Home//Blog//The ABCs of Defending Drug Prosecutions

When it comes to drug charges of any kind, law enforcement has little tolerance.

Controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine are considered a danger to the public, and anyone caught using, possessing, or distributing them faces serious penalties. Various jurisdictions in Canada have tried to “harm reduction strategies” to limit the risks associated with outright criminalizing any drug possession. Despite this, the office of the Premier recently issued a press release seeking to ban drug use in public spaces. The City of Toronto recently sought a personal use exemption for small amounts of drugs. The Province of Ontario has vocally opposed this move.

The bottom line is that criminal offences for drug possession and trafficking  – especially hard drugs – are here to stay.

According to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, it is unlawful to have illegal drugs on your person or in your possession at any time, regardless of whether the controlled substance in question belongs to you. The prosecutor need only prove that you had “knowledge and control” to secure a conviction. “Knowledge and control” means that you knew of the drugs and they were either on your person or in a location that you control, i.e., your car, apartment, etc. Drug trafficking encompasses more than the transport or sale of drugs. If you give someone drugs or hold them for a friend, you may be charged with drug trafficking. The police can charge you with drug trafficking if you offer or attempt to sell an illegal substance to another person.

Fortunately, with the right defence counsel, you can fight back. I am a Calgary criminal defence lawyer who is highly experienced in defending drug charges. I have obtained successful outcomes for my clients in cases ranging from simple possession to wholesale importation on an international level.

Defending a drug prosecution in Canada involves various legal strategies and tactics. However, don’t be fooled: Every drug prosecution has its own set of circumstances. No two defences are exactly alike and each must be tailored to the specific circumstances of the case. Here are some common defense strategies that a lawyer might employ:

  1. Challenging the legality of the search and seizure: If the evidence was obtained through an illegal search or seizure, it may be possible to have it excluded from the trial. This could involve arguing that the police did not have grounds to arrest you which means that any search flowing from that arrest was illegal. In addition, the police may have searched a car, home, or a work space when they did not have a valid search warrant, or that they exceeded the allowable scope of the warrant. These defence strategies require an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the related case law.
  2. Questioning the chain of custody: The defence may challenge the integrity of the evidence by questioning the chain of custody, also known as continuity. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in how the evidence was handled and stored, it may undermine its reliability and admissibility in court.
  3. Disputing the ownership or control of the drugs: In cases where drugs were found in a shared space or vehicle, the defense may argue that their client did not have knowledge of or control over the drugs. This defense strategy may involve presenting evidence to show that the drugs belonged to someone else. If the prosecution cannot prove that you knew about the existence of the drugs they claim were yours, you could avoid being convicted. In addition, if you testify that you did not know about the presence of drugs and a judge believes you, you can avoid being convicted.
  4. Challenging the reliability and credibility of witness testimony: If the prosecution’s case relies on witness testimony such as an undercover drug officer or a nosy neighbour, the defense may challenge the credibility or reliability of those witnesses. Credibility refers to a witness’s willingness to tell the truth, while reliability refers to a witness’ accuracy in recalling events. Both credibility and reliability are tested by means of cross-examination by defence counsel in the course of a preliminary inquiry and/or trial.
  5. Raising a defense of entrapment: In some cases, police officers may engage in tactics that could be considered entrapment, such as coercing someone into committing a crime they would not have otherwise committed. A proven claim of entrapment will result in the staying of the proceedings. This is a very complex area of law involving various legal issues and principles such as: reasonable suspicion, opportunity to commit the offence versus exploratory inquiries by police, legal inducements, and random virtue testing.
  6. Seeking diversion or alternative sentencing: Depending on the circumstances of the case and the accused’s background, the defence may advocate for diversion programs or alternative sentencing options instead of traditional prosecution and punishment. This could include drug treatment programs, community service, or probation. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada has a firm policy relating to pursuing alternative measures in a drug prosecution.
  7. Negotiating a plea bargain: In some cases, it may be in the accused’s best interest to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. This could involve pleading guilty to lesser charges or agreeing to cooperate with authorities in exchange for reduced penalties. It is important to assess the strength of a case and review disclosure prior to engaging in plea negotiations as this may impact the ultimate outcome.

These are just a few examples of defense strategies that may be employed in drug prosecution cases in Canada. The specific strategy used will depend on the facts of the case, the evidence available, and the goals of the accused and their legal counsel.

I can help you in several ways, including:

Providing guidance on your options: I can explain the charges you are facing and the potential consequences of a conviction. I can also provide guidance on the best course of action to take, such as negotiating a plea bargain or fighting the charges in court.

Assisting with the defence: A lawyer can help you gather evidence and prepare a strong defence for court. I can also represent you in court and advocate on your behalf.

Negotiating a plea bargain: Depending on the strength of the evidence, I may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. This may involve pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Advocating for your rights: I can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process and can fight for a fair outcome.

Overall, if you are facing drug charges in Calgary, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible. I can provide guidance and support and help you navigate the legal system with my years of experience. Contact me today for a free consultation, available 24/7.

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