Pubdate: Wed, 3 Dec 2008
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Peter Walsh,  Canwest News Service


ST. JOHN'S, N. L. - Socks, undies and a toothbrush are not the only
things considered private when checking luggage at the airport. So are
illegal drugs and wads of cash, according to a ruling by the Supreme
Court of Newfoundland.

A judge in St. John's recently decided that a man found with 14 grams
of cocaine, 62 ecstasy pills and $11,000 in cash had an expectation of
privacy when he checked his luggage prior to a flight in 2006.

The ruling means the man can continue his legal battle to have the
evidence against him thrown out.

Brian Crisby, of Eastport, N. L., is charged with possession of
ecstasy and cocaine for the purposes of trafficking. On Nov. 24, 2006,
a police dog detected the drugs in Mr. Crisby's checked baggage in St.
John's after his flight from Fort Mc-Murray, Alta. Police were acting
on a tip.

Mr. Crisby's lawyer, Mark Rogers, is trying to have the drugs and cash
thrown out as evidence by arguing that the seizure was a violation of
Mr. Crisby's Charter right against unlawful search and seizure.

Mr. Rogers' first step is to prove that Mr. Crisby had an expectation
of privacy over the contents of his luggage when he checked his bags.

Crown prosecutors argued Mr. Crisby gave up all his privacy rights
when he voluntarily checked his baggage, because he knew air travel is
subject to strict controls, including security screening.

The problem with that, Justice Robert Hall ruled, is that airport
security laws are designed to protect travellers against weapons and
explosives, not to catch illegal drugs. He described the Crown's
argument as an "incremental intrusion upon privacy rights."

"Obviously, searching or screening the accused's bags for the presence
of drugs does not fit into the category of purposes for which
screening was authorized," Judge Hall wrote.

"I conclude that Brian Crisby had a reasonable expectation of privacy
with respect to the contents of his luggage, save and except for
searches by [airport] personnel for items that could be used to
jeopardize the security of an aerodrome or aircraft."

The case is expected back in court in January. 
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