Police burst through wrong door and drug case crumbles
Search warrant was only valid for an upstairs apartment, courts say
Key evidence will not be allowed in the trial of a Saskatchewan woman accused of dealing drugs because police burst through the wrong door during their investigation.
Officers were looking for a cache of drugs in the second-floor suite of a house in North Battleford.
Details of the case were recently published to an online legal database.
According the courts, nine officers converged on the woman's home during a police raid in September of 2011. The police had received a tip that a different suspect was using the upper floor suite to store drugs and obtained a search warrant to check out the place.
When the woman who owned the house heard the commotion at her door, she called 911 to report what she thought was a home invasion.
Once police got inside, they immediately set about searching the premises. They went upstairs and used a battering ram to burst through a locked door. Inside that room, they found evidence relating to drug trafficking. Police said they also found drugs in other parts of the home. That other evidence led them to arrest and charge the homeowner.
But that was a problem for the courts, which noted the search warrant was specific and related to the rental suite on the second floor. The courts also highlighted the fact that there was an exterior entry point for that upper room.
The courts even quoted from one of the documents related to the search warrant, which said "The marijuana is stashed in the upstairs apartment in the bedroom closet."
Because of those problems, the evidence seized in relation to the home owner was excluded from her trial. Without the key evidence, the Crown may have a difficult time proceeding with a prosecution.
In its decision on the search, Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal said a person's rights must be respected.
"The unlawful entry into the dwelling of a person has a serious impact on the rights of the accused," the court's decision said. "The search had a significant impact on the rights of the accused as it took place in her home, a place in which she has a high expectation of privacy."