Drug Offences

In Canada, criminal drug charges are set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. They can involve drugs such as:

  • Marihuana
  • MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly)
  • Powder Cocaine 
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine (Meth)
  • Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)
  • Hallucinogens (PCP, LSD, Ketamine, Mushrooms) and
  • Steroids

The most common drug charges are:

  • Simple Possession
  • Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
  • Trafficking
  • Production
  • Importation and 
  • Exportation

While the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is the main piece of legislation governing this area of law, the possession of drugs is also controlled by a number acts and regulations such as the Food and Drug Act, the Narcotic Control Regulations and the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Potential Consequences
If you are convicted of a drug offence, the consequences can be severe. Depending on the offence, the type of drug and the quantity, sentences can range from a fine to life in prison. If you are not a Canadian citizen, you could also face deportation. 

Many drug offences attract a significant period of penitentiary jail time. This is particularly true in the case of a subsequent offence or if your drug charges are accompanied by weapons or proceeds of crime charges.

A drug conviction can also have lasting effects even after your sentence is served. Having even a minor drug offence on your criminal record can lead to difficulty crossing international boarders and can impact future employment.

Understanding Your Case
Drug investigations vary greatly in size and scope. They can be very brief (as in the case of a traffic stop or a quick undercover “buy and bust”) or can span several months or years. Sometimes a “small” drug case will actually be a spin-off case from a much larger investigation.

Regardless of the size of the case, drug investigations can involve the use of undercover police officers, confidential informants, police agents, surveillance, search warrants, production orders, wiretap authorizations and other special investigatory tactics. In many cases, the police are also performing extensive searches of cell phones and other personal electronics both before and after arrest.

Drug investigations can be conducted by local police, the RCMP or a special “Integrated Drug Unit” that is designed specifically to investigate drugs and/or organized crime.

The first step in defending any drug case is to get a clear picture of the size and scope of what you are facing. If you have been charged with a drug offence, you are entitled to review ALL of the evidence relevant to your case and obtain legal advice before making any decisions on how to proceed.

Defending a Drug Case
Drug work is a specialized area of law that requires a high level of expertise. All of the investigatory tactics discussed above can give rise to special legal issues that may be relevant to your case. Selecting a lawyer with an intimate and up to date knowledge of search and seizure law is critical.

The vast majority of drug cases will involve applications for the exclusion of evidence under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These applications can involve challenging the legality of searches and quashing judicial orders (such as search warrants, production orders or wiretap authorizations). They can also involve applying to have post-arrest statements (i.e. confessions) tossed out.

How We Can Help
The law in this area is changing all of the time. Our firm specializes in drug litigation and has a particular focus on personal and electronic privacy. We have successfully defended many drug cases that ranged anywhere from a few grams to multiple kilograms.

Even if you were arrested with an illegal substance or gave a “confession,” your case may be well worth defending. If the investigation was not conducted properly or the evidence against you is insufficient, you may have a viable defence. If the police breached any of your Charter rights (before or after your arrest), you may be able to bring a motion to exclude the evidence against you.

McKay Criminal Defence LLP is at the forefront of Canadian drug litigation. We have been involved in the successful defence of numerous major drug prosecutions throughout Western Canada and the Yukon.

Please contact us to arrange a free initial consultation so that we can discuss the specific circumstances of your case and help you decide how to best move forward.

Selected Cases

Drug Offences

F.D. was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in cocaine and possession of proceeds of crime after the police observed purported drug activity and executed a warrant on a hotel room. Mr. McKay had discussions with the Crown about the weaknesses in the police investigation and the problematic foundation for the Crown’s case generally and the matter was stayed prior to the preliminary inquiry.

Ian McKay
Drug Offences

D.R. was convicted of importing approximately 5 lbs of a Schedule 1 substance (Opium) into Canada contrary to section 6(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Upon being retained for the conduct of the appeal, Ms. Ferg was able to secure D.R.’s judicial release pending the hearing of the appeal.

Heather Ferg
Drug Offences

S.S. was charged in two separate drug prosecutions. In the first, S.S. faced drug charges including possession of cocaine and MDMA for the purpose of trafficking. In the second, S.S. was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking in relation to meth, cocaine and heroin as well as production of cocaine. He was also charged with possession of proceeds of crime (in relation to approximately $20,000 in cash) as well as possession of a restricted firearm (a fully automatic assault rifle) and ammunition.
After extensive pre-trial preparation, filing Charter motions and a number of negotiations with Crown counsel, Mr. McKay and Ms. Ferg able to resolve all of S.S.’s matters with a plea to a single count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and a single count of possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking. All of the charges from the first prosecution were dropped and all of the remaining charges on the second prosecution were withdrawn. S.S. (who had a related record) received a sentence of 3.5 years in custody (which was approximately 6 years lower than the Crown’s initial offer).

Ian McKay, Heather Ferg
Drug Offences

The client was facing very serious allegations of trafficking in fentanyl. If convicted, he faced a lengthy term of imprisonment in Federal Penitentiary. Ryan Patmore brought a comprehensive application to the Court for exclusion of evidence based on the investigator’s inadequate grounds to search the vehicle, and the contents of mobile devices found inside, which were crucial for a conviction to sustain. Before trial, Mr. Patmore was able to identify such significant frailties in the Crown’s case, that it
resolved to the lesser offence of simple possession and the client was able to avoid a years’ long term of incarceration.

Ryan Patmore
Drug Offences

The client was charged with trafficking in a significant amount of cocaine, and faced a lengthy term of jail if convicted. This was a complex case that involved long periods of surveillance leading to the issuance of a search warrant for the house which resulted in the discovery of the alleged drugs. In advance of trial, Mr. Patmore negotiated with the Crown, advising of all of the pre-trial applications challenging the warrant, and all other difficulties with the Crown case in terms of the method of search, and issues with respect to the client’s admissibility of other evidence based on several alleged breaches of her rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A trial date was set, however, the Crown eventually agreed to a resolution to simple possession for a nominal fine. 

Ryan Patmore
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