In Regina v. Raj, 2018 ONCA 623 (CanLII) the Ontario Court of Appeal dealt with the conviction appeal for an accused person involving a commercial dump-truck operator. It was a case Dangerous Driving involving alcohol and the use of a Commercial Vehicle. The facts underpinning the appeal involved a proven allegation that the accused had driven the raised box of his dump truck into an over-pass. The accused was/is a professional truck driver. On July 31, 2014, he was driving a commercial dump truck on the Queen Elizabeth Highway (“QEW”). There was a trailer attached to the truck whose box could be raised and lowered using a system of buttons and levers in the truck called the Power Take-off (“PTO”) system. That day, the appellant had left the PTO lever in the ‘On’ position. Under certain circumstances, leaving the PTO engaged permitted the trailer to rise.
The accident scene was chaotic and dangerous, and the police placed the accused in a police car for 2.5 hours for his own safety. The following arguments were raised by the accused’s criminal appeal lawyers: First, it was posited that the trial judge erred by concluding that the appellant’s confinement in the police cruiser for 2.5 hours was not an arbitrary detention contrary to s. 9 of the CanadianCharter of Rights and Freedoms. Second, if that argument was successful, then it was argued that result would be that the police breached both his s. 9 and s. 10 Charter rights. This, it was argued, would call for a reappraisal of the trial judge’s s. 24(2) analysis and lead to a different result – the exclusion of the evidence relating to the smell of alcohol on the appellant’s breath. The Court disagreed. It said that the principal, and continuing, purpose of the appellant’s detention was his own safety. His truck had caused a terrible accident with extensive damage to vehicles and a bridge and injuries to several people. The police noticed the appellant walking around a dangerous accident scene and sitting on a guardrail very close to a damaged and collapsing girder. Importantly, his truck was crushed.
The Ontario Court of Appeal also upheld the decision of the trial judge admitting evidence of a smell of alcohol on the accused’s breath even though the police did not provide access to counsel during the detention, breaching s.10(b) of the Charter. The police conduct was only a mistake and not deliberate misconduct, and the police would have smelled the alcohol even if they had acted properly.
What is more, the Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s finding that the accused’s conduct was a marked departure from a reasonable person’s driving. This was mostly due, in large part on the accused’s alcohol consumption, and his failure over forty (40) seconds to notice that the box of his dump truck had raised. The court said that prior to colliding with the bridge superstructure the appellant drove a one (1) kilometer distance for forty (40) seconds without detecting the rising dump box despite its effect on the truck’s handling and despite it being clearly visible from all of the truck’s mirrors.Given all the factors, the Court of Appeal dismissed the possibility of the that period of time constituting an “momentary inadvertence.”