R v. PAWS, [Provincial Court of Alberta, Cochrane – August 2022]

SUMMARY: As a consequence of a Pipeline Investigation PAWS was charged with the following offences: 

  1. Possession of Cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. 
  2. Possession of Fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking. 
  3. Possession of Methamphetamine. 
  4. Possession of Proceeds of Crime. 
  5. Breach of Recognizance. 

Patrick Fagan was successful in having ALL charges against PAWS completely WITHDRAWN at Preliminary Inquiry.

During the early morning hours of June 2021, the RCMP stopped PAWS as he was operating his Jeep on the Stoney First Nation. The RCMP initially took the position that this was a routine traffic stop for the purpose of checking for a driver’s license, registration, insurance and sobriety.

During the course of the stop the RCMP engaged PAWS in a Q & A and made certain observation (in accordance with Pipeline training) that led to a “reasonable” suspicion that PAWS was engaged in drug trafficking. Those indicia included a strong odour of air freshener inside the vehicle, extreme nervousness on the part of PAWS during the traffic stop, travelling alone from a source location and driving a vehicle rented to a 3r d party. In addition, police database searches revealed that PAWS had been previously flagged by the CPS for alleged drug trafficking activity. 

As a consequence of the foregoing the RCMP deployed a police service dog on the Jeep and that dog “hit” on the vehicle. This gave the police the requisite lawful authority to search the Jeep, which they promptly did. The search of the Jeep resulted in the seizure of quantities of cocaine, fentanyl and crystal methamphetamine that were inconsistent with personal use and consistent with trafficking. As a consequence of those seizures, PAWS was charged accordingly and a court date scheduled. 

Patrick Fagan entered an election of trial by way of a Justice of the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta sitting without the intervention of a Jury and with a Preliminary Inquiry. When full disclosure finally arrived it became abundantly apparent to Patrick Fagan that the stop of PAWS was not as initially suggested by the RCMP (that is, a routine traffic stop) but was rather part of a premeditated Pipeline Investigation — in other words, it was a drug investigation conducted by traffic officers trained in Pipeline investigative methodology.

While there is nothing wrong with Pipeline Investigations per se, the nature of this particular investigation was such that it gave rise to multiple potential violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) including PAW’S right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, right not to be arbitrarily detained and right to counsel (and to be informed of that right) as guaranteed by Sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Charter respectively.

While a Judge presiding at Preliminary Inquiry does not have the jurisdiction (power) to grant Charter relief or to even entertain constitutional applications, Patrick Fagan used the Prelim to fully acquaint the assigned Prosecutor with his intentions vis a vis the Charter including the fact that the police were less than candid (to put it delicately) in their initial portrayal of highly relevant facts. 

Bottom Line:

Patrick Fagan was successful in convincing the assigned Crown Prosecutor to completely WITHDRAW all charges against PAWS at the Preliminary Inquiry. In addition, the RCMP later acknowledged the rather problematic nature of the investigation giving rise to this prosecution and (after a bit of back and forth) confirmed that all fingerprints, photographs and related computer entries in relation to this matter had been completely destroyed.