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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. M.P. - ICBC insurance fraud investigation.

Charge: Insurance fraud.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through the investigation by helping our client rectify the fraudulent information that he had provided to I.C.B.C. No charges approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.B. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's severe mental health issues, whether he was criminally responsible for the offences.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information about our client's mental health history to Crown counsel and, ultimately, was able to persuade Crown to end the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.,br> Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether this road rage incident was a criminal offence or a consensual fight.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to present Crown counsel with video evidence which confirmed that the complainant had engaged in a consensual altercation. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.Y. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the 18 month jail sentence Crown had sought was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown and Court and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to sentence our client to a 7 month conditional sentence , followed ny 18 months probation. No jail.

R. vs. G.W. - North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able collect information from a defence witness and represent to police that our client should not  be prosecuted. Police concluded their investigation without recommending any criminal charge against our client. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we directed our client to complete, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve any charge prior to the scheduled first court appearance. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Possession of a loaded prohibited firearm; Unlawful storage of firearms.
Issue: Whether the warrant used to search our client's premises was lawful; whether our client posed a risk to re-offend.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to potential flaws in the warrant and police search which culminated in Crown's agreement to not pursue their original sentencing position of a 2-3 year jail sentence. Rather, the court accepted a joint submission of a 12 month conditional sentence with a curfew for the first six months. No jail.

R. vs. M.K.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon (x2).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the court to grant our client a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to direct our client through a course of rehabilitative counselling, and after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charges: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps that we were able to guide our client through, whether there was a public interest in continuing with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to amend the bail condition to allow "permissive contact" with the complainant, and after providing Crown with a report from our client's psychologist Crown counsel ended the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. 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.