On December 13, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada released R. v. Reeves, 2018 SCC 56, a significant decision respecting the effect of the consent of a co-owner or third party to the police seizure of a computer. In brief, the Court held that the consent of one co-owner is not sufficient to override another person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in a shared electronic device. Such a conclusion is consistent with recent s. 8 jurisprudential developments, which have found the existence of a reasonable expectation of privacy despite the absence of exclusive control over the device or information in question.
The facts are as follows. The accused shared a home with his common-law spouse. In 2011, the Appellant Reeves was charged with domestic assault and bound by a no-contact order which prohibited him from attending at the family home without his spouse’s consent.
In October 2012, Reeves’ spouse withdrew her consent and advised Reeves’ probation officer that she and her sister had found what appeared to be child pornography on the home computer. The police attended at the residence in response without a warrant, as the officer did not believe he had reasonable grounds to obtain one. Reeves’ spouse allowed the officer to enter the home, and signed a consent authorizing the seizure of the jointly owned computer, which was located in a shared space in the home. On the authority of that consent, the police seized the computer. It was not searched until four months later when a search warrant was obtained. Upon execution of the warrant, the police located images and videos of child pornography.