Judge throws out gun charges, saying accused’s charter rights were violated

Timothy Ulm was acquitted of all charges in the incident that involved an arrest on the Abbotsford-Mission Highway

A judge has ruled that a man charged in 2014 with several firearms offences experienced a “serious violation” of his charter rights during his arrest, and all charges should be dropped.

The ruling in favour of Timothy Joseph Ulm, 29, was made Oct. 30 in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack following a voir dire (trial within a trial). He had been charged with four firearms-related offences and one count of breaching a court order.

Ulm was arrested on Aug. 24, 2014 following a traffic stop on the Abbotsford-Mission Highway (Highway 11). The court heard that Mission RCMP Const. Powell first spotted Ulm driving on the Lougheed Highway near the Mission-Maple Ridge border at about 12:30 a.m. and noticed a motorcycle, with its lights flashing, strapped onto the bed of Ulm’s truck.

Powell had a hunch that the bike might be stolen – there had been several motorcycle thefts in Mission at the time – and she followed Ulm onto the Mission Bridge, and then pulled him over on Highway 11.

Powell contacted dispatch and discovered that Ulm was serving a non-custodial conditional sentence and was required to have a copy of his order on him. She also learned that one of his conditions prohibited him from possessing firearms.

Ulm did not have a copy of his conditional sentence order (CSO) on him, but Powell was satisfied with his explanation that he thought he had left it behind on Vancouver Island on a trip there, Justice Neill Brown stated in his ruling.

Meanwhile, a second officer, Const. Tilman arrived on the scene for backup. The two officers soon confirmed that the motorcycle was not stolen.

As Powell was speaking with Ulm and informing him that she was going to let him go, Tilman peered inside Ulm’s truck and saw a “butt stock” – the part of a rifle that rests against the shooter’s shoulder when the gun is discharged.

Tilman informed Powell of his discovery, and a more thorough search of the vehicle turned up a 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition for the shotgun and a folding knife. Ulm was arrested on the scene.

Brown ruled that Ulm’s charter rights were violated from the start of the incident, saying that Ulm being detained at the side of the road was “arbitrary.”

“No traffic infraction occurred to justify pulling Mr. Ulm over and detaining him for investigation of the infraction … Const. Powell lacked reasonable grounds to suspect in all circumstances that Mr. Ulm was connected to a particular crime and that his detention was necessary,” the judge stated.

Further, after Powell “unlawfully detained” Ulm, she failed to tell him that she had done so to investigate whether he was transporting a stolen motorcycle and that he was not obliged to answer questions.

The judge also said both officers were negligent when they failed to provide Ulm with charter warnings before searching his truck and when they did not “promptly” advise him of his right to contact a lawyer before the search was conducted.

“I found the officers Charter-infringing conduct serious,” Brown said in throwing out the evidence and acquitting Ulm of all charges after the Crown called no further evidence.