N.W.T. man becomes first convicted under Criminal Code for unsafe drone use
Toufic Chamas fined $3K, sentenced to 5 days in jail
A Northwest Territories judge has reluctantly accepted a plea bargain for a man who repeatedly lied to police and flew a drone in airspace used by planes taking off and landing at the Yellowknife airport.
It marks the first time somebody has been convicted under the Criminal Code of dangerous operation of an aircraft as a result of illegally flying a drone, according to RCMP.
"Even taking into account the guilty pleas … I still don't find that any of the sentences suggested are adequate," said Judge Bernadette Schmaltz on Thursday before fining Toufic Chamas $3,000 and sentencing him to five days in jail, which he has already served.
The fine was for illegally flying a drone. The jail time was for three convictions — obstruction, driving while disqualified and breaching bail conditions by failing to report to a probation officer.
Chamas was also banned from driving for two years and is not allowed to fly a drone for three years.
Schmaltz said though she didn't think the sentence was enough to deter the 22-year-old from committing more offences, she had to accept it because the Supreme Court of Canada has established that sentences suggested by both the Crown and defence in plea bargains can only be rejected if the sentence would cause people to lose confidence in the justice system.
Schmaltz said the sentence "definitely should not be considered a precedent."
Caught 3 times
Police caught Chamas flying his DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone three times in downtown Yellowknife in September 2017.
Each time, Chamas told them he was unaware it was illegal to do so.
The third time, police noticed a Transport Canada pamphlet on his coffee table, laying out the rules governing drone use. It had been left with him by police who had responded to reports of a drone flying downtown the day before.
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The obstruction charge was laid in October 2017 after Chamas gave a false name to municipal enforcement officers who pulled him over. He insisted the name was his even after the RCMP was called in to help identify him.
On Aug. 2 this year, Chamas was clocked driving 150 km/hr near Fort Providence, N.W.T. The RCMP found his driver's licence had been suspended a month earlier in Alberta for the same reason: driving while disqualified.
"Mr. Chamas's disregard for court orders couldn't be more blatant," said Schmaltz.
Chamas's legal troubles are far from over.
Yellowknife RCMP say that on Oct. 19, officers pulled him over and found a stolen handgun and ammunition in his car. He has been charged with seven firearm offences, two driving-related offences, and five counts of failing to comply with court orders. He remains in custody.