Drug-sniffing dog searches OKed after Halifax man's appeal
Warrant-less sniff searches acceptable on 'reasonable' grounds
The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected the appeal of a man accused of smuggling cocaine into Halifax's Stanfield International Airport, ruling that police can deploy drug-detecting sniffer dogs for warrant-less searches against suspects.
But the court said police can only execute those searchers with "reasonable suspicion based on objective, ascertainable facts" of criminality.
Mandeep Singh Chehil flew into Halifax on an overnight Westjet flight from Vancouver on Nov. 16, 2005.
RCMP at Halifax airport had checked with a Westjet ticket agent while Chehil was en route.
Police discovered that he had bought a one-way ticket at the last minute and paid cash.
Police were conducting Operation Jetway at the time, a program aimed at trying to catch drug smugglers.
They said Chehil's behavior fit the pattern of a drug smuggler.
When the Westjet flight landed in Halifax, Boris, a drug-sniffing dog, examined Chehil's luggage and detected three kilograms of cocaine.
When he claimed his bag, Chehil was charged with trafficking.
At his trial, Chehil was able to argue successfully that the search violated his charter rights.
The judge ruled that police did not have sufficient grounds to suspect Chehil.
At the time Justice Simon MacDonald said there was a "cozy" relationship between the Halifax Westjet office and the RCMP because police were allowed to review their passenger manifests without a warrant.
The Crown appealed Chehil's acquittal and in November 2009, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled the search was reasonable and ordered a new trial.
Chehil appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
On Friday, the court ruled on Chehil's case and on the case of a Saskatchewan man who was arrested after police found marijuana in his car following a traffic stop.
Benjamin MacKenzie was found with 14 kilograms of marijuana in his car trunk.
The ruling establishes parameters for balancing a police drug search with the rights of the accused.