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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. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.P. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No 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.