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The law applies equally to all citizens, and no one has the right to deny the rights of another, including those of someone suspected or accused of a crime. When these rights are denied, there can be serious repercussions for all involved. Illustrating this point is a recent ruling on an incident involving a woman arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Sarnia, Ontario.
The woman in question entered a pawnshop on April 11, 2014, with the intention of selling some jewellery. An employee of the shop recognized some of the pieces from a list of stolen goods provided by the Ontario Provincial Police and notified the authorities. Police arrived on the scene and detained the woman for 40 minutes as they compared the jewellery with the list.
Upon questioning, the woman explained she had arrived by car, and she indicated a vehicle in the parking lot. The officers approached the car and found it occupied by another woman. The second woman was asked for identification and, when she reached into a purse to get her I.D., more pieces of jewellery resembling items from the list were spotted.
A search of the car turned up a knife, and seven patches of fentanyl were found on the first woman’s person. Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller and a controlled substance in Ontario. She was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking.
The woman was convicted, but a judge in the Court of Appeal for Ontario recently overturned the conviction. The judge ruled the woman’s rights were violated when the officers detained her without informing her of her rights, including the right to counsel. Her detention and the subsequent search of her person and property were deemed unconstitutional, and she was released.
Even when accused of a crime as serious as possession of a controlled substance, the rights of an individual must be upheld. Key among those rights is the right to legal representation. If you are accused of a crime, legal counsel will ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process.
Source: London Free Press, “Sarnia cop search ruled violation, woman released“, Jane Sims, July 18, 2016