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Charge dismissed due to violation of right to freedom of religion

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There are multiple reasons why a criminal case might be dismissed in the province of Ontario. One of those reasons is when law enforcement fails to follow the policies established to protect the rights of those taken into custody. Activities that constitute a violation of those rights may not be as obvious as someone thinks. An Ontario man recently learned this firsthand.

The man was arrested at a spot check for drunk driving. In the course of transporting the man to the police station, the turban he wears as an observant Sikh, fell off. For some time while the man was the police station doing various things, including giving breath samples, he was not given back the turban which has great religious significance.

The area in which the man was arrested has a sizable Sikh population and the police department has a policy regarding suspects wearing turbans while in custody. The reasons to remove the turban articulated in the policy include safety concerns or to conduct a search.

At trial, a judge found the man non guilty and dismissed the charges. The decision followed the judge’s determination that not returning the man’s turban for several hours after he was taken into custody violated his right to freedom of religion. In addition, she found that the officers with whom the man interacted knew the significance of the turban to his religion.

As this incident illustrates, the specific facts surrounding an arrest may have a bearing on the best defence to fight the charges. Because criminal defence lawyers understand this, it is generally a good idea to contact one in a timely manner.

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