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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. V.P. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given some weakness in the assault with weapon charge and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Crown to seek the jail sentence they were originally seeking.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the AWW charge and to jointly seek a conditional discharge on the assault police officer charge. No jail. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.K. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Fraud Over $5000 (from Employer).
Issue: Given the civil settlement  we were able to obtain on our client's behalf, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson, after successfully negotiating a civil settlement with the complainant, was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve the criminal charges that RCMP had recommended. No jail. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Impaired Driving; Driving Over .08.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown counsel to proceed with the criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to allow our client to resolve this matter by pleading guilty to a lesser offence under the Motor Vehicle Act. Our client received a driving prohibition and fine. No criminal record.

R. v. S.W. - Courtenay RCMP Investigation

Charges: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking.
Issue: Whether the search of the vehicle and our client was lawful.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to steer our client through the investigation and made representations to police that the search was unlawful. Police declined to recommend any  charges. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to seek a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.J. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of  the Crown being able to prove that bodily harm occurred.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given that the complainant had instigated the altercation, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be convicted of the offence.
Result: We were able to guide our client through a course of rehabilitation and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on a non-reporting probation order for six months. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Refusing to comply with a testing demand.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act offence of driving without due care. Rather than a criminal conviction and a minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was liable to pay a $350 fine and a 2 month driving prohibition. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was necessary for Crown to proceed with the driving while prohibited charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act charge of driving without a driver's licence. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions our client was sentenced to a fine and a 4 month driving prohibition.

R. vs. J.S. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm (domestic).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that bodily harm resulted and, whether the rehabilitative steps our client had taken justified the Court granting a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. C.M. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault; Threatening.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of conviction in this alleged "road rage" case.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf that led Crown to conclude there was no substantial likelihood of conviction. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.D. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Theft Under $5000; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances and remorse, whether it was in the public interest for criminal charges to proceed.
Result: We were able to provide information to police investigators which resulted in police deciding to not forward any charges to Crown. 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.