In Canada, certain controlled substances are illegal to possess.
If you are found in possession of these drugs in Ottawa, you may be arrested and charged. The seriousness of the charges will depend on the type and amount of drugs in your possession.
According to the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), a conviction may mean a mandatory prison sentence and a lifelong criminal record that will have long-term consequences.
Most people are familiar with many of the banned substances in question but honest mistakes are made. Sometimes, people are caught in possession of drugs unwittingly or because of extenuating circumstances.
However, you do not need to have ownership of the substance to be charged with possession.
Whatever the circumstances of your charge, pleading guilty should be your last resort.
We can help you defend your constitutional rights and present a case that:
Examines all the evidence against you in detail
Challenges any weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument
Possibly gets the charge withdrawn
Provides the best possible chance of acquittal at trial
What are the classifications of drugs in Ontario?
The CDSA classifies controlled substances into a series of “schedules”.
These are large groups of drugs classified according to their chemical properties and effects on the user.
This helps authorities assess the seriousness of a drug crime.
The schedules are very long and detailed but following are some of the most common substances listed in each schedule:
Schedule I: Cocaine, heroin, codeine, morphine, opium, GHB (“date rape” drug),
Schedule II: Cannabis, including cannabis resin and marijuana
Schedule III: LSD, magic mushrooms
Schedule IV: Barbiturates (clonazepam, diazepam, Amytal, Nembutal, etc,)
Schedule V: Propylhexedrine and any salt derived from it
Schedule VI: Substances used in the manufacture of other drugs, such as ephedrine; lysergic acid; norephedrine; pseudoephedrine, etc.
Understanding a charge for drug possession
The CDSA states that it is illegal for anyone in Canada to possess substances in Schedules I, II, and III without prior authorization.
You will be familiar with many of these substances; those in schedules Iv, V, and VI, you may be less familiar with as many are used in medical rather than recreational drugs.
However, the drug possession laws are not black and white. There are many gray areas.
The most important things to bear in mind with drug possession charges are:
You do not have to own the substance to be charged with possession of it
“Possession” is not limited to cases where the drug is found on your person
If you knowingly put the substance in the possession or custody of another person, you can still be charged
If you store an amount of the substance at a place for the use of yourself or someone else, even if it is not your place
If someone else possesses a substance with your full knowledge and consent
While these gray areas may seem complex, they provide opportunities for skilled lawyers to build a case in your defence.
What are the maximum penalties for drug possession?
Penalties in drug possession cases are harsh.
Firstly, if you have a prior drug conviction, you can expect to be refused bail after being charged. The prosecution will nearly always insist on you remaining in jail until your trial.
Following are some examples of sentences you will receive for a drug possession conviction:
Up to seven years in jail, three years of probation; and/or thousands of dollars in fines for possession of Schedule I drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.)
Up to three years in jail, three years of probation; and/or thousands of dollars in fines for possession of Schedule III drugs (LSD, magic mushrooms, etc.)
Up to five years in jail, three years probation and/or thousands of dollars in fines for possession of over 30 grams of marijuana or one gram of cannabis resin
Note that you may even receive a jail term for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana.
One of the consequences of a conviction for a drug offence is a lifelong criminal record that can affect many areas of your life:
Your ability to travel outside of Canada (even to the U.S.)
Your immigration status (for non-Canadian citizens)
Your employment prospects
Drug Charges: How we will defend you
Our lawyers have successfully defended many people charged with drug possession in Ottawa
Illegal marijuana possession
Possession of other scheduled substances under the CDSA
We understand the legal processes that law enforcement officers must follow and what to look for in the body of evidence against you.
There are often weaknesses in the prosecution case and, unless they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial, you have a good chance of acquittal.
Even before we get to trial, there may be opportunities for your case to be dismissed and the charges to be thrown out.
You have rights that the police must respect, even if they:
Pull you over for a driving offence and claim to smell drugs in your car or have a suspicion that you have been taking drugs and search your car
Discover drugs on your person while patting you down
We will look for evidence of your rights being violated or where police did not follow due process when stopping and searching you.
It is important to work with an experienced lawyer
as soon as possible if you are charged. We will work to minimize the short- and long-term effects of the drug charges.