The Court of Appeal for British Columbia has upheld a Surrey judge’s conviction of Viet Khanh Le, who appealed two convictions of unlawful production and possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana related to a grow op bust on Jan. 27, 2015.
The main issue in the trial, heard in Surrey provincial court in 2018, was the legality of the search. While the trial judge found enough deficiencies in evidence supporting the search to render it invalid and result in Le’s rights being violated under Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he nevertheless found that admitting the evidence against Le wouldn’t bring the administration of justice into disrepute and convicted Le of the charges.
Le’s lawyer argued on appeal that the evidence ought to have been excluded and that the Crown failed to lead evidence concerning critical elements of the case.
The case centred on a 2014 RCMP investigation into a suspected marijuana grow operation on a seven-acre farm in the Township of Langley, close to the border crossing in Aldergrove.
Le held a licence to grow up to 190 plants under the Marihauna Medical Access Regulations while three associates held licences to grow 190, 219 and 390 plants. All together they were also allowed to store roughly 100 pounds of dried pot for personal use.
The court heard that the police found a barn contained 15,305 plants, much more than the 989 allowed, and 1,613 seedlings or clones in a bedroom inside a modular home Le was living in.
“Mr. Le admitted that the marijuana belonged to him, and that he was selling it,” Chief Justice Robert Bauman noted in his appeal court reasons for judgment, with which Justices Harvey Groberman and Gregory James Fitch agreed.
“The judge erred in finding the search warrant to be invalid. Nonetheless, he ultimately decided not to exclude the critical evidence found in the search, so his error was harmless,” Bauman found. However, he added, “because no inadmissible evidence was relied upon by the judge, no reversible error occurred. In the result, I would dismiss the appeal.”