Controlled Drugs and Substances Act Lawyer Ottawa • Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CSDA) Lawyer Ontario

What Are Drug Offences

Any offence contained in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CBSA) amounts to a drug charge. Probably because drug use was mostly not perceived as criminal conduct until the 20th century, drugs offences missed the creation of the Criminal Code in the 19th century. Parliament later decided they deserved their own legislation which has been characterized by increasingly severe penalties and longer lists of drugs captured by successive Acts. 

Why Drug Charges Have Among the Most Serious Consequences of Any Offences

Because of the "stigma" that many ascribe to drug offences, being charged can have grave consequences for your future. Minor drug offences can lead to loss of employment and a lifetime of trouble crossing international borders. Major drug offences can lead to years and even decades of imprisonment. 

The rise in popularity of synthetic drugs now makes it more difficult to assess the severity of drug charges, as they increasingly no longer fall into the three neat categories of Marihuana (not so serious), Cocaine (moderately serious), and Heroin (very serious) of days gone by. You risk a criminal record and imprisonment for any kind of drug offence.

Why Drug Charges May Proceed On Questionable Evidence that Can be Challenged

The common weaknesses in drug charges by the five most common categories of charge include:

1. Possession - simple drug possession is sometimes charged as the much more serious possession for the purpose of trafficking (P for P), even though the drugs are for personal use and not in a huge quantity, requiring a strong defence response;

2. Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking - there is often very flimsy evidence of the "Purpose for Trafficking," but you need to strongly counter the evidence the Crown advances since some judges will simply accept as a given police conclusions about purpose, even though there is no science and limited experience backing up those conclusions;

3. Trafficking - very innocuous, not-for-profit activity can amount to trafficking, so a strong technical defence might be called for to demonstrate why none of your activities in any context could amount to trafficking;

4. Importing - even very small quantities of drugs can qualify as importing, and attract severe mandatory minimum sentences, but knowledge and control of the drugs is required to prove this - and most other - drug offences, so taking the stand in your own defence may be a good defence strategy to importing if you lack a criminal record;

5. Production - a constellation of innocent chemicals can be claimed to be production, but the against you may be weak in making the link between the ingredients and your actually having produced prohibited drugs. 

How to Win a Drug Charge Trial: 5 Proven Drug Defence Strategies that Work

Many technical defences are possible to drug charges. Gordon Scott Campbell served for many years as a Federal Crown Drug Prosecutor in five provinces and one territory. He saw up close the best (and worst) drug defence strategies, created Crown strategies to counter those defences, and trained drug squad police officers on how to conduct lawful investigations.

He now puts that experience to work defending those charged with drug offences.

1. The drugs didn't test

Although police may lay charges because they suspect you being in possession of drugs, surprisingly they often won't test the drugs until you demand a trial. There are all sorts of failures possible in that testing process resulting in lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt about the nature of the drug, from failure of the police to establish continuity (a continuous chain of custody from time of seizure to time of testing), to lab contamination. Always consider challenging the nature of the drug. 

2. The drugs aren't mine

As simple a strategy as this might sound, both KNOWLEDGE and CONTROL proven beyond a reasonable doubt are key elements to securing drug convictions. So if you didn't know about the drugs, or even if you did know about them but had no control over them, then a court can't convict you. Elements of making this defence work include:

  • challenge your link to the drugs;

  • if charged with importing, challenge the strength of the circumstantial evidence that you knew you had drugs on your person or in your luggage.

3. The drugs are for personal use

Possession for the purpose of trafficking charges are almost never based on a truckload of drugs. They sometimes involve questionable assumptions about how many drugs someone would carry or drive around with for personal use, or have stashed at a home or business, beyond which is the claim that you must be selling them.

To bolster these trafficking claims, the Crown may lead more questionable evidence of indicia of trafficking, again based on dubious assumptions; in the 1990's it was even claimed in court by Federal Crowns that having a cell phone contributed to proof of being a drug dealer! Elements of making this defence work include:

  • challenge the qualifications of Crown experts (usually police officers without much formal training);

  • challenge the conclusions of Crown experts (usually not based on peer reviewed academic studies of any sort);

  • call your own contrary evidence on personal use (the defence can produce its own expert who can raise a reasonable doubt).

4. The drugs are the product of an illegal search

Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom protects everyone against unreasonable search and seizure. At trial your lawyer can bring a preliminary motion arguing that even if you had knowledge and control of the drugs, they would have never been discovered by the police were it not for an illegal search and seizure. 

5. The drug charges are the product of an illegally obtained statement

The two key rights under the Charter that you have upon arrest or detention are the right to remain silent, and the right to consult a lawyer. The police need to tell you about those rights. And they need to give you a reasonable opportunity to exercise them.

Any statement you give also needs to be "voluntary," such that there can't have been threats or promises that unreasonably induced the statement. Plus it must be the product of a functioning mind.

Your lawyer can apply to a trial court to exclude any statement that you gave which breached those mandatory criteria for admissibility. 

Why Retain Our Firm to Defend you on Drug Charges

The firm's Managing Lawyer Gordon Scott Campbell served for many years as a Federal Crown Drug Prosecutor, where he worked closely with law enforcement agencies engaged in the pursuit of drug crime. He understands all the weakness of drug prosecutions, and will fight in your defence of drug charges.