N.S. plates not enough to trigger search: judge

Criminal charges have been dismissed in an N.L. court case in which Nova Scotia licence plates helped prompt a search for drugs.

Criminal charges have been dismissed against a man who was accused of trying to bring marijuana into western Newfoundland, after the RCMP officer said he was suspicious of the man's Nova Scotia licence plates.

David Kevin Jackman was stopped soon after getting off a Marine Atlantic ferry in Port aux Basques in November 2008. Police found 17 kilograms of marijuana stuffed into a hockey bag and a suitcase, as well as a couple of joints and some cocaine.

The RCMP officer who stopped Jackman, a resident of the Nova Scotia town of Stewiacke, said he did so because Jackman "glanced at [him] with a nervous look."

He also noticed that the car had Nova Scotia licence plates and that "Nova Scotia is a source province for drug importation," and that an out-of-province plate is one indicator of criminal activity.

Although Jackman's documents were all in order, the officer said he got a faint whiff of burnt marijuana. The officer said he asked Jackman if he could search the vehicle and that Jackman agreed.

But Justice William Goodridge ruled that Jackman had not consented, and that the officer had no legal right to search.

As well, Goodridge did not accept the officer's reasons for stopping the man.

"We do not live in a police state where police can randomly stop and interrogate or search people in the hope of eventually catching a criminal," Goodridge ruled.

Because the evidence was not allowed, the charges against Jackman were dismissed.