Brett McGarry has a track-record of successfully defending drug charges in Ontario. Drug cases demand the attention of a skilled drug lawyer to build a solid defence and to ensure your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are fully protected. The legality of the police actions, search warrants, and wiretap authorizations, must be carefully examined and challenged. Eyewitnesses, police officers, undercover agents, and expert witnesses must be tested through proper cross-examination.
Drug Offences in Ottawa
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) is the legislation that governs drug prosecutions in Canada, including in the Province of Ontario. Common drug charges in Ottawa include:
- Possession of Marijuana, Cocaine, Crack-Cocaine, and Oxycontin
- Marijuana – Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
- Marijuana – Production and Cultivation (Marijuana Grow-Ups)
- Cocaine / Crack-Cocaine – Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
- Oxycontin & Prescription Drugs – Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
Serious Penalties for Drug Offences in Ontario
A conviction for even a relatively minor drug crime can carry lasting and serious consequences, including: a criminal record, fines, immigration consequences, and being barred from the United States.
In cases of simple possession, a result where the accused avoids a criminal conviction can often be negotiated with the prosecution by documenting the accused’s good character.
A conviction for a significant drug trafficking, production, or importation charge carries severe penalties. In fact, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that the appropriate punishment for a first time trafficker is between 6 to 24 months of jail. The Conservative government’s new criminal legislation also provides for mandatory minimum jail sentences for many drug offences, including some marijuana offences.
Jail time is not the only concern. If assets such as a house, a vehicle, or cash were involved in the drug allegations, you could lose them as proceeds of crime or under a forfeiture order. There are steps that can be taken to recover seized property and resist forfeiture of assets.
You do not have to be actively involved in the drug trade to be charged with marijuana or cocaine trafficking. Simply being in possession of a substantial quantity of drugs can lead to trafficking charges or possession for the purpose of trafficking charges. The already harsh penalties for a possession conviction rise substantially when a trafficking charge is attached.
Firearms are often found during the execution of drug search warrants. Many firearms offences carry severe jail sentences, including mandatory minimum jail sentences.
Your Rights Matter: Search Warrants, Wire-Tap Authorizations & Police Searches
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects everyone against unreasonable search and seizure. These protections apply even when the police find drugs in a location or on someone’s person. If your rights have been violated, a judge may exclude the evidence from the trial and find you not guilty. Alternatively, Charter violations may provide leverage in plea negotiations with the prosecution, leading to reduced or dropped charges.
Grow-ops and other drug production cases usually involve the use of private property, such as houses and farms. As a result, search warrants are commonly used by the police to collect evidence. When investigating drug conspiracy cases, the police often resort to wiretaps. The basis for the search warrants/wiretap authorizations may be based on confidential informants, undercover officers, police surveillance, hydro records, infra-red images, and other police techniques.
When a search warrant or wiretap authorization is handled improperly, the evidence may be barred from the trial. In defending drug cases, these authorizations must therefore be meticulously dissected by assessing the credibility of informants, police officers’ corroboration techniques, and examining how the search and seizure was carried out.
Drug cases often start with the police finding drugs during the stop of a car or person on the street. If you were improperly detained, arrested or questioned by the police, then the drug evidence may have been illegally obtained.
Many Charter violations will not be obvious to the average person. Your defence lawyer must know how to identify these Charter violations, to cross-examine police witnesses, and to convince a judge to exclude the evidence.
Proof of Drug Possession
The following is a common situation. A number of people are found in a car or house where drugs are located by the police, but it is unclear who the drugs belong to. The police typically charge everyone who was present with drug offences, regardless of whether or not they physically possessed the drugs. Even if you are completely innocent you may incriminate yourself by speaking with the police. It is in your best interests to speak with a knowledgeable criminal lawyer before talking to the police.
Many drug cases turn on whether the prosecution can prove that an accused “possessed” the drug. You do not need to physically possess the drugs to be convicted of possession. To get a conviction the prosecution must simply prove that you had knowledge, consent, and/or control over the drugs. “Possession” is defined as follows according to the Criminal Code and CDSA:
(a) a person has anything in possession when he has it in his personal possession or knowingly
(i) has it in the actual possession or custody of another person, or
(ii) has it in any place, whether or not that place belongs to or is occupied by him, for the use or benefit of himself or of another person; and
(b) where one of two or more persons, with the knowledge and consent of the rest, has anything in his custody or possession, it shall be deemed to be in the custody and possession of each and all of them.
Proof of Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
To “traffic” a drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act means:
(a) to sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver the substance,
(b) to sell an authorization to obtain the substance, or
(c) to offer to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b).
To decide whether or not a person is in possession of a drug for the “purpose of trafficking”, a judge will examine a number of factors, including:
1. Whether a large quantity of drugs is involved.
2. The value of the drugs involved.
3. The drug paraphernalia found.
4. The amount of cash found.
5. The denomination of the money found.
6. Debt lists or other records of customer transactions.
7. Drug packaging materials. (For example, dime bags, digital scales, or cutting agents.)
8. Any incriminating statements of the accused.
9. Surveillance of the target property. (For example, many visitors who stay in a house for a few minutes may indicate drug trafficking.)
10. Wiretaps, which may contain code words or drug slang.
11. Any association with known drug traffickers.
12. Unexplained assets or wealth.
13. The credibility of the accused or other defence witnesses.
Being found in possession of a large amount of any drug will not necessarily lead to a conviction for possession for the purpose of trafficking. An accused person may testify at trial, for example, that they regularly consume a particular drug and therefore possessed a large amount of it to ensure they would have a continuous supply for their personal use. This may lead to a conviction on the lesser charge of simple possession, with a much lower sentence.
GET HELP NOW
Contact Brett McGarry right now to discuss the best defences for your drug charges by phone at (613) 884-8576 or email at email@example.com. The initial meeting is free.