George Zacharias v. His Majesty the King
(Alberta) (Criminal) (As of Right)
Constitutional law - Canadian charter (Criminal), Arbitrary detention (s. 9), Search and seizure (s. 8), Enforcement (s. 24) - Constitutional Law — Charter of Rights — Arbitrary detention — Search and seizure — Enforcement — Exclusion of evidence — Whether the trial judge properly considered all the relevant Charter-infringing state conduct.
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The appellant, George Zacharias, was convicted under s. 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, S.C. 1996, c. 19, for possession of 101.5 pounds of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking. The main issue at trial was whether Cst. MacPhail, who conducted a traffic stop of Mr. Zacharias’ truck, had reasonable suspicion to enter into an investigative detention and deploy a sniffer dog. The trial judge found that the initial investigative detention and the sniffer dog search were unlawful and breached the ss. 8 and 9 Charter rights of Mr. Zacharias to be free from unreasonable search and arbitrary detention. Applying the test in R. v. Grant, 2009 SCC 32, the trial judge then found that the first two factors did not strongly favour exclusion of the evidence and that the third one favoured inclusion. The evidence was therefore admitted.
A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr. Zacharias’ appeal, declining to consider his arguments regarding the additional breaches that were neither included in his Charter notice nor argued at trial, as it would have been unfair for an appellate court to make findings of fact of new breach arguments. Further, the majority concluded that while the trial judge did not expressly include the s. 9 Charter breach in her consideration of the second stage of the Grant analysis, her failure to do so did not affect the result. In dissent, Khullar J.A. would have allowed Mr. Zacharias’ appeal, excluded the drug evidence and other evidence seized, set aside the conviction and entered an acquittal. In her view, while there was no reviewable error at the first and third stage of the Grant test, the second Grant factor strongly favoured exclusion of the evidence. The trial judge only considered the exterior search of the vehicle by the sniffer dog, but there were several more Charter breaches. Balancing the three factors together, Khullar J.A. found that admitting the evidence would undermine the reputation of the criminal justice system in the eyes of a reasonable person informed of all the relevant circumstances.
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