Information about a drug trafficker and subsequent police observation of a suspicious encounter were enough to justify an arrest and incidental search, Ontario's highest court has ruled.
In R. v. Caravaggio, 2012 ONCA 248 a police officer had information from an unnamed previously reliable informant, known to be involved in the drug subculture, that the accused sold drugs from his vehicle. The informant provided details as to Caravaggio's description, his residence and the colour and specific make of his car. The officer corroborated this information by running a CPIC check to determine Caravaggio's identification and address. He also went to a location near his residence and saw a man and car matching the informant's description.
The car, with motor running, was parked in an alley near a café known for drug-dealing, and a male was leaning through the window speaking to Caravaggio. Caravaggio was arrested, searched and drugs were found in his possession.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice concluded the officer had reasonable and probable grounds for the arrest. The search was incident to arrest and there were no Charter breaches. The drugs were admissible as evidence and Caravaggio was convicted of trafficking and sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Caravaggio challenged his conviction before the Ontario Court of Appeal, arguing that the trial judge erred in finding the arrest lawful and therefore the search reasonable as incident to arrest. The court rejected this argument.
"While the officer could not say that he observed a drug transaction between the (accused) and the other man, their interaction certainly was suspicious and at least consistent with a drug transaction," the court said.
"When combined with the information obtained from the informant, the officer's observations of the (accused), his vehicle and its location, there was sufficient basis for the trial judge to find that the officer had reasonable and probable grounds to arrest the (accused)."
Nor were the trial judge's reasons inadequate. He confronted the inconsistencies in the evidence of the police officers and, despite them, explained why he found reasonable and probable grounds. Caravaggio's appeal was dismissed and his conviction upheld.