R. v. Vu, 2011 BCCA 536

  • December 28, 2011

Date: 2011-12-28 Frankel, Levine and Low JJ.A. | Link

Crown appealed acquittal of charges of marijuana possession, trafficking and theft of electricity (grow op). Issue concerns whether an information to obtain (“ITO”) that supported the issuance of a warrant to search a residence for evidence of criminal activity was sufficient to support the granting of additional authority to search for “documentation” that could assist in determining who was in control of the premises.  It also raises the issue of whether a warrant to search for “documentation” permits the police to conduct an on-site examination of computers and cellular telephones for electronically-stored information. The ITO stated it was the "intention to seize all equipment and parts utilized to divert electricity, including the meter bases, the electrical meters, new and used BC Hydro meter seals, typed, written or computer generated notes relative to the theft of hydro electricity and records and documentation relating to occupancy and control over the property and electrical services supplied." At para 68 the Court observes "(w)hen the police, in the course of executing a warrant, locate a device that can reasonably be expected to contain an electronically-stored version of a thing they have been authorized to search for, they can examine that device for the purpose of determining whether it contains that thing (i.e., information), but only to the extent necessary to make that determination." The appeal was allowed and the acquittals set aside.