No Mobile While Mobile!

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Distracted driving. It’s a hot topic these days – it seems that technology is steadily advancing, while our common sense refuses to evolve. It’s an issue that, in some ways, exploded overnight. Ever since our provincial government implemented the Immediate Roadside Prohibition scheme, the focus has been centered on impaired driving. As the number of drunk driving related fatalities (supposedly) continues to fall as a result of the IRP system (in fact our Government now says that distracted driving is the leading cause of death on roadways in BC), lawmakers have narrowed in on distracted driving – to be specific, reanalyzing the financial and disciplinary consequences of being caught while talking on an electronic device while driving. Brace yourselves: the pain train is coming.

If you’ve been using your phone while driving, trying to send that one last text, or fumbling with your playlist while going unnoticed, all the while scanning intersections for police cruisers…well, today’s the day you might want to quit. As of June 1, 2016, fines handed out by police have increased from $167 to $368. Further, a driver will now receive 4 penalty points instead of 3 – and 4 points is all that’s required for a $175 penalty towards your insurance. So basically, on your first offence, it’ll cost you $543. If you get caught a second time within 12 months, that penalty will cost you $888, and you risk losing your license for 90 days (click here to be redirected to the ICBC penalty point premium information page).

It’s important to remember that although nearly every article you’ll read about this topic will use the term distracted driving, the real offence that is being described is the use of an electronic device while driving. You are still safe to drink your coffee and eat your bagel (for now) (and please do so responsibly). Please remember that driving with your cellphone wedged between your shoulder and ear isn’t a legal loophole – it almost worked for this guy, but he lost on appeal). Also make sure to check out this post which touches on the hypocrisy of one of RoadSafety’s policies.

It’s also important to remember that the tickets handed out for this offence are not criminal charges, rather, they are issued under the Motor Vehicle Act. As of right now, these violation tickets are still heard before a Provincial Court Judge within the jurisdiction of issue. The offices of Tarnow & Company and Jason D. Tarnow Law Corporation are both well equip with criminal lawyers to handle the trials of these matters, in any jurisdiction of the lower mainland, including but not limited to Richmond, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, etc.

If you receive a ticket for talking on your cellphone while driving, or any other section of the Motor Vehicle Act, contact our office within 30 days (time limit for dispute) of receiving the ticket for advice regarding the best course of action. We also handle appeals of driving prohibitions that come as a result of an unsatisfactory driving record.

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Snoop Dogg Monologue

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snooooooop

Hip hop star Snoop Dogg played a DJ set at Vancouver’s Fortune Sound club on Saturday, April 17, 2016. His travel into Canada, however, was met with resistance by officials at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) – which isn’t anything new for Snoop. He frequently encounters complications when crossing international borders – to note, he was recently hassled by officials in Italy for carrying around $400,000 cash, and was banned from entering the UK in 2006, after he and his posse were denied from British Airways’ First Class Lounge. A brawl ensued, and ultimately, Snoop was permanently banned from entering the United Kingdom (and ever flying on British Airways again). Snoop has previously been arrested for other criminal offences with respect to firearms, assault, and narcotics.

It is presumed that Snoop was referred for secondary screening by CBSA as a consequence of his clear endorsement of cannabis. Cannabis is widely used across the US, and is legal in several states for medicinal and recreational purposes. It’s just as frequently accessed by Canadians, and we intend to catch up to our southern neighbors pretty soon (The Liberal government announced that Federal legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana will be making its way to Parliament in Spring 2017).

Understandingly, the rapper became enraged at what he observed when he cruised down a back alley in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side – a district riddled with intravenous drug users, disorder, etc. In his Instagram video (link here), Snoop vocalizes his disdain at how Canadian Border officials dealt with his entrance into the country. To sum it up, he basically shames the Canadian Government with respect to how its priorities are organized – clearly indicating that the prevalent opioid use in Vancouver’s DTES should be viewed as a much more serious issue than a little bit of weed.

Anyone with knowledge of the differences between marijuana and heroin knows which is the lesser of 2 evils – so it does seem contradictory that we not only condone the use of heroin on the DTSE, but seemingly encourage and accommodate it, too. Insite (which is located near where Snoop’s gig was) is a publicly funded program, and its main goal is harm reduction. The idea is that if we are able to monitor heroin use, we will be able to minimize the number of overdoses, and prevent individuals from sharing and disposing of syringes and other tools. As you might guess, the venture isn’t cheap.

The Court of public opinion on law enforcement priorities is harsh, swift, and unforgiving. Snoop’s Instagram rant has received hundreds of thousands of views, and his sentiments were shared by the majority of viewers. If you consider the amount of money that has been directed towards Insite, and the amount of money that is spent annually on investigating and prosecuting marijuana related offences, it’s easy to understand why people are so frustrated with our Government’s stance on cannabis policy. Hypocritical, controversial, and contradictory are the best 3 words to describe our Government’s prerogative on combatting one deadly drug, while ever-so-slowly recognizing the innocuous nature of another.

