Drug crimes make up a significant percentage of charges in criminal courts. Drug charges are prosecuted seriously and carry significant consequences upon conviction. This is so despite some of the enlightened views that see drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.
Unlike other crimes that are prosecuted by the provincial crown attorneys’ office, drug crimes are prosecuted by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. In addition to having specialized lawyers to prosecute drug crimes; the authorities have access to various investigatory tools including wiretaps or intercepted communications, warrants to search places, installation of surveillance cameras, and even detaining individuals for questioning.
This is why it is important to deal with drug crimes quickly and proactively by retaining an experienced drug charges lawyer immediately after arrest because the power of the state can only be checked through a resourceful and knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer. An experienced criminal lawyer can expose a sloppy investigation, challenge the evidence, and rigorously cross-examine prosecution witnesses. If the investigation was done in a way that violates the Charter that could lead to a successful pre-trial application to exclude the drugs that were found.
With vast powers at their disposal, it is not uncommon for the authorities to inflate the case and make it seem worse than it actually is. Having an experienced criminal defence lawyer on your side can help you raise factual and legal issues to put you in the best position possible.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Drug crimes are not dealt with under the Criminal Code. They are dealt with under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). The substances, or drugs, covered by the CDSA are divided into four schedules and the offences and penalties are defined by reference to the schedules. The more serious and dangerous drugs, for example fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine are incluced in Schedule I. If found guilty, the more dangerous drugs will attract the more serious sentences. Marihuana was removed from the schedules and is now dealt with on its own under the Cannabis Act.
There are four offences set out in the CDSA: possession; trafficking; importing; and, production of drugs. These offences cover a wide variety of conduct from sale to production.
Possession is an offence contrary to section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is an offence to possess any substance that is found in Schedule I, II, or III. To secure a conviction, the crown must prove possession beyond a reasonable doubt. A person is in possession of a substance by having knowledge of it and control over the substance. Control can be established either by actual physical control over the substance or vicarious control through legal concepts such as constructive possession and joint possession.
Trafficking / Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
Trafficking is an offence pursuant to section 5(1) of the CDSA. Trafficking is defined as: to sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send, or deliver the substance; or to sell an authorization to obtain the substance. In its many forms, trafficking is the possession of a substance plus the intention or the act of making the substance available to others. This offence is not limited to substances found in the CDSA schedules but goes so far as to include any substance that has been represented or held out to be a scheduled substance.
Closely related to trafficking is the offence of possession for the purpose of trafficking. This offence is set out in section 5(2) of the CDSA. In order to prove this offence beyond a reasonable doubt the crown has to prove possession and intention to traffic the substance. Intention to traffic is often inferred from the circumstances of the arrest including the quantity of drugs, the street value of the drugs, scales and packaging if any are found.
Section 6(1) of the CDSA creates the offence of importing and exporting drugs. Section 6(2) of the CDSA makes it an offence to possess drugs for the purpose of exporting. Importing means bringing the drugs into the country or causing the drugs to be brought into the country. In order to prove this charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the crown must show that the person charged had knowledge that they were bringing drugs into the country. If convicted, importing charges carry very harsh sentences with significant jail time. If you are facing importing charges you should contact an experienced drug charges lawyer immediately.
Production of substance
Section 7(1) of the CDSA makes production of drugs an offence. Production of drugs often involves numerous individuals. However, for the crown to prove production beyond a reasonable doubt they must show that the person was more than just a witness to the activity.
Possession of Property
In some cases there will be a charge of being in possession of proceeds of crime. This is a Criminal Code charge pursuant to section 354(1). To prove this charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution must show that the property or proceeds was obtained by crime; that the person was in possession of the property or proceeds; and, that the person knew that the proceeds or property was obtained by the commission of an indictable offence. Where the crown cannot prove the offence of possession of proceeds of crime, they may still seek forfeiture of property. Section 16 of the CDSA permits forfeiture of offence-related property where a person has been convicted of trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing or exporting. The crown must prove that the property was offence-related on a balance of probabilities.
Often, the property involved is money, but sometimes it can be a vehicle or a home. The authorities have a wide range of tools at their disposal to seek forfeiture of property. In addition to the forfeiture provisions in the Criminal Code and the CDSA, they can seek forfeiture through the Civil Remedies Act. A conviction for drug crimes can have devastating consequences. There may be serious financial consequences on top of significant jail time and a criminal record.
Drug charges lawyer
If you are arrested for drug crimes in Toronto, then contact a criminal defence lawyer immediately. An experienced drug charges lawyer will scrutinize the case and look for opportunities to file pre-trial motions. You could have grounds for a Charter application to exclude evidence that was obtained by an illegal search. Or a statement you made could be excluded because the police failed to provide you with your rights to counsel.
A conviction for drug crimes can have serious consequences including a criminal record, a jail sentence, and forfeiture of assets. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will give you the best chance of mounting a successful defence and putting the matter behind you. For a lawyer with a successful track record of defending drug crimes contact the law office of Deniz Sarikaya at 647-282-5777 and get a free consultation.