Planting Beans

Planting Beans

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Court declines to require farmer to forfeit tractor over driving convictions

The Crown brought an application seeking forfeiture of a leased New Holland Tractor and Loader after the lessee was convicted of two counts of driving while disqualified under the Criminal Code.  One of the offences occurred when the lessee was observed by the OPP operating the tractor in question on a roadway.  The lessee was stopped for suspicion of alcohol consumption and because the OPP officer was aware that the lessee's driver's licence was subject to a prohibition order.  The lessee failed a breathylzer test, but before he could be arrested, he ran into a nearby bush.  He was ultimately caught.
 
At Court, all parties conceded that the tractor was "offence related property" and could be subject to forfeiture to the Crown as part of the penalty against the offender.  The father of the lessee participated in the hearing on the basis that he held an interest in the tractor, having been a partner of the lessee in a farming operation and a contributor to the down payment on the lease.  The leasing company also participated, but did not take a position on the assurance that its interest in the tractor would be protected by the Crown in the event of a forfeiture.
 
On review of the evidence, the Court determined that the forfeiture of the tractor would be disproportionate in relationship to the "offence related property".  The Court said: "The item in question is an essential component of the operation of this family farm and is relied upon by [the offender's father] and his family in addition to the offender to perform all essential farming operations.  Since the seizure of this equipment, this farming operation ... has sustained a serious economic detriment.  A forfeiture of essential farming equipment will detrimentally affect, not just the offender, but the viability of this farm.  I cannot agree that a punitive impact of forfeiture on a legitimate enterprise such as farming was the intention of Parliament as being necessary in the public interest."
 
The Court also found that the farm tractor and its operation in the offence has no logical connection to the offence of driving while disqualified. 
 
The Application for Forfeiture was dismissed.

Read the decision at: R. v. Pendleton.