10 p.m.  Officer Gill testified that, while being led to the transport vehicle, Noel admitted ownership of the drugs and claimed that his brother was not involved. 

At 12:48 p.m., Officer Capener placed two calls to duty counsel for Noel and his partner, Stacey Long, and left messages requesting a return phone call. 

At 1:25 a.m., Noel learned that his brother had received a call from duty counsel.  Officer Westcott left another message for duty counsel to call Noel.

At his trial, Noel alleged the following Charter breaches:

  • That the entry to his home violated section 8 (right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure);
  • That his arrest violated section 9 (right not to be arbitrarily detained); and
  • That his right to counsel was breached which violated section 10(b) (right to retain counsel without delay).

The trial judge rejected all arguments regarding Charter violations, except that Noel’s right to counsel without delay was violated.  However, Noel was denied the exclusionary remedy that he sought under the Charter, the evidence was admitted and Noel was convicted of the drug offences.

THE APPEAL

Noel appealed his conviction and argued on appeal that the trial judge erred in failing to find breaches of his Charter rights. 

The appeal court concluded that there was a violation of section 10(b) of the Charter and found that the police had a “cavalier attitude about a fundamental, important, and long-settled Charter right to consult counsel without delay”.  Furthermore, the police could not provide a reasonable explanation for the delay. 

The appeal court wrote:

Mr. Noel remained in custody without the benefit of counsel for at least three hours, unable to receive the direction, reassurance, and advice that counsel could provide.  … [Noel] asked to speak to counsel promptly but that right was denied. … We conclude that it would damage the long-term interests of the administration of justice to admit the evidence and thus be seen to condone the carelessness and disorganization exhibited by the police with respect to Mr. Noel’s right to counsel without delay.

The appeal court allowed Noel’s appeal, set aside his convictions and substituted a verdict of acquittal. 

RIGHT TO COUNSEL

The right to counsel is one of the most important and recognized rights provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Section 10(b) of the Charter provides:

10.       Everyone has the right on arrest or detention: 

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

The rights afforded under this section are designed to inform a detained individual of the scope of their situation and to ensure that legal advice is available. 

The right to counsel consists of an informational and an implementational component.  Thus, a detained individual must be informed of the right to counsel and this right must be understood by the individual (i.e. an interpreter may be required).  The implementational component involves the obligations and restrictions upon the police in conducting their investigation once the right to counsel has been asserted. 

The right to counsel must be provided without delay.  This is often interpreted to mean immediately in order to protect the detainee from the risk of self-incrimination 

Police must advise the detainee of his/her right to counsel and explain the existence and availability of legal aid and duty counsel if one cannot afford or cannot reach a lawyer.  Thus, the right to counsel also has a corresponding right to retain counsel of one’s choice. 

When a detainee has exercised his/her right to counsel, police must refrain from trying to elicit further evidence and refrain from questioning the individual until he/she has had an opportunity to speak with counsel. 

If you have been charged with a criminal 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 to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Supreme Court Rules that 18 Month Time Limits Also Apply to Youth Cases

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The highest court in Canada has ruled that the 18-month time limit required to bring an accused individual to justice, set out in the decision of R. v. Jordan, also applies to cases involving youth. 

According to Statistics Canada, there were 2,767 criminal cases that took longer than 12 months to complete in youth court in 2017-2018 (approximately 10% of all cases).  However, these numbers do not account for whether any of the delays were the result of actions on behalf of the defence.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In the case of R. v. K.J.M, a 15-year-old Alberta teen was charged with various offences arising out of fight that occurred during a house party in 2015.  K.J.M. was accused of stabbing a teen with a box cutter while intoxicated.  At his trial, K.J.M.  was found guilty of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose almost 19 months after charges were first laid against him.  By the time his trial concluded in November 2016, K.J.M was nearly 17-years-old. 

Although the trial judge found that the total delay exceeded the 18-month ceiling, K.J.M.’s Charter application was dismissed as “it was not the clearest of cases where a stay should be granted”.  This decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal where it was again dismissed by the court and each of the three judges took a different approach in their reasons as to whether the 18-month ceiling applies to youth cases.

WHAT IS THE PRESUMPTIVE 18-MONTH CEILING?

We have previously blogged about the 2016 R. v. Jordan decision wherein the Supreme Court ruled that unreasonable delays in criminal cases violate an individual’s guaranteed rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court specifically spelled out the rule that court proceedings could not exceed 18 months for provincial court cases and 30 months for more serious cases heard before the Superior Court.

However, the Jordan decision did not specifically address whether these timelines apply to individuals under the age of 18 who fall under the youth court system. 

THE SUPREME COURT RULING IN R. v. K.J.M.

In a 5-4 decision, the majority of the Supreme Court concluded that there is no evidence that the youth criminal justice system is suffering from the same delays as the adult system that would justify setting a lower ceiling for youth cases. 

Justice Michael Moldaver, on behalf of the majority, wrote:

Unless and until it can be shown that Jordan is failing to adequately serve Canada’s youth and society’s broader interest in seeing youth matters tried expeditiously, there is in my view no need to consider, much less implement, a lower constitutional ceiling for youth matters.

The majority of judges of the Supreme Court found that although K.J.M.’s trial exceeded the 18-month timeline, some of the delays were caused by the defence and therefore dismissed his appeal.

