Alberta Appeal Court rules on drug bail

March 8, 2021

R v Zacharias, 2020 ABCA 471

On December 18, 2020, the Alberta Court of Appeal in Calgary released a drug bail decision in the case R v Zacharias, in which it decided whether to allow an accused who’d been convicted at trial to remain on bail until the Court of Appeal heard his appeal.

In this case, the accused had been convicted of transporting over 100 pounds of marijuana, as well as possession of the proceeds of crime, which usually means cash earned by committing crimes.

At trial, the Court heard that the accused was pulled over by an officer for having tinted windows and a burnt-out fog light, and that the officer just so happened to have extensive training in detecting drug traffickers on Alberta highways, as well as their own sniffer dog. Maybe it was true that an officer with that training and equipment pulled over the accused for tinted windows and a missing fog light, maybe not, but the Court believed it. The accused and his vehicle were searched, and the police found the marijuana and $12,000 in cash.

Unlike bail before trial, bail between trial and appeal is not assumed to be appropriate: after all, there is no longer a presumption of innocence, because the accused has been convicted. Instead, the onus is on the accused to establish that:

  1. his appeal is not frivolous;
  2. he will surrender himself into custody in accordance with the terms of the order; and
  3. his detention is not necessary in the public interest.

In this case, the accused’s release on appeal turned on the third factor, and the Court of Appeal carefully considered previous case law to determine whether the facts in the case of the accused were worse than other accused parties who had been released in similar circumstances. The Alberta Bail Office is a critical resource in moments like these to make sure that a court with your freedom in its hands has the most favourable possible precedent to review, explained in a way that helps persuade that court to give you your release.



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