bail conditions

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.

Lawyer Convicted of Murder Granted Bail Pending Appeal

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Demitry Papasotiriou-Lanteigne (“Papasotiriou”) and his lover, Michael Ivezic (“Ivezic”), were found guilty of first degree murder in the death of Allan Lanteigne (“Lanteigne”) last June following a lengthy trial. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

It was alleged that the Papasotiriou and Ivezic were having an affair and conspired to kill Papasotiriou’s spouse in order to access the victim’s $2 million life insurance policy. We previously blogged about this case on June 7, 2018.

Papasotiriou is appealing his conviction and alleges that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable because it was based on circumstantial evidence. The Court of Appeal has recently granted Papasotiriou bail pending his appeal.

PAPASOTIRIOU’S BAIL HISTORY

Papasotiriou was born in Greece and came to Canada at the age of 11 after his parents split up. As a young man, he attended university and law school, and was called to the Ontario Bar. He is currently 38 years old.

Papasotiriou left Canada in 2010 to live in Greece. Ivezic followed Papasotiriou to Greece and lived with him for six months in 2010, prior to returning to Canada in January of 2011. Lanteigne was killed on March 3, 2011. Ivezic returned to Greece on May 14, 2011 to live with Papasotiriou.

Papasotirou returned to Canada on November 1, 2012 to participate in litigation regarding the proceeds of his deceased spouse’s insurance policy. He was arrested the next day.

Papasotirou applied for bail in August 2013, but was denied. He re-applied in November 2013 and provided an improved plan of release to the Court. He was again denied.

On September 11, 2014, Papasotirou was discharged following a preliminary inquiry. However, the Crown immediately launched a certiorari application (a formal request to a court challenging a legal decision alleging that the decision has been irregular or there has been an error of law) and a direct indictment was ordered on October 28, 2014, at which point Papasotirou was arrested.

Papasotirou again applied for bail, which was granted. He was released on a $400,000 recognizance with his mother, sister, and stepfather acting as sureties (person who promises to a judge to supervise an accused person while they are out on bail and pledges an amount of money). He remained out on bail for 3 ½ years with no compliance issues.

At the Court of Appeal, counsel for Papasotiriou proposed a plan for release pending his client’s appeal as follows:

  • $500,000 recognizance with his mother, stepfather, and stepfather’s mother as sureties;
  • strict house arrest with very narrow exceptions; and
  • GPS ankle bracelet to be monitored by Recovery Science Corporation (funded by Papasotiriou).

GROUNDS FOR GRANTING BAIL PENDING APPEAL

Pursuant to section 679(3) of the Criminal Code, a judge of the appeal court may order an appellant released pending appeal if he/she has established the following:

  • That the appeal is not frivolous;
  • That he/she will surrender into custody in accordance with the terms of any bail order; and
  • That the detention is not necessary “in the public interest”.

The “not frivolous” test is a very low bar, and in Papasotiriou’s case the Crown did not suggest to the Court that the appeal is frivolous.

The Crown did, however, argue that Papasotiriou has not discharged his onus to surrender into custody given his ties to Greece. The Court of Appeal, rejected the Crown’s argument on this ground, and held that Papasotirou’s compliance with his pre-trial bail order was “flawless” and the use of electronic monitoring will provide an “extra layer of assurance against absconding”.

The Court stated:

I accept that, standing alone, Mr. Papasotiriou’s connections to Greece may give pause for concern. However, any lingering concerns about flight are answered by his history of bail compliance and the strict release plan that is proposed. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the applicant will surrender into custody in accordance with his bail order.

The Court of Appeal outlined that there are two components which make up the third provision (public interest) to consider in granting bail pending an appeal. These include public safety and confidence in the administration of justice. The Supreme Court of Canada addressed the provision regarding the “public interest” in the case of R. v. Oland. The judicial discretion to grant bail pending appeal involves balancing enforceability (taking into account the gravity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the potential length of imprisonment) and reviewability interests (taking into account the strength of the grounds of the appeal).

The Crown conceded that Papasotiriou has proven that he will not commit offences if he is released on bail, thus discharging the onus of the public safety component. However, the Crown did take issue with maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Papasotiriou and held:

The “public interest” requires that I balance all of these factors – the circumstances of the applicant, the nature of the offence, the apparent strength of the appeal, and the time it will take to argue the appeal – to determine whether public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined by Mr. Papasotiriou’s release on bail.

The Court of Appeal maintained that Papasotiriou was not being “turned loose”, but rather carefully monitored in accordance with a stringent release plan (i.e. house arrest, GPS electronic monitoring, and the pledge of $500,000 by his sureties), which is consistent with the proper functioning of the Canadian justice system. Therefore, the Court allowed Papasotiriou’s application and granted him bail pending his appeal.

We will continue to follow any developments in this case as it makes its way through the judicial system and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about charges laid against you or your legal rights, please 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.