Drug-related convictions are amongst the most consequential. The consequences can range from small fines for simple possession of “soft” drugs (or, in some cases, for first offences, enrolment in the Alternative Measures Program), to multi-year penitentiary sentences for trafficking in “hard” drugs. And beyond that, there are the collateral effects: significant restrictions on your ability to get a job or to travel freely are just two of the most common. These are only two of the reasons that, if you are charged with a drug-related offence, you need to be very careful about how you proceed, and who you retain to help you.
Although these are criminal in nature, drug offences are largely governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and there are, effectively, four general types:
Where the alleged drug is possessed for the personal use of the person having possession of that drug. All the Crown needs to prove here is that the substance is a controlled substance within the meaning of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and that the Accused is in possession of it.
Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking:
Where the alleged drug is possessed for the purpose of trafficking. The Crown does not need to show evidence of actual trafficking, but does need to show evidence consistent with trafficking being the intended purposes of the possession. This evidence typically includes possession of items associated with trafficking: electronic scales to measure out the drug, baggies to package the drugs, records of purchases (including amounts and costs), multiple cell phones, and weapons being amongst the most common.
Where the police, or other witness, has direct or circumstantial evidence of the drug being trafficked. Trafficking includes not only commercial sales, but also simply passing the substance on to another person (also referred to as social trafficking). Sentences for trafficking are always much more severe than sentences for simple possession.
Where the Accused is alleged to actually be producing the narcotic for sale. In terms of technical complexity, drug-related offences often involve some of the most difficult areas of criminal law. Often, an arrest will be made after a period of police surveillance, which will often involve electronic surveillance (i.e. wire-taps) and physical surveillance. There may have been a sting operation. There may have been undercover operatives. The police may have obtained access to your phone or internet records. They may have installed a kind of tracking device onto your car. They might have even gotten permission to steal your car in order to install a tracking device in order to obtain evidence that can be added to cell phone records that the Crown might try to use to show that you were using your phone in a specific location at a specific time and for a specific purpose.
You can see then, that it is not surprising that most drug files have real Charter issues attached to them, such as was your right to be protected against an unreasonable search or secure violated? Were you subjected to constitutionally protected right to security of the person? Was your right to silence breached? The list goes on.