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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. C.L. – Civil Fraud Investigation

Charge: Fraud/Theft from employer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to negotiate repayment on our client's behalf and obtained a civil release from the employer. No charges were forwarded to Crown counsel. No criminal record.

R. vs. L.M. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a weapon; assault causing bodily harm.
Issue: Given elements of provocation, a potential defence of self-defence, and our client's background as a vulnerable woman, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to continue the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings upon our client succesfully completing the Alternative Measures Program. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.L. – New Westminster Supreme Court (jury).

Charges: Assault with a weapon; assault causing bodily harm.
Issue: Given elements of provocation, a potential defence of self-defence, and our client's background as a vulnerable woman, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to continue the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings upon our client successfully completing the Alternative Measures Program. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.D. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Fraud Over $5000; Theft Over $5000 (from employer).
Issues: Whether Crown counsel could prove the full amount of the alleged theft and whether our client would be sentenced to jail in this breach of trust case.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that they could only prove a $49,000 theft rather than the $75,000 allegation. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court sentenced our client to an 18 month conditional sentence order. No jail.

R. vs. W.W. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault causing bodily harm.
Issue: Given the information Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Crown stayed the proceedings upon our client entering into the Alternative Measures Program. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Burnaby RCMP Investigation.

Charges: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Given the information Mr. Gauthier was able to provide to the RCMP investigator, whether it was in the public interest for police to forward charges to Crown counsel.
Result: Based on the significant collateral consequences that a criminal prosecution would bring to our client, Mr. Gauthier  persuaded police to not forward any criminal charge whatsoever.

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

Charge: Assault causing bodily harm.
Issue: Given the information Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Crown stayed the proceedings upon our client entering into the Alternative Measures Program. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.J. – ICBC Fraud Investigation

Charges: Insurance (ICBC) Fraud.
Issue: Whether charges would be forwarded to Crown counsel.
Result: Mr. Gauthier  intervened with the ICBC investigator on our client's behalf and was able to clarify and explain the information that ICBC had flagged as being possibly fraudulent. The matter was resolved with no charges being forwarded to Crown counsel. No prosecution; no criminal record.

R. vs. M.H. – Employee Fraud Investigation

Charges: Theft from Employer.
Issue: Whether the complainant would proceed with a criminal complaint when they discovered $65,000 in fraudulent transactions purportedly committed by our client.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to successfully negotiate a civil settlement on our client's behalf. No police investigation; no charges; no criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, 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 upon our client completing the Alternative Measures Program. No criminal Record.

R. vs. N.A. – Vancouver Traffic Court

Charges: Speeding (MVA).
Issue: Whether the police officer could prove that our client was speeding, and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the trial.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to the police investigator that led to the officer withdrawing the violation ticket prior to the trial. The lack of this conviction prevented our client from a significant driving prohibition.

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

Charges: Aggravated assault; assault with a weapon.,br> Issue: Given the information Mr. Johnson was able to provide to Crown counsel, whether it was appropriate to contnue with the prosecution on the approved charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser charge of assault causing bodily harm. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions on our client's behalf, the trail judge sentenced our client to a suspended sentence with 24 months probation. Our client was able to avoid a lengthy jail sentence.

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.