Supreme Court affirms drug, firearm convictions despite police officer’s mistake

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a man’s convictions on firearm and drug charges even though his arrest in Calgary six years ago violated his charter rights.

In a ruling today, the high court says that although police made a mistake, excluding the evidence in Sokha Tim’s case would ultimately harm the reputation of the criminal justice system.

After Tim crashed his car, a police officer noticed a small bag in the vehicle containing a single yellow gabapentin pill — a substance the officer mistakenly believed to be an illegal drug, while Tim tried to sweep the bag out of sight.

The officer immediately arrested Tim, and subsequent searches of the car and the suspect turned up fentanyl, a loaded firearm and ammunition.

At trial, Tim tried to have the evidence excluded on the basis he had been improperly arrested, given that gabapentin was a legal prescription drug.

The trial judge found the arrest and subsequent searches to be lawful and Tim was convicted of five offences, a decision upheld by a majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2022.

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