Alberta (Minister of Justice) v. Chau, 2011 ABCA 376

In Chau, the Court of Appeal upheld an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision, refusing to grant forfeiture of a Defendant’s house (which had been deemed an instrument of crime), on the basis that she had demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that she did not have knowledge of the illegal marijuana grow operation that existed there.

The appeals court described certain language in the trial judge’s reasons for judgement as “confusing,” but found that he had not erred in placing the onus on the Crown to prove on the balance of probabilities that the Defendant was aware of the illegal activity taking place on her property.

The Chau decision stands for the proposition that appeals courts are generally hesitant to interfere with findings of fact of a trial judge, and that this principle applies equally to civil forfeiture cases as it does to other areas of law.

Decided by the Alberta Court of Appeal on December 16, 2011.
Click here for the full text of the decision.

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