Three judges of the Supreme Court offered a dissenting opinion and concluded that a 15-month time limit would be appropriate for cases of young offenders.  Writing on behalf of the dissenting judges, Justice Rosie Abella and Justice Russell Brown wrote:

Doing so gives effect to Parliament’s intention in enacting a separate youth criminal justice system, to Canada’s international commitments, to the recognition in pre-Jordan case law that youth proceedings must be expeditious, and to the consideration that led to setting the presumptive ceilings for adults in Jordan.  … Just as the court in Jordan determined the appropriate ceiling for adult proceedings, a separate analysis is required for youth proceedings.

Graham Johnson, K.J.M.’s lawyer, is of the opinion that timely trials profoundly impact young people and delays can impact the prospect of rehabilitation. Johnson argued that a 12-month limitation for youth court proceedings would be more appropriate.  Mr. Johnson told CBC News:

In Canada, children as young as 12 can be charged with a criminal offence, and if it takes 18 months to get the case to court and there’s a guilty verdict, you’re then punishing a 14-year-old for what the 12-year-old did.  And there’s a certain, in my view, injustice in that, given how quickly children develop, mature and can change their behaviour.

Mary Birdsell, executive director of the organization Justice For Children and Youth, who was an intervenor in this case and advocated for lower time limits for youth court proceedings was disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling.  Ms. Birdsell stated:

Speedy justice is really important for young people because their sense of time is different, because their development is ongoing, and because you want to capture the moments for addressing underlying consequences in meaningful ways.

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.

Supreme Court Rules that Offender Has the Right to Lesser of Two Penalties Available at the Time of Commission of the Offence or Sentencing

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Court determined that a convicted individual is entitled to the lesser of two punishments, either the one in effect when the offence took place or the one in effect at the time of sentencing.  This decision overturned the Quebec court’s decision that a convicted offender has the right to the least harsh punishment in effect from the time of the offence until the sentencing.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In the case of R. v. Poulin, the accused was convicted in 2016 of sexual assault and acts of gross indecency from incidents occurring between 1979 to 1987.  Poulin was found guilty of offences against a child between the ages of seven and fifteen.  Crown prosecutors asked for a prison term of 3 ½ to 5 years.  Poulin’s defence team requested a conditional sentence given Poulin’s advanced age (82 at the time) and his poor health.  A Quebec court sentenced Poulin to a conditional sentence of two years less a day, to be served in the community, for the charges of gross indecency.

The Crown was unsuccessful in its appeal to the Quebec Court of Appeal and the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

At issue in this appeal was the interpretation of section 11(i) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads as follows:

11.  Any person charged with an offence has the right:

(i) if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

The question is whether this provision signifies a comparison of the lesser sentence at two relevant times (i.e. the commission of the offence and the sentencing of the offence) or whether the provision signifies a consideration of variations between the time of the commission of the offence and the sentence.

The judges of the Supreme Court split their decision 4-3 and concluded that Poulin was not eligible for the conditional sentence as it did not exist either at the time of the offence or at the time of his sentencing (it only existed temporarily between these two points in time).

Justice Shellah Martin, writing on behalf of the majority of the court, stated:

The legal rights reflected in our Charter represent the core tenents of fairness in our criminal justice system.  The right to comb the past for the most favourable punishment does not belong among these rights. 

The majority of the court found that the language of section 11(i) of the Charter suggested the application of a “binary approach”, as opposed to a “global approach”.  The binary approach would not permit Poulin to be granted a conditional sentence as it was neither in force at the time of commission or at the time of his sentence. The global approach would permit Poulin to be granted a conditional sentence because it was in force for a period of time between the commission of the crimes and his sentence. 

HOW ARE SENTENCES IMPOSED?

If an accused either pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, a Judge must impose a sentence that is fair given the circumstances of the offence, the seriousness of the offence and the offender’s degree of responsibility.

The Court will consider both aggravating and mitigating factors relating to both the offender and the offence itself. 

Aggravating factors are those that the court relies upon which may increase the sentence, which may include:

  • Your criminal record;
  • The facts of the offence (i.e. your role in the crime, whether you have committed the crime on multiple occasions, whether a weapon was used and how, whether property was damaged or money was taken);
  • The impact of the crime on the victims (i.e. whether the crime involved a person under the age of 18 years, whether the victim’s health was seriously harmed, whether the victim received permanent physical or psychological injury, whether the victim experienced financial harm due to the crime); and
  • Your association with other criminal organizations (i.e. the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal organization or committed as an act of terrorism).

Mitigating factors are those that the court relies upon to lighten the sentence, which may include:

  • The absence of a criminal record;
  • The facts of your offence (i.e. your role in the crime, co-operation when you were arrested, addiction or mental health issues);
  • How you’ve behaved since the crime (i.e. whether you have taken steps to address addiction or mental health issues, whether you have followed the release order or volunteered or given money to charity to repair the damage you have caused); and
  • Your personal circumstances (i.e. age, health, cultural background, education, work history and potential work opportunities, children and dependents).

The Court will take all of these factors into account when determining an appropriate sentence in an effort to maintain a just and safe society for all Canadians.

If you have been charged with a criminal 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.  We are available when you need us most.