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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. vs. J.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Court to grant our client a conditional discharge. No conviction.

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

Charge: Commit Indecent Act.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to present information on our client's behalf and was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no longer any public interest in proceeding with this matter. Stay of proceedings. Warrant cancelled. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Rather than a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a 3 month prohibition.

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

Charge: Criminal Harassment (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to prosecute our client on the criminal harassment charge;
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to stay the criminal charge upon our client entering into a s. 810 Peace Bond for 12 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.M. - Surrey RCMP Investigation

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to meet the Crown's charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through the investigation and was able to provide information to police and Crown which culminated in Crown counsel's decision to not approve any charges. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to allow our client to plead to s. 24(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act. Rather than the mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a two month driving prohibition.

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

Charges: Sexual Assault x2; Sexual Interference.
Issue: Given the extensive information that we were able to provide to Crown counsel, whether there remained a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all counts. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.F. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (reduced to s. 810 Peace Bond).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed.
Result: Mr. Mines was first able to persuade Crown to proceed on a Peace Bond application rather than the criminal assault charge. He was then able to persuade Crown to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.K.- Abbotsford Provincial Court

Charge: Driving without consideration; driving past police vehicle; speeding.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with all counts, which upon conviction would have led to a driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to negotiate a resolution where our client pleaded guilty to only a three point speeding ticket and police withdrew the remaining counts. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a criminal conviction.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions on our client's behalf, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charge: Driving while Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with this charge which carries a one year mandatory minimum driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to permit our client to resolve this matter by pleading guilty to the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to continue with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown to enter a stay of proceedings, bringing the matter to an end. 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.