Defending against a telewarrant. 

Below was the arguement that I had put together to have the telewarrant quashed.  Again,  I never got to test it.

5. Was the telewarrant valid as per section 487.1 (1) of the Criminal Code

Officer Bernier filed a ITO a Search Warrant, under section 487.1 of the CCC, that being a telewarrant. Under section 487.1 (1) it is required that the Officer show "that it would be impracticable to appear in person before a Justice to make application". In R.v. Brown at Henderson J. of the Ontario Superior Court of justice held that a complete explanation should be given on an Information as to why a Justice is unavailable. Section 487.1 (4),(a) states: "(4) An information submitted by telephone or other means of telecommunication shall include

(a) a statement of the circumstances that make it impracticable for the peace officer to appear personally before a justice;

The only statement that was made that it was impracticable to appear before a justice on the ITO was "There is no Justice of the Peace currently available locally". It is clear in Officer Bernier’s notes that he contacted the the courts, and was told that a "JP [is} not available @ 1300 – 1430", this is not noted in the Information sent to the telewarrant center. The statement on the ITO is misleading in that a Justice could believe there was NO justices sitting in the area that day. It was Friday and the courts are sitting and a justice would have been available after 1430 hours, 2:30 pm, after lunch. In this present case, no exigent circumstances are noted giving necessity to use the telewarrant system.


Under section 487.1 (9)

(9) A peace officer to whom a warrant is issued by telephone or other means of telecommunication shall file a written report with the clerk of the court for the territorial division in which the warrant was intended for execution as soon as practicable but within a period not exceeding seven days after the warrant has been executed, which report shall include

(a) a statement of the time and date the warrant was executed or, if the warrant was not executed, a statement of the reasons why it was not executed;

(b) a statement of the things, if any, that were seized pursuant to the warrant and the location where they are being held; and

(c) a statement of the things, if any, that were seized in addition to the things mentioned in the warrant and the location where they are being held, together with a statement of the peace officer’s grounds for believing that those additional things had been obtained by, or used in, the commission of an offence.

This report was not filed by Officer Bernier until April 23, 2007 which 10 days after the time allowed in the Criminal Code section 487.1(9), which is 7 days. See Exhibit "A". In R. v. Brown Superior Court of Justice at [73] Second, the Report to Justice was not filed by Constable McCready within seven days of the execution of the warrant contrary to Section 487.1 (9) of the Criminal Code of Canada. To his credit Constable McCready attempted to file the Report to Justice on April 4, but the Report was refused by the clerk of the court. The fact that the clerk of the court refused to accept the Report because the original telewarrant had not yet arrived from Newmarket is an administrative problem. However, that administrative problem does not provide an excuse for the failure to comply with the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The telewarrant must be Quashed


COMMENTARY: Telewarrant overuse threatens right to privacy By Marvin Stern, David Albert and Martina Quail.

June 01 2007

The sanctity of individuals’ privacy in their homes has long been recognized by Canadian courts, and the legal status of domestic privacy was heightened following the proclamation of the Charter of Rights. However, the increased use of telewarrants by police has eroded this important protection.

Under the Charter, a search of a home that is not authorized by warrant is presumptively unlawful. In order to obtain a search warrant, a police officer must normally appear personally before a justice. The purpose of prior-authorization procedures is to protect citizens against unreasonable searches.

A 1984 Criminal Code amendment created the telewarrant, where an officer submits the required information under oath by telephone or other means of telecommunication. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court in R. v. Hill, [2006] N.S.J. No. 542, highlighted the importance of in-person appearance versus telewarrants:

“[I]t would not seem to be a long-term solution to have all warrants obtained in this manner [via telewarrant], since it precludes the opportunity for the issuing judge or justice to examine the officer on whose information the warrant is being sought, in person, and to raise whatever questions may be considered appropriate.”

