The Defendant had been found in possession of marijuana and pled guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking, although he stated (and crown counsel accepted at the time of his plea) that he was a “blind mule,” unaware of the marijuana until shortly before being stopped by police. Based on the totality of the evidence, BC Supreme Court Justice Metzger was satisfied that the Defendant was a generally law-abiding individual, that his offence was an isolated one-time incident, and that he had no connection with organized crime.
The Defendant’s 2003 Dodge Ram had been declared, technically speaking, to be an instrument of crime. The question at issue was whether forfeiture in the circumstances was “clearly not in the interests of justice,” or alternatively whether the application of the Civil Forfeiture Act was unconstitutional given the facts of the case.
Weighing in the Defendant’s favour was his lack of a criminal record, the one-time nature of the offence, the retroactivity of the forfeiture (given that the Civil Forfeiture Act was not yet law at the time of the offence), and the fact that Mr. Wolff did not own the truck at the time of the offence, although he did buy out the lease some time later.
Mr. Justice Metzger ultimately found that forfeiture was clearly not in the interests of justice, given the facts and circumstances of the case, and that the truck should be returned to Mr. Wolff immediately. This is the first time that forfeiture has been completed denied under Section 6(1) of British Columbia’s Civil Forfeiture Act. In view of the result, Metzger found that the Defendant’s constitutional argument did not need to be considered.
Decided by the BC Supreme Court on January 24, 2012.
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