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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. B.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown counsel to proceed on this charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid driver's licence. After hearing Mr. johnson's submissions, the court imposed a $500 fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. B.C. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charge. Our client entered into a Peace Bond for a period of 9 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. Z.H. - Port Coquitlam Youth Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether, given the history between our client and the complainant, it was reasonable for our client apply  the level of force he used.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to not approve any criminal charge but, rather, to resolve the matter through Restorative Justice. No criminal record.

Y.Y. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles - Review of Driving Prohibition

Charge: Notice of Intent to Prohibit.
Issue: Whether RoadSafety BC had appropriate reasons to prohibit our client from driving for 4 months.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Superintendent's adjudicator that the 4 month driving prohibition was not warranted. The driving prohibition was reduced to 2 months.

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

Charges: Assault (x2); Threatening; Breach of Undertaking (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Court to convict him.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown to proceed on only a single count of assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.  

R. vs. D.I. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm; Driving Without Due Care and Attention.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to charge our client under the Criminal Code or the Motor Vehicle Act in regard to an accident where our client's vehicle struck a cyclist from behind, causing serious injury.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown which resulted in Crown proceeding under the Motor Vehicle Act. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court sentenced our client to a $1000 fine and limited his ability to drive for 12 months. No criminal conviction. No loss of insurance coverage. No jail.

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

Charge: s. 810 Peace Bond Application.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether the complainant continued to have fear of our client.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No conditions. No record.

R. vs. L.B. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Fraud Over $5000 (from employer).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had completed and given the compelling explanation of why the offence occurred, whether it was in the public interest for our client to recieve a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Crown to proceed summarily on the lesser offence of Fraud Under $5000, and after hearing Mr. Johnson's submission, the court granted our client an absolute discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.G. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was substantial likelihood of a conviction in this “road rage” assault case.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown that suggested our client was acting in self defence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.R. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Over $5000.
Issue: Given the steps taken by our client to repay a substantial amount of the alleged $70,000 theft from his employer, whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to pursue a jail sentence that, given the breach of trust, would normally be called for.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that they could only prove theft in the amount of $40,000. He was then able to persuade Crown to proceed summarily on 8 counts of Theft Under $5000 and to make a joint submission for a conditional sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines’ submissions, the court granted our client a 6 month conditional sentence and made a stand alone restitution order. No jail.

R. vs. T.G. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a Weapon; Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through, whether our client would be convicted of the offences.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson’s submissions on our client’s behalf, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No conviction; no criminal record.

UBC Independent Investigations Office vs. B.F.

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether the complainant could prove her allegation of being sexually assaulted.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the investigator on our client’s behalf, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the allegation was dismissed.

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.