Detention requires more than a hunch

Mike Novakowski
July 08, 2012
By Mike Novakowski
Police must have more than a bare suspicion when detaining a suspect. In R. v. Bruyere, 2012 ONCA 329, a police officer received information from a sergeant in charge of a drug investigation that a man named Hyatt had just bought drugs at a hotel and was couriering them back to Fort Frances. The officer followed a vehicle occupied by two unidentified men as it left the hotel. Suspecting one of the occupants may be Hyatt, the officer instructed that the vehicle be pulled over as it travelled on the TransCanada Highway toward Fort Frances. Bruyere was driving and Hyatt, a passenger, was arrested. A search turned up cocaine.

Police must have more than a bare suspicion when detaining a suspect.

In R. v. Bruyere, 2012 ONCA 329, a police officer received information from a sergeant in charge of a drug investigation that a man named Hyatt had just bought drugs at a hotel and was couriering them back to Fort Frances.

The officer followed a vehicle occupied by two unidentified men as it left the hotel. Suspecting one of the occupants may be Hyatt, the officer instructed that the vehicle be pulled over as it travelled on the TransCanada Highway toward Fort Frances. Bruyere was driving and Hyatt, a passenger, was arrested. A search turned up cocaine.

At trial in the Ontario Court of Justice the judge found the officer did not have sufficient grounds to justify an investigative detention of the vehicle's occupants at the roadside. In the judge's view, the officer ordering the stop did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that Hyatt was in the vehicle since he had nothing more than a hunch.

The judge ruled Bruyere was arbitrarily detained at the roadside (a s. 9 Charter breach) and that the search leading to the discovery of the cocaine was unreasonable. The evidence, however, was admitted under s. 24(2). The judge found exigent circumstances existed which, in part, mitigated the unconstitutionality of the stop. Bruyere was convicted of three drug related offences.

Bruyere challenged the ruling before Ontario's top court, arguing the trial judge erred in not excluding the evidence after properly finding a Charter breach. The Crown argued, on the other hand, that the judge erred in finding a Charter violation in the first place but properly admitted the evidence in any event. In the Crown's submission, the sergeant in charge of the investigation had sufficient grounds to justify Bruyere's detention. The sergeant's reasonable suspicion (as opposed to the detaining officer's suspicion) rendered Bruyere's detention constitutional under s. 9.

The Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that neither officer had sufficient grounds to justify the detention.

"Whether one looks at (the officer's) grounds for detaining the vehicle, (the sergeant's) grounds for detaining the vehicle, or combines the two, the result is the same," said the court. "The stop was arbitrary in that there were no reasonable grounds to suspect that Hyatt was in the vehicle before the officers stopped the vehicle."

Thus, the evidence discovered in the search, which followed immediately after the identification and arrest of Hyatt, constituted evidence obtained in a manner that infringed Bruyere's rights under s. 9 of the Charter.

His appeal was allowed, his convictions quashed and a new trial ordered.

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