Judge dismisses impaired driving charges because it took cops over three hours to return driver’s turban An Ontario judge has dismissed charges against a Sikh man who was found to be driving with an excessive blood-alcohol level because it took more than three hours for police to return his turban. Sardul Singh was arrested by Peel Regional Police at about 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2014, during a roadside spot check. As he was placed into the back of a police car, his turban hit the door frame and fell off. The turban wasn’t returned to Singh until about 10:50 p.m., by which time he had been booked at the police station and ordered to give a breath sample. In court, Singh argued that his Charter right to freedom of religion had been violated and that he felt shameful to be seen without his turban. I accept the defendant’s evidence that it was shameful for him to be without his turban and it made him feel vulnerable The Crown conceded there had been a Charter breach but argued there was no “causal connection” between that Charter breach and the obtaining of the breath sample. But in a decision released this week, Ontario Judge Jill Copeland said the harm done to Singh was significant. “I accept the defendant’s evidence that it was shameful for him to be without his turban and it made him feel vulnerable,” she wrote. “The lack of a causal connection between the infringement of the defendant’s freedom of religion and the obtaining of the breath samples does not make the impact he felt in terms of shame and vulnerability any less.” Since 2012, Peel Regional Police have had a policy that says turbans can be removed for searches but must be returned after the search is done, unless the prisoner is suicidal, the ruling said. On the night in question, officers acted in a “careless manner” with respect to Singh’s right to freedom of religion, Copeland said. There were no security issues related to returning the turban to Singh. Related The Charter violation was compounded by the fact that one officer at the station wasn’t even aware of the turban policy, she said. The judge noted that Singh never actually asked police to return his turban. While giving his breath sample, he appeared to be more concerned about the return of his car and the effect his arrest would have on his driver’s licence since he works as a truck driver. But that didn’t matter, the judge said, since “a detainee should not have to ask police for his turban back when the police are aware that it is an item worn for the purpose of religious observance.” Copeland suggested that the arresting officer, who had tried to put the turban back on Singh’s head when it fell off, could have temporarily removed the handcuffs to allow Singh to put the turban back on since he had been “co-operative throughout at the roadside.” In finding Singh not guilty of the charges, Copeland noted that the Peel region is a diverse one and home to a substantial Sikh population. To admit the breath sample evidence would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” she concluded.