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Possession of Drugs

The Charge

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act sets out, under s. 4, that it is an offence to possess substances such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, MDMA, GHB, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, barbiturates and anabolic steroids. The Cannabis Act sets out under s. 8, that it is an offence to possess cannabis unless as authorized by that Act. Not only is it possible to receive jail time for simple possession of hard drugs; it is still possible to receive jail time for simple possession of cannabis if, for example, the cannabis is from an illicit source and the amount is greater than 30 grams.

Having a conviction for a simple drug possession charge can have very serious consequences. It may be a bar to certain types of employment. A conviction will prevent entry to the U.S.A. as a visitor as the United States Border Authority views drug possession charges as a “crime of moral turpitude.”

The Investigation

Although some simple possession charges start with the police targeting a suspect, the majority of these charges arise out of a chance encounter between police and the accused. For example, police may pull over a vehicle for a traffic violation and they may smell cannabis or see a baggie with a powdery substance on the console. Similarly, police may see a hand-to-hand transaction in front of a bar and arrest both the seller and the buyer. Generally, unless the accused has other outstanding charges, police will release a person charged with simple possession on a Promise to Appear in court on a date some 5 or 6 weeks in the future.

A portion of simple possession charges start out as possession for the purpose of trafficking charges. To prove possession for the purpose of trafficking, the Crown will usually rely on a police expert witness who will testify that the way the drugs were packaged and possessed tends to suggest that they were intended to be distributed or sold. Our experience as drug defence lawyers enables us, in appropriate cases, to argue that the drugs were not intended to be trafficked, and thereby allow our client to resolve the matter on the lesser offence of simple possession.

Recent Successes

R. vs. A.N. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to seek a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.J. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of  the Crown being able to prove that bodily harm occurred.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given that the complainant had instigated the altercation, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be convicted of the offence.
Result: We were able to guide our client through a course of rehabilitation and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on a non-reporting probation order for six months. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Refusing to comply with a testing demand.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act offence of driving without due care. Rather than a criminal conviction and a minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was liable to pay a $350 fine and a 2 month driving prohibition. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.S. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was necessary for Crown to proceed with the driving while prohibited charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act charge of driving without a driver's licence. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions our client was sentenced to a fine and a 4 month driving prohibition.

R. vs. J.S. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm (domestic).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that bodily harm resulted and, whether the rehabilitative steps our client had taken justified the Court granting a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. C.M. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault; Threatening.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of conviction in this alleged "road rage" case.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf that led Crown to conclude there was no substantial likelihood of conviction. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.D. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Theft Under $5000; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances and remorse, whether it was in the public interest for criminal charges to proceed.
Result: We were able to provide information to police investigators which resulted in police deciding to not forward any charges to Crown. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.L. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to the Crown on our client's behalf that persuaded Crown that the case did not meet the charge approval standard. No charge was approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.F. - Provincial Court of Newfoundland

Charge: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (Marijuana).
Issue: Whether it there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a conviction.
Result: Upon considering Mr. Johnson's representations, Crown counsel concluded that there was no longer a likelihood of conviction. Crown withdrew the charge, bringing the matter to an end. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.B. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Application for firearms prohibition and forfeiture.
Issue: Whether Crown could establish that our client posed a risk to himself or others.
Result: Mid trial, Mr. Mines was able to obtain a successful resolution in which our client consented to an 18 month prohibition rather than the 5 years Crown had been seeking.  Further, rather than having to forfeit the  $15,000 worth of weapons that police seized,  Crown agreed to allow our client to sell them to a suitable buyer.

R. vs. C.B. - Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Possession of proceeds of crime.
Issue: Whether there was any lawful authority to arrest our client and seize funds from him.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the investigating officer that there was no basis to search our client and to return the $2400 cash that he had seized. No charges approved. Not criminal record.

The Defence

Unreasonable Search

Under s. 8 of the Charter, everyone is guaranteed the right not to be searched unreasonably. The role of defence counsel is to analyze the actions of the investigating police officer to test whether they have, in fact, conducted the investigation and search as authorized by the Charter. Of course, every situation that precedes a search and seizure is different and there can be many nuanced factors. Generally, however, police must have more than a mere hunch or suspicion that a person is in possession of illicit drugs. They must have reasonable and probable grounds to believe the person is presently in possession of illicit drugs. Where police overreach their authority and search someone without the necessary grounds, we will apply to the court under s. 24 (2) of the Charter to have the tainted evidence excluded from the trial. Without the drug evidence, there will be insufficient evidence to convict.

Alternative Measures

We’ve had many successful cases where we’ve been able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve simple drug possession charges. We are able to achieve this excellent result when clients contact us early in the process, prior to Crown receiving the police file. In such situations, we will obtain a full background briefing from our client including their family and work circumstances, any health, financial or mental health issues that impact their decision to use illicit drugs. Where we are able to persuade Crown that it is appropriate, rather than prosecute our client, they will allow them into the Alternative Measures Program which is, literally, an alternative to the court system. Alternative Measures allows a person to take responsibility for their offence without obtaining a conviction and a criminal record. Alternative Measures may involve conditions such as community work service and counselling. The impact is certainly less severe than a criminal conviction for drug possession.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.