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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. 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

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.