HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Need Search Warrant For Marijuana Inspections
Pubdate: Sat, 25 Oct 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Tim Lai
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Court Upholds Law But Says Warrantless Search Was Illegal

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld a provincial law that allows 
municipal inspection teams to investigate homes suspected of being 
marijuana-growing operations, but ruled that police cannot enter a 
residence without a warrant in a case involving a Hells Angels 
associate in Surrey.

In a decision released Friday, Justice William Smart ruled that the 
Safety Standards Act, which authorizes electrical safety inspection 
of residences, does not violate Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of 
Rights and Freedoms, which protects the public from unreasonable 
search and seizure.

However, in the case between Jason Arkinstall and the City of Surrey, 
Smart ruled that police did not have the authority to enter and 
search Arkinstall's home as part of the inspection team without a 
warrant. He added that the disconnection of power to Arkinstall's 
home after police were refused access was unlawful.

Both parties claimed victory in the case that surrounds Surrey's 
electrical and fire safety inspection team and how it wanted to 
investigate Arkinstall's home for high electricity consumption in May 2007.

The team was composed of a safety officer, a fire official, two RCMP 
officers and the city coordinator. Inspectors are not supposed to 
enter the home without a police check for safety.

Arkinstall's lawyer, Joe Arvay, said while his client had no problem 
with inspectors entering the property, he did not want the police 
there without a warrant.

"Having police routinely attend these inspections constitutes an 
unconstitutional search and seizure. [Smart] held that my clients 
rights were violated," Arvay said. "The case has larger implications 
because these teams that come out of each of the municipalities such 
as Surrey have said that they won't go unless there's a police presence."

Surrey city solicitor Craig MacFarlane said the decision was 
favourable not only to his municipality, but ones across the country 
that have adopted templates of Surrey's inspection team because the 
law doesn't infringe on charter rights. He said that in anticipation 
of this case, the city has already changed its procedures in which 
police will be required to have a warrant if they wish to enter a residence.

"This was part of our learning curve in putting our team together," 
MacFarlane said. "Now we feel we're compliant with the constitutional 
safeguards against illegal search."
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