In any event, it’s fair to say that Snoop Dogg is tired of the chronic problems he encounters when travelling from one place to another – my guess is that he’ll continue to hash it out with border officials. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, anyways.

In the decades that we have been practicing criminal law, we have rarely, if ever, seen a violent crime associated with simple marijuana possession or use. Violence is more frequently associated to drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. If you have found yourself in a situation that involves criminal charges related to any of the aforementioned, or any other area of criminal law, call our office at any time for a free consultation.

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Big Brother: Proposed “Injectable” GPS tracking system draws criticism

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Apparently, the truth is stranger than fiction, even when it’s like something straight out of George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four: injectable GPS tracking devices for notorious criminals.

That’s what Williams Lake City Council members voted on this week – unanimously. With a population of roughly 14,000 people, the community is now grappling with serious, unrelenting criminal activity. The Canadian Federal government keeps track of the statistics with respect to crime in municipalities across the country, sourced from Statistics Canada Crime Severity Index. While no one was surprised to see Williams Lake make the list (it has for many,many years) there was new concern this time around when the city was ranked at the top of the Index. Concern escalated when this past Monday, surveillance captured 2 males stealing another males bicycle at gun point in broad daylight. The brazen nature of the crime set alarm bells sounding.

It has been reported that out of the community of roughly 14,000 people. Between 20-100 of them are known to police as being prolific offenders – that is, individuals who are frequently at odds with the law. On paper, Williams Lake RCMP have 13 local residents on their prolific offender list, 7 of whom are currently behind bars. The rest are being closely monitored.

City Councillor Scott Nelson was quoted saying “For the privacy of few who don’t even believe in law, we need to use the technology to the benefit of the society as a whole,” when defending the Council’s unanimous vote for injectable GPS trackers. Indeed, having a GPS device located on an individual who is a high-risk to re-offend would probably result in peace of mind for a community ravaged by crime – but it comes at a high cost to a society that is increasingly leery of police presence.

As it stands, there is no legal authority for the use of injectable GPS tracking. GPS monitoring for other Canadian offenders is tightly regulated and requires judicial authorization. Civil liberties lawyers have responded to the Williams Lake City Council by advising that there is little to no likelihood that such a system would ever be found to be constitutional.

For now, Williams Lake will have to rely on good old fashioned police work and vigilant, community minded residents to do their part in keeping the small northern town safe.

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Little Black Box: When smart devices aren’t so smart

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When a defence lawyer gets a new file that involves the search and seizure of evidence from their client, the first thing they will want to investigate is if the search was lawful. An unlawful search can often result in evidence being excluded from Trial. Laws surrounding search and seizure are ever-changing, but the fundamental rights laid out in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are enduring. Section 8 of the Charter protects Canadians from unreasonable search and seizure, which means that police are often required to obtain a warrant (judicial authorization) before proceeding to collect any evidence they wish to use at Trial.

There have been several pivotal developments in this area of the law recently, one coming from the Court of Appeal. Rodney Fedan of Kamloops, B.C., lost the appeal of his dangerous driving causing death conviction after he argued that his Charter rights were violated when RCMP collected information from his truck’s “little black box” without a warrant. The little black box I am referring to is known as a Sensing Diagnostic Module (“SDM”); they are commonly installed by manufacturers in passenger vehicles. Their main purpose is to monitor the condition/deployment of the airbags, but they have become increasingly more intelligent over the past decade, and are coveted by accident re-constructionists for the data they record and store. Re-constructionists can download the data from the “little black box” and use it to develop insight into the nature of a motor vehicle accident. In Mr. Fedan’s case, the 5 seconds of data recorded by the SDM immediately preceding the crash (which is generally all they record) was all that was needed to prove that Mr. Fedan was travelling at approximately 106 km/hour when he veered off of the winding road he and his passengers. The ensuing accident resulted in the death of 22 year old Brittany Plotnikoff and 38 year old Ken Craigdallie.

Fedan argued that his reasonable expectation of privacy was breached when RCMP officers seized the data from his SDM without a warrant. Unfortunately for him, 3 B.C. Court of Appeal Judges disagreed when they held that the Supreme Court Judge was reasonable in allowing the material into evidence at Trial.

It is crucial to note that Mr. Fedan was not aware that the SDM was capable of downloading and storing data that would be useful to the RCMP in such an investigation. Since he had no knowledge of the data’s existence, he could have no reasonable expectation over its privacy. This is in stark contrast to the level of privacy a person would expect to have over the information stored on their computer or cellphone – warrants are generally required to seize and search these devices (unless searching them is considered to be incidental to arrest).

When the case was originally heard in October 2014, Mr. Fedan was sentenced to 3 years in jail and was banned for driving from 3 years. He was not convicted of impaired driving after the blood samples obtained were ruled to be inadmissible.

Impaired driving cases are complex, and are taken extremely serious by the police and the Courts. If you are facing charges related to drinking and driving, contact Jason and David Tarnow for a free consultation. Our office is conveniently located in central Richmond, easily accessible from anywhere in the lower mainland.

