Pubdate: Wed, 23 May 2007
Source: Observer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007, OSPREY Media Group Inc.
Author: Neil Bowen


Drinking And Driving Charge Dropped

A woman arrested for drug possession had her drinking and driving
charge dismissed in Sarnia court Tuesday because she was the subject
of an unlawful police strip search.

But Shelley DePaepe, 35, of Sarnia, was fined $600 for possession of
cocaine and marijuana that was discovered during her arrest for
impaired driving at an April 13, 2006 RIDE check in Sarnia.

Justice Mark Hornblower ruled the strip search done by a female
officer at the Sarnia police headquarters was unlawful, citing a
Supreme Court ruling on the Charter of Rights protection from
unreasonable searches.

The ruling, Hornblower said, states a strip search can only be done
when there are reasonable grounds to believe drugs are hidden on a

The mere possibility of drugs being present is not enough. The Supreme
Court has prohibited strip searches based on mere suspicion,
Hornblower said.

The female officer had testified the strip search is standard
procedure after a drug arrest when it's suspected more drugs could be
found. No additional drugs were found.

When DePaepe was ordered to empty her pockets at the RIDE check 0.4
grams of cocaine was found. Her purse yielded 3.5 grams of marijuana.

At an April 16 trial, defence lawyer Donald Elliott had argued the
strip search delayed DePaepe's breath tests, and therefore the results
should be excluded.

The tests showed her blood-alcohol levels were about one and half
times the legal limit about 90 minutes after being stopped.

At the trial, assistant Crown attorney Melanie Nancekievill argued
that there was no connection between the breath tests and the strip

Therefore, even if the search was unlawful, the test results should
not be excluded, she had said.

Hornblower said a 2006 court ruling indicated breath tests can only be
excluded if unreasonable police action delayed the testing.

The unlawful search showed police were not acting reasonably and the
tests results should be excluded, he said. The drinking and driving
charge was dismissed.

That left the two possession charges laid at the RIDE check, but no
defence was offered.

Hornblower convicted DePaepe and fined her $400 for the cocaine
possession and $200 for the marijuana possession. Those were her first
drug convictions.

In addition to the fines, she was placed on probation for one year.
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