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Appeal rejected in case of man who had duffel bag with 100 lbs. of cannabis

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen, Friday, June 16, 2023 in Ottawa.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld The Supreme Court of Canada is seen, Friday, June 16, 2023 in Ottawa.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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The Supreme Court of Canada on Friday dismissed the appeal of a man whose Charter rights were breached during a police investigation that led to the discovery of 100 lbs. of cannabis.

As a result of the ruling Friday, George Zacharias’s conviction for possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking was upheld.

Canada's top court declined to exclude evidence that Zacharias had said was an infringement of his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case focused on whether police violated the accused’s Charter rights and if the evidence collected after police’s initial traffic stop should be excluded from trial.

During the trial, Zacharias argued that the drug evidence seized by police should be excluded from trial under Section 24(2) of the Charter. This section states that evidence obtained in a way that breached the accused's rights may be excluded from trial "if admitting it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute." He said the police had breached his Charter rights to not be subjected to unreasonable search or seizure and his right to not be arbitrarily detained, according to the court.

Zacharias was pulled over for a traffic stop on a highway near Banff, Alta., in February 2017 because he was driving a truck with a burned-out light and illegally tinted windows, according to the court. A police officer made observations that made him suspect that he was carrying drugs. The officer detained him to ask him more questions, known as “investigative detention," and called for a sniffer dog, which detected drugs. The officer concluded that he had "reasonable and probable grounds" to arrest Zacharias for possession of a controlled substance.

After searching Zacharias’s truck, police discovered a "large quantity" of cannabis and cash. Zacharias was arrested again for possession for the purpose of trafficking. He was then searched and arrested a third time for possession of proceeds of crime over $5,000.

The trial judge found the police breached Zacharias’s Charter rights in conducting a sniffer search and investigative detention, but ruled that the evidence should not be excluded under section 24(2), according to the court. The Court of Appeal of Alberta dismissed his appeal when he argued the trial judge had failed to consider whether the police’s conduct after the initial violations also breached the Charter.

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