(Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Crown appeals Yukon man’s acquittal on drunk driving, drug charges

The Crown is appealing a territorial court judge’s decision to acquit a man on drunk driving and drug possession charges.

Crown lawyers argue the trial judge erred by ruling certain portions of evidence inadmissible on the basis that it violated the man’s Charter rights.

Curtis Rowat was arrested and charged Jan. 27, 2017, with two counts of impaired driving and one count of possession of a controlled substance following an early-morning traffic stop.

Judge Richard Schneider acquitted Rowat on May 16 following a two-day trial, in part because portions of the Crown’s evidence were deemed inadmissible on the grounds that the officer who stopped, and subsequently arrested, Rowat did not have proper grounds to stop him in the first place, therefore violating Rowat’s Charter rights.

According to Schneider’s ruling on the admissibility of the evidence, Rowat was pulled over by an RCMP officer who testified she believed his vehicle was one she had spotted speeding a few kilometres earlier but lost sight of.

In her evidence the officer gave no description of Rowat’s vehicle or any details about how it resembled the one she had earlier observed to be speeding, the judge said.

At the time she came upon him, Rowat’s vehicle was not breaking any traffic laws.

“While it cannot be clearly found that the officer was operating in bad faith, the stop was not made with objectively reasonable grounds,” Schneider wrote.

“Ultimately, the impact upon the accused, while not egregious, was not trivial. There is a societal interest in keeping the streets safe and investigating Motor Vehicles Act breaches but these investigations must be for rational and clearly articulated purposes. Here, the officer’s stated purpose and subsequent stopping of Mr. Rowat did not comport with the requirement that it be objectively reasonable. The appropriate remedy is the exclusion of the evidence flowing from the arbitrary stop.”

In a notice of appeal filed to the Yukon Supreme Court May 29, the Crown claims that Schneider erred in his decision on three grounds: by finding the traffic stop that lead to Rowat’s arrest was done without proper grounds and therefore violated his right to not be “arbitrarily detained or imprisoned” under Section 9 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; by allowing Rowat to advance his allegation of a Charter breach related to the traffic stop without giving notice to the Crown or allowing the Crown to recall as a witness the officer involved; and by excluding cocaine and breath test evidence on the basis that Rowat’s Charter rights had been violated.

The Crown is requesting for the acquittal to be overturned and a new trial ordered.

The matter is set to appear in court June 26.

With files from Ashley Joannou

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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