NEWS

Drug-sniffing dog searches OK on 'reasonable' grounds

09/27/2013 10:17 EDT | Updated 11/27/2013 05:12 EST
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that police can deploy drug-detecting sniffer dogs for warrant-less searches against suspects, but only with "reasonable suspicion based on objective, ascertainable facts" of criminality.

Legal experts had been monitoring two decisions today regarding the use of drug-sniffing dogs, believing it would clarify what constitutes "reasonable suspicion" for when the animals can be called forth. The outcomes would decide whether police in both cases had breached the two men's charter rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

In a ruling today, the Supreme Court stated: "The deployment of a dog trained to detect illegal drugs using its sense of smell is a search that may be carried out without prior judicial authorization where the police have a reasonable suspicion based on objective, ascertainable facts that evidence of an offence will be discovered."

In 2006, Saskatchewan man Benjamin MacKenzie was found with 14 kilograms of marijuana in his car trunk. A year earlier, Nova Scotian Mandeep Chehil was searched by dogs and was found to have three kilograms of cocaine in his suitcase.

Lower courts acquitted both men, reasoning that police did not have reasonable suspicion when the law enforcement officials set their dogs upon MacKenzie and Chehil for a sniff search. However, their acquittals were later overturned by appellate courts.

The Supreme Court decided today to dismiss both men's latest appeals.

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