Judge Dismissed DUI Because Cops Took Too Long to Return Suspect’s Turban
Police officers are used to evidence getting thrown out when it’s alleged that cops mishandled it or it’s deemed somehow unreliable. What’s absurd is ignoring someone’s crime because the police officers are alleged to have not done something that’s unrelated to evidence in the case. That’s what happened in the land of ketchup, hockey, and sub-standard beer; Canada (relax Canada, we’re kidding about the beer part; it’s pretty standard.)
National Post reports:
An Ontario judge has dismissed charges against a Sikh man who was found to be driving with an excessive blood-alcohol level because it took more than three hours for police to return his turban.
Sardul Singh was arrested by Peel Regional Police at about 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2014, during a roadside spot check. As he was placed into the back of a police car, his turban hit the door frame and fell off.
The turban wasn’t returned to Singh until about 10:50 p.m., by which time he had been booked at the police station and ordered to give a breath sample.
In court, Singh argued that his Charter right to freedom of religion had been violated and that he felt shameful to be seen without his turban.
The Crown conceded there had been a Charter breach but argued there was no “causal connection” between that Charter breach and the obtaining of the breath sample.
But in a decision released this week, Ontario Judge Jill Copeland said the harm done to Singh was significant.
“I accept the defendant’s evidence that it was shameful for him to be without his turban and it made him feel vulnerable,” she wrote.
“The lack of a causal connection between the infringement of the defendant’s freedom of religion and the obtaining of the breath samples does not make the impact he felt in terms of shame and vulnerability any less.”
Since 2012, Peel Regional Police have had a policy that says turbans can be removed for searches but must be returned after the search is done, unless the prisoner is suicidal, the ruling said.
On the night in question, officers acted in a “careless manner” with respect to Singh’s right to freedom of religion, Copeland said. There were no security issues related to returning the turban to Singh.
The judge noted that Singh never actually asked police to return his turban. While giving his breath sample, he appeared to be more concerned about the return of his car and the effect his arrest would have on his driver’s licence since he works as a truck driver.
But that didn’t matter, the judge said, since “a detainee should not have to ask police for his turban back when the police are aware that it is an item worn for the purpose of religious observance.”
Copeland suggested that the arresting officer, who had tried to put the turban back on Singh’s head when it fell off, could have temporarily removed the handcuffs to allow Singh to put the turban back on since he had been “co-operative throughout at the roadside.”
I haven’t personally seen this happen in court, but I’ve met my share of batty judges who might do something like this. Imagine being the victim of a crime and then being told by a judge that the responding police officers weren’t respectful enough to the suspect, so they get to walk.
What’s crazier about this is that the judge is saying that the police officers should have removed their prisoner from handcuffs so that the drunk could put his turban back on. It’s an officer safety issue to let a drunk out of handcuffs. You don’t want a prisoner out of handcuffs when they have a drunken mood swing.
Do you think that there are any circumstances that should allow for charges to be dismissed because police officers were somehow disrespectful? Let us know what you think.