Eric Andrew Rowson v. Her Majesty the Queen

(Alberta) (Criminal) (As of Right)


Canadian charter (Criminal).


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Charter of Rights - Criminal law - Arbitrary detention - Right to counsel - Search and seizure - Remedy - Accused convicted of seven charges arising from motor vehicle collision - Whether arresting officer had reasonable and probable grounds to arrest accused - Whether breath sample evidence ought to be excluded because it was obtained in violation of the accused’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Whether the admission of the evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Mr. Rowson was convicted of three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, three counts of dangerous driving and one count of driving with a blood alcohol level exceeding the legal limit. At trial, he sought exclusion of the results of two breath samples and of certain statements made to police following the accident, on the grounds that he was arbitrarily detained and that during the arbitrary detention his Charter rights, namely his right against self-incrimination, his right to counsel and his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, were repeatedly violated. The trial judge found that Mr. Rowson had been arbitrarily detained and that his right to counsel had been breached. She excluded certain statements Mr. Rowson made to police prior to speaking to a lawyer, but declined to exclude evidence of Mr. Rowson’s breath samples. Mr. Rowson appealed his convictions on the basis that the breath sample evidence ought to have been excluded. The majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal, agreeing with the trial judge that the Charter-infringing conduct of the police was not serious, that the impact on Mr. Rowson’s Charter-protected interests was minimal and that it was not established that the admission of the breath sample evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Veldhuis J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal, set aside the convictions and substituted verdicts of acquittal. She was of the view that in addition to the Charter breaches identified by the trial judge, there were no reasonable and probable grounds for arrest, and that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Rowson after arrest was never cured. She was also of the view that all of the evidence obtained during the arbitrary detention should be excluded.