Have you been charged with or arrested for a drug crime?
Are you clueless about how to tackle a drug charge? Well, you are not alone. Thousands of people face charges for substance abuse, from illegal possession and trafficking to consumption for personal use. However, the most common drug charge involves instances of possessing a scheduled substance. In Canada, drug cases are subject to rules and regulations under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Here’s a brief summary to help you understand the concept of possession and available defences to fight a drug charge.
Does possession of drugs constitute a crime in Canada?
It is an infringement of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (hereinafter referred to as CDSA) which lays out the penalties for violation. Additionally, possessing a scheduled substance is often associated with addiction, so the Canadian Courts, in many cases, take a reformative approach when dealing with such offences. Canadian law attaches an increasing amount of compassion to the plight of addicts. However, such a reformative and compassionate approach does not affect the need to make arrests when necessary. Because CDSA is Canada’s federal drug control law, the Federal Crown prosecutes any offences thereunder.
There are two requisites to establish the offence of possession, i.e., knowledge and control. First, it is required to prove that the accused is aware of the substance in possession. Secondly, the accused is able to exercise control over the substance in question. For example, the accused can be charged for possession of a scheduled substance even if the substance in question is stored in someone else’s house with the intention of receiving it later.
The drugs are divided into Schedules to categorize offences and establish the penalties for violations. Most harmful substances like cocaine and heroin are enlisted under Schedule I. Marijuana, hashish, and its derivatives are included. Other controlled substances, such as magic mushrooms, ecstasy, steroids, etc., form part of Schedules III-IV. Violations of Schedule I and II drugs are the most common in Canada.
What are some penalties for drug offences?
The penalty for drug offences depends on both the nature of the drug and the crime. In case the Crown proceeds by indictment, there are different maximum terms of incarceration for possession related to each Schedule. For example, the penalty for trafficking would be more severe than an instance involving the possession or consumption of a scheduled substance. In addition, penalties often differ for drugs enlisted within the same Schedule. The substance harm toward society is essential when deciding the gravity of the punishment.
Apart from that, the quantity in issue is another major factor in determining the extent of punishment. However, owing to society’s compassionate attitude towards addicts, the most lenient sentences are those for possession offences.
First-time offenders are generally held liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars and imprisonment of up to six months, or both. A subsequent offence can fetch a fine of up to two thousand dollars, imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both. Schedule 1 carries a maximum incarceration period of seven years, followed by Schedule II and Schedule III with a maximum of five years less a day and a maximum of three years, respectively.
What should be your defence strategy for drug offences?
Violation of Charter rights is the strongest of all defences available in drug-related prosecutions. While investigating or making an arrest, police officers are bound to respect the accused’s fundamental rights and freedom. The defence counsel can argue to exclude the evidence by claiming that infringement of the accused’s charter rights at the hands of the police is a more grievous offence than the drug charges. The accused absence of knowledge or control over the drugs found can also form part of a valid defence.
Need legal advice for a drug charge?
Possession charges can lead to severe consequences if not taken seriously in the first instance. However, if you or someone you know is prosecuted for possession charges, the proactive team of criminal defence lawyers at Shory Law can help. Call us at (403) 216-1199 for a free consultation. Our impeccable team of criminal defence lawyers can guide you through this difficult process.