Lately you've probably heard a lot in the news about the Civil Forfeiture Act and how the Director (arguably an extension of the Province) is now regularly applying to seize the houses of persons found growing marijuana illegally. While the seizure of someone's property would seem to be punitive and criminal law in nature, technically the Civil Forfeiture regime is not considered to be an area of criminal law and therefore it is veiwed as independent of a prosecution by the Crown. What that means is that even if you aren't actually criminally charged, or if charges are ultimately dropped, the Director of Civil Forfeiture can still apply to take your house under the Civil Forfeiture Act. Seems sort of unfair, right? Well the Courts don't think so and as long as the law is there, it will continue to be used.
We represent a number of clients who are subject to this regime and whom we've been fighting for to help keep their houses. Last week we had a case where the Director was attempting to seize a house despite the fact that the client had not only been acquitted in the criminal trial, but the reason for the acquital was that the Judge found a large number of Charter breaches and ruled all of the drug evidence inadmissible. No surprise - the police were not happy about the Judge's verdict so they referred the matter for Civil Forfeiture in spite of the acquittal.
We argued that it would be 'clearly contrary to the interests of justice' to allow the Director to use the drugs for a Civil trial after another Judge had already ruled the evidence inadmissible on account of the plethora of Charter breaches. Before getting an official ruling from the Judge as to whether the drugs would be admissible on the Civil trial, the Director elected to abandon its case.
If you are dealing with similar issues and your house is subject to seizure by the Director of Civil Forfeiture, then give us a call.