Saturday, April 29, 2006

School Searches: R. v. M., A. (April 28, 2006)

On Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal released a decision upholding a trial judge's decision to exclude evidence that was obtained by police in a random search of students at a high school using sniffer dogs.

The Court agreed with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in that:

"The dog is a necessary, direct, and integral part of the police officers’ search of the classrooms, gymnasium and backpacks. The dog is, in essence, a physical extension of its handler and is directly and immediately connected to the consequent physical search of the backpack."

The Court further agreed that:

"A student’s backpack is in effect a portable bedroom and study rolled into one. It will contain personal items such as journals, photos, letters, personal hygiene items, medication, clothing and school records. Backpacks are often in reality the only way for students to carry and use items that are personal and important to them. These items are shielded from view and access.

There are no contextual factors that diminish students’ legitimate expectation of privacy, dignity, and autonomy in their backpacks. Students’ expectation of privacy in their backpacks is objectively reasonable. Backpacks are not searched in the normal course of a school day, nor do students come to school expecting that their backpacks will be searched. The students did not consent to their backpacks being searched on November 7, 2002 and the Principal certainly could not consent on their behalf."

In my opinion, this case represents an appreciation of youths' civil rights - something that is often overlooked in society when compared to the liberties that adults are afforded. This excellent decision can be found on the Ontario Court of Appeal webpage here: R. v. M., A. (April 28, 2006).

The case also represents skilled and precision advocacy. Congratulations to Walter Fox, Jonathan C. Lisus, Christopher A. Wayland and Sarah W. Corman for their tremendous efforts. Great work!

No comments: