Taking deterrence seriously: excluding unconstitutionally obtained evidence under section 24(2) of the charter.

AuthorPenney, Steven

Section 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grunts courts the authority to exclude evidence obtained in a manner that infringes or denies any Charter rights or freedoms, provided the admission of such evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. While the problem of deciding in what circumstances to exclude illegally obtained evidence has occupied both the Supreme Court of Canada and scholarly commentators, their efforts to date have been largely devoid of theory. This article seeks to remedy this situation by developing a single, coherent exclusionary theory. To this end, Professor Penney argues that the only worthwhile reason to exclude evidence under section 24(2) is to deter constitutional violations. A deterrence rationale allows for balance of the conflicting purposes of section 24(2): encouraging constitutional compliance and convicting the factually guilty.

In Part 1, Professor Penney examines the most common justifications for exclusion of illegally obtained evidence--what he calls the "condonation" rationale, the "corrective justice" rationale, and the "deterrence" rationale--and concludes that deterrence is the only one that is normatively plausible. He further argues that the objective of the exclusionary rule should hot be "maximum" deterrence, but "optimal" deterrence. In other words, evidence should be excluded only when the benefit of increased deterrence outweighs the cost of lost convictions. Part U of the article considers the available empirical evidence on the costs and benefits of the exclusionary rule and concludes that while an exclusionary rule can have a significant deterrent effect with few "lost convictions", its ability to deter is also limited by a number of phenomena, including most importantly, the complexity of constitutional rules governing investigative behaviour. In Part III, Professor Penney critiques Supreme Court section 24(2) jurisprudence in light of his exclusionary theory. Specifically, he argues that the Court should develop ways to dater violations of the Charter rights of third parties; that it should maintain its liberal approach to causation; that it should abandon both its "trial fairness" approach to self-incriminating evidence and its "balancing approach" to other evidence; and finally, that it should adopt a bright-line rule that encourages police to become reasonably well-informed about their constitutional obligations and signals to them that intentional and negligent violations will always result in exclusion. This approach would be consistent with both file wording of section 24(2) and much of the Court's jurisprudence. It would also go some way toward achieving a better balance between the rights-protection and truth seeking functions of section 24(2).

L'article 24(2) de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertes confere aux tribunaux le pouvoir d'exclure des elements de preuve obtenus de mamere contraire aux droits garantis par la Charte, si leur admission causerait prejudice a la bonne administration de la justice. La Cour supreme du Canada et les commentateurs ont examine la question de savoir dans quelles circonstances de tels elements da preuve devraient etre rejetes. Toutefois, ces efforts ont ete jusqu'a maintenant peu supportes par une reflexion theorique. Cet article se propose de remedier a cette situation en proposant une theorie de l'exclusion unifiee et coherente. Le professeur Penney s'emploie a demontrer que la seule raison valable d'exclure des elements de preuve en vertu de l'article 24(2) de la Charte est de decourager les violations constitutionnelles. Un principe fonde sur la dissuasion permet de reconcilier les objectifs opposes de l'article 24(2), a savoir d'encourager l'obeissance a la constitution de trouver coupables ceux qui le sont dans les faits.

Dans la premiere partie, l'auteur examine les motifs usuels pour l'exclusion de la preuve illegalement obtenue, qu'il regroupe en >, > et >. Il conclut que seule la demiere est plausible d'un point de vue normatif. Il soutient egalement que le but de la regle d'exclusion n'est pas la dissuasion >, mais plutot la dissuasion >. Cela signifie qu'un element de preuve ne devrait etre exclu que lorsque le benefice d'une plus grande dissuasion surpasse le cout de cundamnations perdues. La deuxieme partie de l'article examine les donnees empiriques disponibles sur les couts et benefices de la regle d'exclusion. L'auteur conclut que si celle-ci permet un effet dissuasif substantiel tout en occasionnant peu de >, sa capacite a dissuader est limitee par un certain nombre de facteurs, parmi lesquels on comptera surtout la complexite des regles constitutionnelles gouvernant le comportement des enqueteurs. Dans la troisieme partie, l'auteur se sert de sa theorie de l'exclusion pour critiquer la jurisprudence de la Cour supreme sur l'article 24(2). Il soutient ea particulier que la Cour devrait developper des manieres de decourager les violations des droits des tierces parties garantis par la Charte; qu'elle devrait maintenir son approche liberale sur les questions de causalite; qu'elle devrait abandonner a la fois son approche dite de > quant a la preuve auto-incriminante et son approche dite de > quant aux autres categories de preuve; et enfin qu'elle devrait edicter une regle stricte encourageant les corps policiers a etre raisonnablement bien informes de leurs obligations constitutionnelles et leur indiquant que toute preuve obtenue en contravention intentionnelle ou negligente sera toujours rejetee. Cette approche serait a la fois conforme au texte de l'article 24(2) et a la plus part de la jurisprudence de la Cour. Elle contribuerait egalement a mieux equilibrer les fonctions de protection des droits et d'enquete de l'article 24(2).

