A man who was accused of trafficking in methamphetamine and crack cocaine in Surrey has been acquitted after a B.C. Supreme Court judge found that the Surrey RCMP didn’t have reasonable grounds to arrest him.
Robinder Singh Sohi had been charged with two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled substance related to a noon-hour incident on March 3, 2016 in Whalley.
“Simply put, I find that the totality of the evidence of what was observed does not give rise to objectively reasonable or probable grounds for arrest,” Justice Francesca Marzari noted in her reasons for judgment posted Dec. 5.
“I therefore find that the arrest was not lawful,” the judge said, adding it contravened the accused’s Charter rights “to be free from arbitrary detention. It follows that the search incidental to Mr. Sohi’s arrest was also unauthorized and is therefore a breach of Mr. Sohi’s right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure.”
“In all the circumstances,” she said, “I enter an acquittal of Mr. Sohi.”
Marzari presided over the case in New Westminster, hearing that Surrey Mounties arrested Sohi, who had been driving a grey Honda Civic, after watching him make three stops over 45 minutes which they suspected involved drug transactions.
The court also heard that subsequent to Sohi’s arrest police found cash, controlled substances and other evidence the Crown sought to admit into evidence on Sohi and from inside and around the car.
Sohi’s lawyer challenged the lawfulness of the arrest, saying both it and then the search had contravened his client’s Charter Rights.
The defence argued that all the evidence collected by the RCMP incidental to the arrest should be thrown out of court.
The evidence at issue was $165 found in the front pocket of Sohi’s sweater and wallet in the back pocket of his jeans, as well as five packages containing 1.53 grams of methamphetamine, 13 wrapped rocks of crack cocaine weighing 2.89 grams, 19 packages of powder cocaine weighing 6.74 grams found on the driver’s seat floor, and four wrapped rocks of crack cocaine weighing .97 grams found on the ground next to the car.
The court heard that before the arrest an RCMP sergeant spotted the Civic pulling into a driveway on 132nd Street. “The portion of 132nd Street where he observed the grey Honda Civic is in the Whalley neighbourhood, which is a part of Surrey with a relatively higher incidence of drug-related calls to the police,” the judge noted. “However, this portion of 132nd Street was not particularly known for drug trafficking.”
The court heard the sergeant – who has 18 years with the force and has been involved in hundreds of dial-a-dope investigations in which drugs were found after arrests – directed his officers to arrest Sohi based on their observing three “meets” that the sergeant believed were consistent with drug trafficking. The Crown argued the sergeant’s suspicions were reasonable based on the officer’s “extensive experience,” while the defence argued this was “wholly inadequate to establish objective grounds for arrest,” Marzari noted.
The court heard Sohi hadn’t engaged in “typical” dial-a-dope dealer behavior, the Civic had not been flagged for any drug dealing activity in the past, and police did not witness any actual hand-to-hand exchange of drugs.
“In my view, the evidence in this case, taken as a whole, does not give rise to objectively reasonable grounds for arrest,” Marzari found.
The court heard police moved in to arrest Sohi after a man described as “dishevelled with a wrinkled shirt and messy hair” who police suspected might possibly be a drug user approached his car. The judge noted “it is not possible to determine or reasonably infer from the evidence what the nature or direction of that interaction was going to be, because it was interrupted by the arrest before it had begun.”