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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. 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

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.