Case of B.C. man caught with 27,500 fentanyl pills thrown out due to Charter breach

‘Ambiguous’ signal by drug sniffer dog Doodz leads to B.C. Supreme Court decision

A man caught with 27,500 fentanyl pills in a van at a traffic stop in Chilliwack is free and clear after a B.C. Supreme Court justice dismissed charges due to Charter violations.

Sandor Rigo was driving a mini-van on Highway 1 on April 4, 2017 when he was pulled over by Cpl. Clayton Catelier, a police service dog handler with Fraser Valley Traffic Services, according to a decision posted on Jan. 21.

Catelier noticed a strong odour of cologne or air freshener in the minivan and several cellphones between the driver and passengers seats, both indicators of possible drug dealing.

Cpl. Catelier also noted that Rigo was “shaking violently.” Based on those three factors, and that Rigo had a “nonsensical” story about why he was travelling between Vancouver and Calgary, the officer detained Rigo for a drug investigation.

• RELATED: There have been 1,380 overdose deaths in B.C. this year: Coroner

The officer then deployed his police service dog, Doodz, to the exterior of the van. What happened next was the subject of some ambiguity, as Doodz seemed to be “in odour” (i.e. detecting drugs) and was bouncing her nose, wagging her tail and sniffing hard.

The dog then did a partial sit or attempted to sit but was blocked by a curb. Sitting is the indication the dog has found narcotics. Catelier then advised Rigo that Doodz had detected narcotics, and he was under arrest.

Rigo was transported to the Chilliwack detachment, and the vehicle was towed to a local tire shop. An initial search of the vehicle turned up nothing, but on closer attention, Catelier opened the housing over the right rear well and found five bags filled with fentanyl pills.

Defence called a former Anaheim County police dog handler deemed an expert who was critical of the video of Doodz’s behaviour and Catelier’s dog handling. Much of the decision in the voir dire addressing the alleged Charter violations was focused around the dog’s search.

In his written decision, Justice Michael Brundrett found that Catelier lawfully detained Rigo, he had reasonable grounds to conduct a dog-sniff search, but he questioned the purported alert by Doodz.

“I have found that the final sit confirmation was ambiguous and not sufficiently objectively reliable such that it adequately adds to the overall totality of circumstances so as to justify a search of the vehicle,” Justice Brundrett wrote.

Brundrett concluded the subsequent search was a violation of section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also found the officers involved did not properly offer Rigo the right to contact a lawyer, therefore there was also a violation of section 10(b) of the Charter.

• RELATED: Judge says B.C. drug dealer was ready for ‘gun warfare’


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Three projects on the North Coast awarded funding

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Hagensborg Water District purchases new fire truck; prepares for conversion to CCRD

Approximately $1.3 million of the district’s infrastructure grant has been transferred to the CCRD.

Nuxalk Nation receives over $4 million in funding for Big House

The funding is joint federal, provincial and municipal and will support 24 infrastructure projects

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

RCMP confirm homicide investigation underway near Quesnel

Police releasing few details four days after homicide occurred Monday, July 6

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Large rogue floating ‘island’ corralled by Lac la Hache residents

At least 60 feet wide, this large mass of plants is free-floating on the lake

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Most Read