Gun owner’s problems began at roadside check, court hears

October 2, 2015 10:57 pm

A gun owner was convicted of two offences Wednesday despite the fact his Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were breached.

Abram Driedger, of Grande Prairie, Alta., was found guilty of possession of a weapon at an unauthorized place and the careless use of a firearm.

On Sept. 12, 2014, Driedger, 36, was stopped at a roadside checkpoint set up by Yukon RCMP, just north of Teslin.

Territorial conservation officer Jeffrey Piwek, who was working with the RCMP that day, asked Driedger if he had any firearms.

Driedger told him he had firearms in a trailer he was towing, Piwek testified Wednesday in territorial court.

The conservation officer saw what he thought was a firearm case in the back seat, he told the court.

He asked Driedger to unlock his door, retrieved the case and opened it, finding a pistol.

The officer testified Driedger told him he had a licence for the pistol, but only for Alberta.

RCMP Const. Shean Kidd then took over and placed Driedger under arrest.

Kidd testified the police were looking for impaired drivers and were asking for licences and registration at the road check that day.

At around 10:10 a.m., Kidd’s radar detector was triggered.

After checking the first car, he moved to Driedger’s car. The man gave him the radar detector, Kidd testified.

Driedger was later fined for having the detector.

It’s around that time that Piwek retrieved the pistol, and the two started discussing firearms regulations to determine whether there was a violation.

Driedger’s lawyer, Andre Roothman, successfully argued Piwek’s search was a breach of his client’s Charter right against unlawful search and seizure.

Justice Dennis Schmidt noted that the Yukon Wildlife Act authorizes conservation officers to ask drivers to produce wildlife, a firearm, a licence a permit or “other things requested by the officer relating to this act.”

But Piwek chose to bypass that and decided to search the car, the judge said. He ruled that a violation of Driedger’s Charter right.

However, Driedger did consent to the search by unlocking the door when he didn’t have to, the judge noted.

This mitigates the seriousness of the breach “considerably,” the judge said.

He ruled the evidence, the officers’ testimony, should not be excluded.

Crown prosecutor Christiana Lavidas had told the court that the testimony subject to the Charter application was the only evidence the prosecution had.

Roothman didn’t challenge the facts of the case.

However, he argued the Crown had failed to meet the burden of proof in proving that Driedger’s weapon was not properly stored, and that he didn’t have the proper authorization to transport it in the Yukon.

There was a “number of problems” with the storage of the weapon, Schmidt told Roothman before convicting Driedger on both counts.

Piwek was able to manipulate the weapon without having to unlock the case, and the weapon could be seen from the outside, the judge said.

Driedger was fined $200 for each count, plus $120 in a victim fine surcharge.

The judge, however, refused to make a forfeiture order the Crown had sought.

Schmidt said such a forfeiture only happens when a crime such as a robbery involves a weapon.