Thursday, June 23, 2016

Penile swab legitimate incident to arrest

Saeed, 2016 SCC 24:

To be reasonable and therefore consistent with s. 8  of the Charter : (1) a search must be authorized by law; (2) the authorizing law must be reasonable; and (3) the search must be conducted reasonably. Determining whether the common law power of search incident to arrest may reasonably authorize a penile swab involves striking a proper balance between an accused's privacy interests and valid law enforcement objectives. In some cases, an accused's privacy interests will be so high as to be almost inviolable. In those cases, the common law power of search incident to arrest must yield, and a search will be allowed only where the accused consents, or a warrant is obtained, or perhaps in exigent circumstances. In others, while the accused's privacy interests may be significant, they will not be so significant as to preclude the power of the police to search incident to arrest. In these cases, the existing general framework of the common law power of search incident to arrest must instead be tailored to ensure the search will be Charter ‑compliant. This case falls into the second category. 

                    A penile swab does not fall within the scope of R. v. Stillman, [1997] 1 S.C.R. 607. First, a penile swab is not designed to seize the accused's own bodily materials but rather, the complainant's. Accused persons do not have a significant privacy interest in a complainant's DNA. Second, a penile swab is in some ways less invasive than taking dental impressions and the forcible taking of parts of a person. Third, unlike with the accused's bodily materials or impressions, evidence of the complainant's DNA degrades over time. In sum, a penile swab implicates different privacy interests and law enforcement objectives than seizures of an accused's bodily samples and impressions.

                    The common law power of search incident to arrest must be delineated in a way that is consistent with s. 8  of the Charter . There can be no doubt that requiring a penile swab is an intrusion on an accused's privacy. A penile swab has the potential to be a humiliating, degrading and traumatic experience. On the other side of the ledger, it can serve important law enforcement objectives. It can enable the police to preserve important evidence that runs the risk of degrading or being destroyed. Sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to prove and this type of evidence is highly reliable. A penile swab can be crucial in the case of complainants who are unable to testify. The privacy interests at issue are similar to those implicated in strip searches and they can be protected by a similar approach. As with strip searches, the common law must provide a means of preventing unjustified searches before they occur and a means of ensuring that when these searches do occur, they are conducted in a reasonable manner. The reasonable grounds standard and guidelines regarding the manner of taking the swab provide these two protections. These two modifications to the common law power of search incident to arrest ensure that it is Charter ‑compliant.

                    The police may take a penile swab incident to arrest if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the search will reveal and preserve evidence of the offence for which the accused was arrested. The reasonable grounds standard will prevent unjustified searches before they occur and will hold the police to a higher level of justification before they can take a penile swab. Whether reasonable grounds have been established will vary with the facts of each case. Relevant factors include the timing of the arrest in relation to the alleged offence, the nature of the allegations, and whether there is evidence that the substance being sought has already been destroyed. The potential for destruction or degradation of the complainant's DNA will always be a concern in this context. 

                    The swab must also be conducted in a reasonable manner. The following factors will guide police in conducting penile swabs incident to arrest reasonably. A swab should, as a general rule, be conducted at the police station. It should be conducted in a manner that ensures the health and safety of all involved. It should be authorized by a police officer acting in a supervisory capacity. The accused should be informed shortly before the swab of the nature of the procedure, its purpose and the authority of the police to require the swab. The accused should be given the option of removing his clothing and taking the swab himself or the swab should be taken or directed by a trained officer or medical professional, with the minimum of force necessary. The officers carrying out the swab should be of the same gender as the accused unless the circumstances compel otherwise. There should be no more police officers involved in the swab than are reasonably necessary in the circumstances. The swab should be carried out in a private area. It should be conducted as quickly as possible and in a way that ensures that the person is not completely undressed at any one time. A proper record should be kept of the reasons for and the manner in which the swabbing was conducted.

Of the Law Societies of Upper Canada and Nunavut 

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