A Surrey man who accidentally dropped a one-kilogram brick of cocaine in front of Mounties who came to arrest him outside of his home in 2014 has lost an appeal of his conviction.
Amanpreet Singh Gill, 33, was sentenced to two years less a day after he was found guilty in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
The court heard that as he was being arrested on a warrant to get his fingerprints, Gill dropped an unsealed envelope. A police officer saw inside it while putting the envelope on the front passenger seat of his patrol car, recognized its contents as “likely” cocaine and seized it without a warrant, B.C. Appeal Court Justice Susan Griffin noted in her July 16 judgment.
The brick was then put in a locked box in the trunk and police later took a sample for a field test, which confirmed it was cocaine.
Griffin’s decision to dismiss Gill’s appeal was concurred in by Justices Lauri Ann Fenlon and Bruce Butler. She noted the Mounties had been investigating Gill’s “possible connection” to the sale of two kilograms of cocaine to a “police agent.”
They found Gill near the garage in front of his home and told him he had to go with them to the Surrey RCMP detachment to provide fingerprints, to which he replied he needed to go inside the house to tell his brother.
“The officers told him that he was not to enter the house and that he was being detained. However, the appellant persisted by pulling toward the door,” Griffin noted in her reasons for judgment. “The officers decided to physically ‘take down’ the appellant to prevent him from entering the home. After tackling him to the ground, the officers noticed an unsealed envelope had fallen to the ground from his body. The take down and discovery of the enveloped occurred over a matter of seconds.”
Gill appealed the trial judge’s decision that the police’s conduct met the test for the Plain View Doctrine, which Griffin described as a “creature of the common law” which permits a police officer to seize anything he or she reasonably believes to be evidence of the commission of a crime. In contrast, Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees “the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”
Gill’s lawyer used a couch as an analogy, arguing that police cannot turn a couch upside-down and then say an item on the bottom is now in plain view.
“With respect,” Griffin replied, “this argument ignores the requirements of the Plain View Doctrine that the police are in the place lawfully and lawfully exercising their duties when the item comes into plain view.”
Griffin noted the trial judge had found the officer saw into the envelope “inadvertently, not through deliberate search, and the item was in plain view.
“The appellants have not shown that the judge made a palpable and overriding error in so finding,” Griffin decided. “I see no error in the judge’s application of the Plain View Doctrine, which were based on her findings of fact which were supported by the evidence.”
Gill also appealed his conviction on grounds of continuity. The court heard the envelope was moved from the locked box to a Surrey RCMP van, placed in a secured exhibits locker at the detachment, taken to the Nanaimo RCMP detachment by ferry and stored in a secured exhibits storage place there, then taken to a forensic identification officer to obtain samples to be analyzed by Health Canada.
“The appellant has not pointed to any palpable and overriding error in the judge’s findings regarding the continuity of the exhibit,” Griffin found. “The judge had evidence to support her findings and was entitled to make the findings she did.”