Legal Services | Drug Possession
Drug Charge Lawyers
Drug Defence Lawyers
Have you been charged with a drug offence?
Drug prosecutions are serious. Convictions for drug possession, drug trafficking and drug crimes can send you to jail.
The government has significant resources to investigate and prosecute drug cases. You need a qualified and experienced drug lawyer who can represent, protect and defend you if you are accused of possession or trafficking in narcotics.
Federal drug prosecutors will prosecute possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and trafficking in a controlled substance.
Davidson Gregory is an experienced and knowledgeable criminal law firm based in Edmonton who will vigorously defend your drug case. We can help individuals from anywhere in Western Canada and the Northwest Territories. If you’re unable to reach our Edmonton offices for a consultation, we are able to discuss your matter at your convenience via telephone or the online video platform of your choice (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc). Where appropriate, we can also arrange travel to you. Our aim is to ensure that you can access legal advice as easily as possible.
If you’ve been charged with a drug related crime, our team of defence lawyers can help.
Drug Possession Offences
A drug possession conviction can carry major consequences. Criminal law can be complex and difficult to navigate, and an experienced drug possession defence lawyer can help you make informed decisions about how to best move forward with your case.
Drug possession charges result in circumstances where the accused has the drug on their person, they have it stored elsewhere, or have knowingly asked another person to safeguard the drug. Knowledge and control of consent are key, as seen in the three possession types outlined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code of Canada and summarized below:
- Personal/actual possession, which requires the accused have knowledge that the substance is a drug and physical custody of it;
- Constructive possession of a controlled substance, which requires the accused have knowledge of the drug, control over its location, and intent/consent to possess the item; and
- Joint possession (involving multiple individuals), which requires knowledge of the drug, some control over its location, and consent to possess the item.
An example where the accused passenger of a vehicle could be deemed not to have knowledge, control and intention to possess is a situation where drug packets are found by an officer inside the glove compartment of the car or hidden in the trunk or the back of the vehicle. The accused passenger traveling within the car may be found not guilty of possession as there may be a doubt about whether he/she had knowledge of, or control over, the vehicle and the controlled substance.
Drug Trafficking Offences
If you’re facing a drug manufacturing charge, it’s important that you contact a criminal lawyer experienced in drug trafficking as soon as possible. Working with a drug defence lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
Trafficking relates to the intention or purpose of physically making the drug available to others, regardless of ownership. Possession typically occurs at the same time as trafficking, but possession is not a prerequisite for a trafficking charge to be laid. Trafficking an illegal drug requires that you have the intention or offer to transfer, deliver, give, administer, or sell the narcotic.
You do not have to receive money in order to be charged with trafficking. For example, an undercover officer witnesses a person at a party handing out LSD, which the accused takes and offers half to his friend. It makes no difference that the accused never asked for the drug, that others were taking LSD, that the accused wasn’t sure what the drug was, or that half was passed to a friend. Knowledge of the nature of the substance is not required, nor is the intention to sell, in order to be charged.
The Courts have characterized different levels of trafficking: social trafficking (sharing with friends and not typically associated with making a profit), street level trafficking (often smaller amounts of narcotics), and wholesale commercial trafficking. Wholesale commercial trafficking relates to more sophisticated, higher-level operations, often associated with large narcotic seizures or sales.
The most common trafficking charge is a sale of narcotics to an undercover police officer. This usually involves a major police investigation when undercover police officers pose as drug purchasers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Drug Offence Cases
What kind of investigative techniques can police officers use when trying to prosecute a drug charge?
The standard of proof to secure a warrant to search most often is one of reasonable and probable grounds. However, there are some warrant provisions that only require a reasonable suspicion to execute certain warrants. As a last resort, police officers can apply for a wiretap, but this application must be made in a superior court and the police must establish reasonable and probable grounds and that all other reasonable investigative techniques have not been successful. The police also use tracking devices in vehicles, dial number recorders, production orders for bank and other records, review person subscriber information, conduct covert surveillance, use infrared technology in marijuana cultivation cases, and aerial surveillance to investigate narcotics possessions and trafficking.
In sophisticated drug investigations, police officers may also apply for video and audio monitoring in buildings or vehicles.
You can win a drug charge. The onus of the Crown is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you were in possession of a narcotic. The police may allege that you knew that there were in a residence or a motor vehicle. There are several facts that the Crown must prove to convict you of a possession charge.
An illegal drug search occurs when the police lack reasonable and probable grounds to search a person, vehicle, or a residence or any other place. The police must have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person who is being detained or arrested that they have committed a criminal or drug offence and that a search would reveal evidence that you committed a narcotics or drug offence. The police may conduct a warrantless search (a search without a warrant) and the onus of the prosecutor would be to satisfy the Court that the police conducted a lawful search. If the police go before a judge and obtain a search warrant, they have authority to search a person, vehicle, residence or any other place authorized on the search warrant. If you are opposing the admission of the evidence as a result of a search warrant, you have the onus to establish that the issuing judge should not have authorized the warrant.
Penalties for drug possession or trafficking are subject to the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code of Canada and the classification and penalties schedules. The drugs are classified in accordance with five schedules. Some offences may be summary conviction only, hybrid (where the Crown can proceed by summary conviction or by indictment). or strictly indictable. For possession of a narcotic, an offender may be diverted wherein they are placed on probation and may be directed to perform community service or take counselling. Once they have completed the program, their charges are withdrawn, and they face no criminal record.
If an accused person is found guilty or pleads guilty, they may receive an absolute discharge, and receive no probation or be placed on probation (conditional discharge). Both charges include a finding of guilt, but the Court does not impose a criminal record.
The Court may also place a person on probation only but impose a criminal record (suspended sentence) or impose a fine or incarceration.
More serious narcotics possession and trafficking offences include mandatory prison sentences and depending on the type of drug could have a 6-month, 12-month or a 24-month minimum. Some offences carry a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.
If you are convicted of even a minor drug offence or even receive a conditional discharge, you will automatically be deemed to be inadmissible in the US. To travel to the US, you will have to apply for a US Travel Waiver through Homeland Security. The US authorities will have to be satisfied that you have fully rehabilitated before they will grant the travel waiver.
There are other countries which do allow travel, but there is no uniform policy and the rules of admission vary from country to country.
What is the difference between possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and simple possession of a controlled substance?
Simple possession of a controlled substance or drug is an offence where the possession of the drug is unlawful, but it is for personal use. Possession for the purpose of trafficking is possession where there is a commercial aspect to distributing narcotics. Proof of this offence may include the amount of drugs seized that far exceeds personal use, proof of trafficking with scales, score (debt sheets), buff or diluting agents, and packaging materials consistent with distributing narcotics.
If you are convicted of narcotic possession or trafficking in narcotics, you will likely receive a criminal record unless you have received Alternative Measures or a discharge. Otherwise, you will receive a criminal record for narcotics offences. Acquiring a record suspension (previously known as a pardon) is difficult to obtain and, if granted, requires a five-year waiting period after completion of a summary conviction sentence or ten years for an indictable offence.
In some cases, you may be eligible for a conditional sentence. This is a jail sentence that is served in the community. This sentence allows you to continue with employment while being on strict conditions like house arrest or a curfew.
The existence of a criminal record may result in denial of employment with government, corporations, and certain professions regulated under provincial statutes. Your application for citizenship could be denied, and you could be deported under immigration rules and statutes if you are not a Canadian citizen. Entry into a foreign country, such as the USA, is highly unlikely. The only way to gain entry to the United States is to apply for a US Travel Waiver through the US authorities, which is difficult to obtain and not routinely granted.