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Police officers must follow proper procedure when gathering evidence to obtain a search warrant. A mistake at any point in the process could later result in evidence being thrown out. Often such mistakes are unintentional, but occasionally police officers are found to have brazenly broken the law in the pursuit of criminal charges.
Recently, an Ontario judge threw out the evidence against a convenience store employee who was charged with weapons possession and drug trafficking. An informant reportedly tipped off police that illegal drug transactions had taken place where the employee worked. A drug squad officer went to the store to watch for illegal activity, and the officer claimed to have witnessed the employee make a drug transaction near a car.
Within hours, search warrants were issued for the convenience store, the employee’s residence and his vehicle. Police reportedly seized heroin, crack cocaine, powdered cocaine, prescription drugs, a Taser, 251 rounds of ammunition and about $6,000 in cash. All of that evidence was thrown out after a judge found that the drug squad officer made up the story about the alleged drug transaction that led to the search warrants.
After viewing surveillance video that contradicted the officer’s claims, the judge said in her ruling that the officer “deliberately fabricated” the drug deal. “Taking the shortcut through deception is no replacement for good police work,” wrote the judge.
The Crown has no reasonable expectation of conviction now that the evidence in the case has been thrown out, and the Toronto officer who made up the story about a drug transaction could face charges under the Police Services Act.
Police must have a credible reason to search a person or a person’s property, regardless of what is seized during the search. For more on search warrants and wiretaps, please visit our criminal defence website.
Source: Toronto Star, “Toronto police officer rebuked by judge for fabricating evidence,” Wendy Gillis, Sept. 29, 2014