Because of this consideration, a police officer may only apply for a telewarrant where personal appearance is “impracticable”. Webster’s Dictionary defines “impracticable” as “incapable of being performed or accomplished by the means employed or at command”.

However, in recent B.C. decisions, the term has been interpreted to be synonymous with “impractical,” which is less stringently defined as “not wise to put into or keep in practice or effect”, and “not pleasing to common sense or prudence”. Whereas “impracticable” is about impossibility in the circumstances, “impractical” is a question of common sense and convenience, a less exacting standard.

Parliament chose “impracticable” to signal a restrictive application: telewarrants were intended for situations where a personal application would border on the impossible. Then-justice minister John Crosby advised Parliament when it might be used when he introduced the amendment that initially created the telewarrant:

“In some circumstances they may be used in order to get a blood sample from a person who was in an accident, is suspected of impaired driving and is unconscious. They may be used in a situation such as one which might occur in the Yukon or Northwest Territories in which the RCMP member or police might have to travel 40, 50 or a couple hundred miles before he could find a person to whom he could apply to receive a search warrant.”

The circumstances he describes are clearly impracticable for an in-person appearance — they make it virtually impossible.

However, the B.C. Court of Appeal has not followed such a strict standard. In R. v. Erickson, 2003 BCCA 693, without referring to definitions or precedent, the court defined “impracticable” as follows:
“It is reasonable to conclude that ‘impracticable’ means something less than impossible and imports a large measure of practicality, what may be termed common sense.”

In Erickson the accused was charged with marijuana production, evidence of which was found pursuant to a telewarrant issued to search the residence. In a unanimous decision, the court upheld the trial judge’s holding that the warrant was validly issued as it was impracticable for the officer to drive 30 kilometres through “rugged unorganized territory” to the nearest justice qualified to issue a warrant.

In R. v. Nguyen, 2007 BCSC 335, the B.C. Supreme Court applying Erickson upheld a telewarrant where the officer honestly believed there was no justice available in the area of Rossland, even though no evidence was led to establish that supposition.

In R. v. Phillips, 2004 BCSC 1797, after concluding that “impracticability is a relatively low threshold to meet”, the court upheld a telewarrant where there were no justices available in Surrey and the nearest available justice was in Vancouver, a 45-minute drive away. In R. v. Cam, 2007 BCPC 0038, a Surrey provincial court decision, after citing the definition of “impracticability” from Erickson and citing Phillips, the court held that it was “impracticable” for the officer to make a personal appearance that would involve a 28-kilometre drive, of perhaps a half hour.

The trend in B.C. since Erickson has been toward upholding telewarrants as standard procedure, available on the basis of simple expediency. Increasingly, a process of last resort is becoming an instrument of convenience.

However, the courts are not unanimous in their lenient interpretation of impracticability. Several recent provincial court decisions have quashed telewarrants where the impracticability requirement was not met. In R. v. Koprowski, [2005] B.C.J. No. 2940, it was not impracticable to travel about 30 minutes from Surrey to Burnaby to appear personally. Similarly, in R. v. Tran, [2006] B.C.J. No. 193, the court held that it would have been practicable for the officer to appear in person for a warrant, since he had on two prior occasions attended personally. In R. v. Nguyen, [2006] B.C.J. No. 3040, the court cited the proposition from Tran that while inconvenient, it was not impracticable for the officer to drive from Surrey to Burnaby to appear personally.

The courts have also quashed telewarrants in several cases where police officers do not inquire whether a justice is available for an in-person appearance: R. v. Farewell, [2006] B.C.J. No. 3344 (BCSC); R. v. Ong, [2006] B.C.J. No. 1836, and R. v. Chung, [2005] B.C.J. No. 2839.
In light of these recent decisions, we can only hope that the proper balance between police power and personal privacy rights that guided the formulation of s. 487.1 is maintained, so that telewarrants will only be issued where in-person appearance is truly impracticable, and not simply administratively expedient.


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