As reported in the Ottawa Citizen, in a recent drug trafficking case the Ontario Superior Court considered whether the police could enter, without a search warrant, the common elements of the condominium building in which the accused resided.
The police investigation was focused on Yanni Papadolias, a suspected drug dealer. The police had reason to believe that illegal drugs were being stored somewhere in the condominium building that Mareth White, a colleague of Papadolias, resided in. The police entered White’s condominium building several times through an unlocked side door and, on one occasion, by following the mailman as he entered the building. On one visit, the police visually inspected White’s locker without actually entering into the locker. During one of these visits to the condominium, the police saw Papadolias leaving White's unit carrying a liquor box. It was subsequently determined that the liquor box contained illegal drugs. Based on this, the police then obtained a warrant to search White’s unit and subsequently found a large quantity of marijuana and cocaine in White’s unit.
The judge determined that the warrant to search White’s unit would not have been obtained without the information that the police had obtained from their earlier, unauthorized visits to the building. Accordingly, the evidence obtained from the search of White’s unit was excluded and White was not convicted of the drug trafficking charge.
The court determined that the previous police visits to the common elements of the condominium constituted trespassing and infringed on White’s privacy rights. Even though the police did not enter White’s residential unit or locker during these unauthorized visits, the judge stated that White’s privacy rights started at the condominium garage door. As an owner’s interest includes not only ownership of his/her unit, but also a percentage interest in all of the condominium’s common elements, the judge’s reasoning is consistent with this concept.
In this case, the police entered the condominium property without the knowledge or consent of the condominium corporation or management. However, in other cases, the police may request the condominium corporation or management to assist in their investigation. Our previous blog “When Police Arrive at Your Condo” tells you what to do when this happens.