What to do if you are Facing Drug Charges
Drug charges are a very serious matter. Most drugs and controlled substances are illegal in Canada; thus, if you are convicted of a drug offence, you will be prosecuted under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Drugs are often classified as either “hard” or “soft”. Hard drugs tend to include those that are highly addictive and can result in death to the user if taken in large fatal amounts, such as cocaine, heroin, LSD, amphetamines and opium. Hard drugs generally receive more severe charges and penalties.
Depending on the offence and the nature of the drug, the consequences you face may range from full discharge to long imprisonment sentences. Possible drug-related charges include:
· Possession of a Prohibited or Controlled Substance
· Possession of a Controlled Substance for the Purposes of Trafficking
· Trafficking in a Prohibited or Controlled Substance
· Producing, Cultivating or Growing a Controlled Substance
· Importing, Exporting or Possessing for the Purpose of Exporting a Controlled Substance
If convicted on one or more of the above offences, the sentence to be received will be determined based on a number of factors, including:
· The offender’s previous history and record
· The offender’s level of involvement in a drug organization
· The number of transactions (i.e. sales)
· Whether the offence was planned or spontaneous
· The number of drugs and substances that were seized, as well as the type of drug
In other words, offences are ranked at varying levels, from simple possession to trafficking, to production, or importing and exporting. Drug charges will often come down to two main issues – legal possession, as well as the manner in which the police obtained the drugs.
However, the defences available to an accused will vary based on the nature of the substance; the quantity of drug seized; whether the drug was possessed with the intent to traffic (i.e. the alleged purpose of use), and whether or not certain activities took place.
Simply being discovered in possession of any large amount of drugs might lead to a charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking, but does not necessarily mean you will be convicted on that charge – the circumstances surrounding the use and discovery of the drugs can potentially lead to reductions in charges, which can then have a significant impact on the sentence imposed by the judge.
What is the Process when Charged with Drug-Related Offences?
Following an arrest, a person being charged with a drug-related offence will either be held in custody or released. At this point, it is suggested that an experienced criminal lawyer be contacted – do not enter any guilty pleas to drug-related charges. Note that you do not have to make any statements to the police, as anything you say can be used against you.
If the offender is kept in police custody, they must be brought to the Justice of the Peace for a bail hearing within 24 hours of the arrest, or as soon as possible. At the bail hearing, the Justice of the Peace will determine if the offender should be released or held in custody until the trial.
If they are released, the offender will be provided with notice as to when they must appear in court to schedule their trial date. The Justice of the Peace may also enforce conditions and require that there is a surety to sign on the offender’s behalf.
To Be Charged with a Drug-Related Offence
In order for the Crown to charge an offender with a drug-related offence, they must prove without a doubt that:
· The drug truly is prohibited under the CDSA;
· The drug was in actual possession of the accused;
· The accused had knowledge that the drug possessed is prohibited (i.e. knew what the drug is and that it is illegal); and
· The accused had the intention to possess the prohibited drug (had some level of control over it).
It is important to seek a knowledgeable criminal lawyer with expertise in drug charges and trafficking, as they can analyze the facts of the case to use all defences available. For instance, in the case where you were unreasonably searched and seized, this would have been a violation of your section 8 rights from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Other defences include the validity of search warrants and the reliability of witnesses. Thus, it is important that you contact an experienced lawyer who can explain your rights, and who can present you with all your options moving forward.
Drug-related offences are serious offences in Canada, and obtaining proper, competent legal representation is essential. If you are facing drug charges and require assistance or legal advice on whether you should proceed, please do not hesitate to contact us and our specialist Criminal Lawyers can discuss your matter in more detail over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.