R. v. Patrick

2009 SCC 17

In this case, police suspected the accused of drug operations in his home but lacked evidence with which to obtain a search warrant. In order to obtain relevant evidence, they covertly seized garbage bags placed for collection at the edge of the property, from which they gathered sufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant for the home. The subsequent search of the home revealed that the accused was operating an ecstasy lab. The accused argued that the seizure of the garbage bags breached his s.8 Charter rights. The trial and appeals courts both rejected this argument, finding that the accused had no reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage left out for collection. The majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the courts below, finding that the accused had abandoned any privacy interest he had in the contents of his garbage bags when he placed them at the edge of his property where any passer-by or foraging animal might gain access to the contents. The subjective and ongoing interest in keeping the biographical information that the contents of the garbage bags revealed did not create a reasonable expectation of privacy in light of his objective behaviour, which clearly communicated intent to abandon the items. While the garbage bags would not have been considered abandoned if they had been kept within the immediate vicinity of the dwelling or in a garage, their placement at the property line sufficed as an objective abandonment of both their contents and the accused’s privacy interests in them. Police seizure of the bags, therefore, did not violate any of the accused’s Charter rights.

SCC Reasons for Judgment

Faculty of Law Research and Commentary Discussing R v. Patrick

Hamish Stewart, “Constitutional cases 2010: normative foundations for reasonable expectations of privacy,” (2011) 54 SCLR (2d) 335-355.

Lisa M. Austin, “Getting past privacy? Surveillance, the Charter and the rule of law,” (2012) 27 No 3 Can J L & Soc’y 381.


Date Document
2008 / 02 / 5 Appellant – Patrick
2008 / 04 / 1 Respondent – Her Majesty the Queen
2008 / 06 / 25 Intervener – Canadian Civil Liberties Association
2008 / 06 / 26 Intervener – Attorney General of Ontario
2008 / 06 / 27 Intervener – Attorney General of Ontario
2008 / 07 / 24 Intervener – Attorney General of Alberta
2008 / 07 / 28 Intervener – Criminal Lawyers’ Association