APPENDIX II: Reasonable suspicion

Author:Steve Coughlan - Glen Luther
Profession:Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University - Associate Professor, College of Law, Saskatchewan

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See note 1

Reasonable Suspicion Standard Met

R. v. Mann, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 59: Shortly before midnight the police received a dispatch call describing a break and enter in progress in downtown Winnipeg. The suspect was described as a twenty-one-year-old Aboriginal male, approximately 5’6", weighing 165 lbs., wearing a black jacket with white sleeves, and believed to be "Zachary Parisienne." A short while later the police observed the accused walking away from the site of the offence. The Court found that the reasonable-suspicion standard was met because the accused closely matched the description and was only two or three blocks from the crime scene a short time after the offence. It also stated that the high-crime nature of a neigh-bourhood is not itself a basis to detain someone, and is relevant only if it shows the connection of an accused to a particular crime.

R. v. Greaves, 2004 BCCA 484, 189 C.C.C. (3d) 305, 24 C.R. (6th) 15: An officer on duty received a report of an assault at a liquor store, perpetrated by a black male and several white males who had fled eastbound. The dispatch record indicated one black male and five white males, the black male being described as eighteen years of age, six feet tall, skinny build, short black hair, light T-shirt, and black pants. The officer arrived at the store within five minutes and found no one. He went east,

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where two blocks away he encountered a black male (the accused) with two white males. The accused did not closely fit the description of the black male described on the dispatch record, but the officer testified that he considered the grouping of a black male with two white males unique for that part of the city. The three men were drinking beer bottles and discarded bottles upon seeing the officer; when he made eye contact with him, they proceeded to jaywalk, apparently to avoid the officer. These facts were found to objectively justify a detention.

R. v. Scott, 2004 NSCA 141, 191 C.C.C. (3d) 183, 26 C.R. (6th) 145: Early in the morning, a woman robbed a convenience store wearing a ski mask and then fled the scene. RCMP arrived and traced footprints in the fresh snow from the store to an apartment building. As the officers approached the parking lot of the apartment building, they saw what they described as a red- or wine-coloured Grand Prix or Grand Am car, moving at an unusually high speed, leaving the parking lot. The officers radioed for assistance to locate and stop the car. Shortly afterward other officers spotted a wine-coloured Grand Prix enter a gas station. The police had reasonable suspicion and were entitled to detain the vehicle and it occupants.

R. v. Byfield, [2005] O.J. No. 228, 74 O.R. (3d) 206: Police officers ob-served a suspected female prostitute in an area of Toronto about which "police receive many complaints from the public about prostitution, drug dealing and theft" (para. 3). They observed the woman and her interactions on the street. She disappeared into a van, returning ten minutes later, then made a telephone call and five minutes later entered a car. Police followed the car, ran the plates, and learned that the registered owner was facing criminal charges and that he did not live anywhere near the area in which he was then driving. Police suspected that the woman was buying drugs from the man based on their un-confirmed suspicion that the woman was a drug-addicted prostitute. On these facts the police had reasonable grounds to suspect that the accused was a drug dealer and engaged in trafficking at the time. The Court of Appeal held:

[20] On the trial judge’s findings, the police did not stop the appellant based merely upon a hunch or intuition based on experience, nor merely because he was in a high-crime area. The officers were able to articulate the basis for their suspicion and provide a demonstrable rationale that the driver of the vehicle had engaged in a particular crime, namely drug trafficking . . . . The officers offered objective grounds for their suspicions that cannot be dismissed simply as neu-

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tral facts. Their conclusion that the woman was a prostitute is consistent with the facts. The subsequent interpretation of her behaviour as indicating that the driver of the Honda was likely a drug dealer is somewhat more problematic. The behaviour was, however, unusual and the officers’ interpretation seems neither unreasonable nor based solely on hunches, speculation and guesses . . . . That said, I would characterize this as a close case since the reasonableness of the officers’ suspicion rests so heavily on their experience and the basis of that experience was not well demonstrated at trial. [Citations omitted.]

R. v. Cooper, 2005 NSCA 47, 195 C.C.C. (3d) 162, 28 C.R. (6th) 338: The accused was a passenger in a motor vehicle at 2:00 a.m. The police signalled the car to stop to check for compliance with a provincial statute regulating motor-vehicle usage and in particular restrictions in force that apply to new (young) drivers, at which point the car sped away and made evasive turns. Both the driver and the accused jumped from the still-moving vehicle and fled on foot. The police pursued the accused and upon catching up with him had reasonable suspicion that he was connected or implicated in an offence of resisting a signalled traffic stop. Had the accused merely been a passenger and had not run away, there would have been no grounds to detain him.

R. v. Bui, 2005 BCCA 482: Two accused were detained at Vancouver International Airport. The officer who detained Bui had twice previously investigated arrests of him (both of the prior two arrests occurring on the same day as one...

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