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Dearly Deported

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A student from Russia who has been studying in B.C. will find out on Wednesday if he will be ordered to leave Canada as a result of his recent criminal convictions. Vladislav Anautov, 23, plead guilty in Kamloops Provincial Court to an assault on his girlfriend that took place on February 27 in the off-campus apartment they shared together. The young man was free on Bail pending the outcome of his sentencing hearing – until the RCMP found his girlfriend hiding in his closet while checking to ensure he was abiding by the Court imposed conditions of his Bail (including a condition of having no contact with the victim). Anautov was promptly arrested and placed in custody. On Monday, April 20, 2015, he plead guilty to breaching the terms of his Bail order.

Since Anautov is in Canada on a student visa, an investigation was launched by the Canadian Border Services Agency to determine his immigration status. It has been reported that Vladislav will leave Canada on his own free will, which the Crown hopes to supplement with an Order from the Court. The Crown hopes to avoid having an immigration hearing, which could be both time consuming and costly.

A lot of people will read this article and wonder why the young woman is still in contact with her alleged abuser. You may be surprised to learn that this is not an uncommon occurrence in assault files. It is partially related to the fact that there is a common misconception about the charge process in Canada. Once you have called the police about an incident and they have become involved, the charge approval process is, for the most part, out of your hands. Individuals do not charge other individuals. Police agencies forward the results of their investigation to the charge approval sector of Crown Counsel, who will decide if there is enough evidence to charge the Accused (likelihood of conviction). That is why the style of cause in criminal proceedings heads the Queen against the Accused. For example:

R. v. John Smith à R stands for Regina, which represents our Queen (even though her name is Elizabeth. When we have a King, the R represents Rex).

We are a commonwealth country, and are sovereign to the (for now) Queen.

This is why domestic assault files are often difficult to prosecute. Again and again we see the complainant (the victim) wanting to withdraw from the process, or, completely refusing to participate in any part of said process that will lead to trouble for the Accused. It is very common to see an Accused person breach the terms of their Bail for this very reason – because both parties want to remain in contact.

 To sum it up: If you have been charged with assault stemming from a domestic incident, and have had a no-contact order put in place as a condition of your release, do not contact that person directly or indirectly. If they send you a text, do not respond to it. Do not answer their calls, or speak to them through a 3rd party – just call us.

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RiotTV: a political stunt

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This week, British Columbia’s Attorney General, Shirley Bond, announced that the government would abandon the direction it gave to Crown prosecutors to make Applications to televise the legal proceedings of those accused of crimes relating to Vancouver’s Stanley Cup riot. The government appears to have had this change of heart after it’s first Application was dismissed against Mr. Ryan Dickenson – who is the first person being sentenced in in relation to the riot. The judge felt that the Crown did not provide enough information to support the Application – namely the cost associated with televising these legal proceedings.

I really could go on & on about how inappropriate I felt these “RiotTV” applications were in the first place. I am a firm believer that cameras have no purpose in our courtrooms. Of course, there is the reasonable argument of transparency and that having cameras would better educate people on how the justice system functions. But to those people I say walk down to your local courthouse, read case law, order transcripts of court proceedings, if you’re so inclined. The risks of having cameras in courtrooms, in my opinion, far outweigh the benefits. A criminal trial is a ‘truth-seeking’ exercise. Witnesses may be hesitant to give full accounts of their evidence if they know the world is watching them. Lawyers may tailor their questioning of witnesses for the same reasons. Judges may be reluctant to decide a case in a certain way if it is deemed to be unpopular with the public. Prosecutors worry about their personal safety. In fact, all participants in a criminal trial worry about their personal safety. No one wants their face frozen in time on YouTube – and in this day and age, that is what happens. I see what happens on TV in American courtrooms and I do not want Canada’s justice system to go there.

But why did Premier Christy Clark demand that these particular offenders be put on TV? She said something along the lines of “well they committed their crimes on camera, therefore they should have no problem being dealt with by the courts while on camera”.

The logic in that is ridiculous. I have had dozens of clients who’s criminal acts have been captured on CCTV cameras – for murder, break & enter, sexual assault, DUI’s and drug offences. Crimes, which I argue, are far worse than some of my clients who stand charged in relation to Vancouver’s riot.

So why didn’t the government seek to televise these other crimes caught on camera? Because there was nothing to be gained politically from doing so.

The fact of the matter is this: June 15, 2011 was an awful day in Vancouver’s history and the government tried to gain politically from what happened that day. In doing so, they tried to interfere with the justice system’s independence. This ultimately blew up in their face. The BC Liberals are quite out of touch with the ailing state of our justice system – and it is largely due to the financial cutbacks they imposed over the last decade. Legal Aid is seriously reduced for those who need legal representation. We need more judges. We need more sheriffs. The system is in crisis.

RiotTV was nothing more than a political stunt. I accept that being “tough on crime” is attractive to voters – but the manner in which the government tried to appear tough on crime was only intended as a diversion from the real problems our justice system is facing. I think the public saw through the political stunt from the beginning – and the public will remember this when the next provincial election is called.

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