Pubdate: Tue, 22 May 2007
Source: Metro (Toronto, CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 Metro
Bookmark: (Youth)


Police Powers Will Be Argued In What Could Be Landmark

A case that began when officers showed up at a Sarnia high school with
"Chief" the drug-sniffing dog is about to test the limits of police
powers in Canada.

The Crown appeal, to be heard today by the Supreme Court of Canada,
will help determine whether police can use sniffer dogs to conduct
random searches of schools and other public places, such as parks,
sports stadiums, beaches and malls.

At issue is whether an unannounced police visit to St. Patrick's high
school in November 2002 amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure
under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A police dog led officers to
five bags of marijuana and 10 magic mushrooms in a backpack belonging
to a student known as "A.M."

The dog's handler acknowledged he had no grounds for getting a search
warrant beforehand and no direct knowledge of drugs inside. But police
had a longstanding invitation from the principal to come with their
dog, he said.

To the Ontario Court of Appeal, there was more than a whiff of
illegality about the incident.

"This was a warrantless, random search with the entire student body
held in detention," the court said in a ruling last year, upholding a
trial judge's decision to acquit A.M. of possession for the purpose of
trafficking. Admitting the drugs into evidence would strip any student
in a similar situation of their right to be free from unreasonable
search and seizure, the court said.

But the Crown disputes there was ever any search. "A dog sniff alone
is not a search; it only supplies information that may lead to one,"
they said.
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