Introduction I. Justifications for Excluding Illegally Obtained Evidence II. The Deterrent Effect of Exclusion and Its Alternatives A. The Benefits and Costs of the American Exclusionary Rule B. Alternatives to Exclusion III. Deterrence and Section 24(2) of the Charter A. Standing B. "Obtained in a Manner" C. Bringing the Administration of Justice into Disrepute 1. Evidence Affecting Trial Fairness: Automatic Exclusion 2. Evidence Not Affecting Trial Fairness: The Balancing Approach Conclusion Introduction

Whether and in what circumstances courts should exclude illegally obtained evidence is one of the most hotly contested questions in criminal procedure and evidence law. It is not difficult to understand why. On the one hand, excluding reliable evidence on the basis that it was obtained improperly detracts from the truth-seeking function of criminal trials and makes it more likely that factually guilty defendants will evade conviction and punishment. Reflecting this concern, the common law traditionally denied the existence of any such power. (1) On the other hand, jurists have long argued that the absence of a power to exclude renders courts impotent to control or dissociate themselves from police misconduct. (2) Recent decades have thus witnessed a loosening of the common law position, and many jurisdictions now recognize a limited discretion to exclude improperly obtained evidence. (3)

But until the enactment of section 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, (4) only United States courts recognized a broad power to exclude evidence obtained in violation of constitutional norms. Section 24(2) was conceived against the backdrop of the American "exclusionary rule", (5) which in Canada is often (inaccurately) perceived to mandate exclusion in every instance of constitutional infringement. (6) The language of section 24(2), which authorizes the exclusion of unconstitutionally obtained evidence when the court determines that admission could "bring the administration of justice into disrepute," reflects a desire to avoid this result. (7) Beyond that, the meaning of the provision is unclear. The Supreme Court of Canada has consequently devoted considerable energy to developing principles to guide trial judges in deciding when to exclude evidence on the basis of section 24(2). Commentators have subjected the complicated jurisprudence emerging from this effort to frequent and trenchant criticism. (8) This criticism, however, has been largely void of theory. (9) Commentators have pointed out ambiguities and contradictions in the doctrine and have argued that exclusion should be less or more frequent on the basis of general preferences for truth seeking or rights protection in the criminal justice process. (10) They have also canvassed the various rationales for exclusion and pointed out aspects of the Court's jurisprudence that are consistent or inconsistent with those rationales. (11) But few have attempted to prescribe an exclusionary regime that is tied to and justified by a single, coherent exclusionary theory.

This article represents such an attempt. I argue that the only worthwhile reason to exclude evidence under section 24(2) is to deter constitutional violations. Taking deterrence seriously allows us to penetrate the ambiguity and confusion surrounding section 24(2) and pursue an optimal accommodation between the competing interests implicated by the provision: encouraging constitutional compliance and convicting the factually guilty. To achieve this accommodation, courts should exclude unconstitutionally obtained evidence unless doing so would be unlikely to deter; that is, when all state actors responsible for the violation honestly and reasonably believed that they were complying with the Charter. This position is close to the contemporary American exclusionary rule, (12) which at least some of the Charter's architects sought to avoid. (13) But having started down the exclusionary road, it is the only reasonable destination.

My argument proceeds as follows. In Part I, I evaluate the most common justifications for exclusion and conclude, as the United States Supreme Court has long...

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