Rules of Police Entrapment | Supreme Court Rulings

August 7, 2020

In all but the most clear-cut scenarios, the line that crosses over into police entrapment can be difficult to prove. Add in the plethora of police entrapment myths and misunderstandings from pop culture and the term can be especially confusing. As such, any new ruling in police entrapment cases can help to clarify where the law stands.

A recent ruling before the Supreme Court is one such case.

The Fact Scenario 

The Supreme Court of Canada has passed down rulings on police entrapment in two separate “dial-a-dope” drug trafficking cases. The Court combined two separate offenders who were arrested and charged after two similar police drug investigations. 

In both instances, police received tips that cocaine was being sold over the phone. They acted on this information by calling the suspected drug dealer and negotiating the purchase of drugs. Upon completion of the drug deal, the police arrested and searched the accused. 

In their separate trials, both men were convicted. In an attempt to overturn their convictions, the defendants made a joint appeal to the Court of Appeals on the basis of entrapment.

Police Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when police officers influence a suspect to commit a crime that they would not have. A police entrapment defence is generally used where there has been a demonstrable abuse of process and fairness. This typically falls under one of two categories.

  1. Reasonable Suspicion: Police must have reasonable suspicion before targeting the accused, and must conduct some investigation prior to offering the opportunity.
  2. Offering Opportunity VS Acting to Induce Commission of Offence: If the police offer an opportunity to conduct the offence – while having reasonable suspicion of the accused – it is not entrapment. If, however, the act is induced through trickery, persuasion, or fraud, it may be considered entrapment.

Court of Appeal

At the Court of Appeal, the defence argued that the police did not have reasonable suspicion of the specific person answering the phone. As such, their Charter Rights were violated. The tips the police received were only about the phone number, and not the person on the other end. They reasoned that the reasonable suspicion would only apply to the phone number, and not the person answering.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeal ruled that the reasonable suspicion of the phone number was sufficient enough to allow the police to encourage the person answering to commit the crime. Even though they lacked the information on the specific person. As a result, it was found not to satisfy entrapment, and the convictions held.

They took the case one step forward with an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Ruling on Drug Trafficking Entrapment

At the Supreme Court, the defendants received two separate verdicts. The difference came down to how the police conducted the phone calls. The opposing results help to provide a clearer picture of how the Supreme Court determines entrapment.

During the phone call with the first defendant, the police had a more revealing conversation with the suspect. They were able to gather what the Supreme Court ruled to be reasonable suspicion on the call before they asked the suspect to commit the crime. As a result, the Court ruled that entrapment did not apply and he was convicted.

In the call with the second defendant, the Supreme Court determined that the police did not receive sufficient information to satisfy reasonable suspicion before asking him to commit the offence. Therefore this lack of reasonable suspicion meant that entrapment applied.

The Takeaway

Police do not require reasonable suspicion of an individual to make a phone call. They do, however, need it before they can encourage that individual to commit an offence. Without reasonable suspicion for that specific crime, it is entrapment.

If you, or a loved one, are facing criminal charges your best option is a criminal defence lawyer. William Jaksa is a criminal lawyer with experience in challenging evidence and selecting relevant appeals. He understands that you are more than your charges and will stand up for your rights and interests. Book a consultation today.

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