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Drug Charges
Walter Drescher
Walter Drescher

Oct 2010-The federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act lists all illegal drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and hashish (there are many more). It is illegal to knowingly have any of these drugs in your possession at any time, even if they do not belong to you. Unless, you are the holder of a valid medicinal marijuana certificate. Under the law, the Crown prosecutor must prove certain things before you can be found guilty of possession. First, the Crown prosecutor must prove that you had physical custody of the drug, which means that the drug was somewhere on your body, or in a place that you control. For example, your home or your car are usual places that you control. Second, the Crown prosecutor must prove that you knew the substance was an illegal drug. Possession is a hybrid offence, which means that the Crown prosecutor will decide whether to treat your case less seriously, as a summary conviction offence, or more seriously, as an indictable offence. Although the Crown prosecutor's decision will depend on many factors, generally, if it is the first time you have been charged with possession and you only had a small quantity of drugs, your case will be treated as a summary conviction offence. The Crown prosecutor's choice will also affect the penalties that can be imposed if you are found guilty. For the summary conviction procedure, the maximum penalty for drug possession is a fine of $1000 and six months in prison if it is your first offence. If it is not your first offence, the maximum penalty is a $2000 fine and one year in prison. However, the penalties usually given by the court for first time offenders possessing "soft drugs" such as marijuana, range from a fine between $250 and $500 and probation. For more serious drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, the crown may seek a jail sentence even for first time offenders. If the Crown prosecutor proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty is seven years in prison. Trafficking (or possession for the purpose) means that you were in possession of an illegal drug, and that you offered it, sold it, or passed it on to someone else. It is a serious offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, with more severe penalties than possession of a narcotic. Possession for the purpose of trafficking is a separate offence as well. Although it is not always clear whether someone is in possession for the purpose of trafficking, the police often rely on a number of surrounding circumstances to lay such a charge. For example, a person might be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking if they have a large quantity of drugs in their possession, or if they are caught with several small packages of drugs prepared for individual sale and an accompanying list of names (debt list). In the most obvious situation, if a person is caught actually selling drugs or trying to sell drugs, they will be charged with trafficking, even if the quantity they are trying to sell is small. Importing narcotics charges will also be laid if a person is caught entering Canada with illegal drugs in their possession. The maximum penalty for drug trafficking is life in prison. Most often, the penalty given by the court includes some jail time and probation. Drug trafficking is a serious offence with serious consequences. If you have been charged with drug trafficking or possession, you should consult a lawyer for assistance.

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