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Possession of Prohibited or Restricted Firearms

The Charge

Under s. 95 of the Criminal Code, it is an offence to possess a prohibited or restricted firearm that is either loaded or that has ammunition that is readily accessible, unless the person holds an authorization or licence. A “prohibited” firearm includes any handgun that has a barrel equal to or less than 105mm in length and any firearm that is adapted from a rifle or shotgun by cutting the barrel length to less than 660mm. Prohibited firearms also include automatic firearms. A “restricted” firearm includes any handgun that is not a prohibited firearm, that has a barrel length of less than 470mm and is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner. An authorization under the Firearms Act is required for a person to possess any prohibited or restricted firearm, anywhere in Canada.

The Crown may proceed by indictment and seek a sentence of up to 10 years in jail upon conviction. Alternatively, Crown may elect to proceed summarily, in which case the maximum sentence is up to one year in jail. Although there is no longer a mandatory minimum jail sentence for this offence, when the Crown views the offence as having a true “criminal purpose” associated to possessing the prohibited or restricted weapon, Crown will proceed by indictment and will generally seek sentences in the range of 3 years in jail.

The Investigation

A significant number of cases start off at the United States/Canada border with an American visitor who does not understand how seriously different Canadian firearms law is compared to United States laws. While an American may have the right to possess a handgun in the U.S.A., that right becomes a crime with serious consequences in Canada. There are other situations in which the authorities may find a person in possession of illegal firearms. These include situations where vehicles, residences or other places are searched, either with or without a search warrant.

As experienced lawyers defending weapons charges, we understand that in order to prove the offence, customs officials and police have to prove that our client had knowledge and control over the illegal firearm. In the context of a firearm investigation, it is important for a suspect to know that they have the right to remain silent upon arrest. This right is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A person suspected of possessing an illegal firearm has no obligation to acknowledge that they have knowledge of the weapon or control over it.

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

Section 8 of the Charter guarantees that people must be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The role of defence counsel in any search case is to analyze the actions of the investigating police officers to test whether their search was, in fact, lawful and authorized by the Charter. In some situations, police must obtain pre-authorization from a justice or judge in the form of a search warrant. Where police overreach their authority, and conduct a search based on mere suspicion, rather than probable grounds, we will apply to the court under s.24(2) of the Charter to have the “fruits of the search” excluded from the trial. Without the admission of the firearm into the trial, the court will find insufficient evidence to convict.

Lack of Possession

In many situations, people are arrested on firearms charges with the firearm not directly in their possession. For example, a handgun might be in the glovebox or trunk of the car. It might be that the accused is not driving their own car but, rather, the car of a friend or relative. In these situations, absent any incriminating confession, it may be possible to argue that the accused had no knowledge of the firearm or that they had no control over it. As experienced defence lawyers, we understand the high standard that the law requires when prosecuting weapons offences. We are dedicated to protecting our client’s rights.

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.