In Canada, criminal drug charges are set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. They can involve drugs such as:
- MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly)
- Powder Cocaine
- Crack Cocaine
- Methamphetamine (Meth)
- Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)
- Hallucinogens (PCP, LSD, Ketamine, Mushrooms) and
The most common drug charges are:
- Simple Possession
- Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
- Importation and
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.
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 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.
R v A.B.
After a major drug investigation in Saskatchewan, A.B. was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking in cocaine, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and marijuana, directing a criminal organization, possession of proceeds of crime and a number of weapons related offences. Mr. McKay was immediately retained for the purposes of securing his release and to defend A.B. on the merits.
The police investigation involved approximately 22 warrants to seize various items, 2 authorizations to intercept private communications (wiretap orders) and numerous police and civilian witnesses. Mr. McKay and Ms. Ferg ran a preliminary inquiry during which a number of key police witnesses were cross-examined. At the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry, the Crown decided that they would not proceed on the conspiracy to traffic in marijuana charge and the various weapons charges. Shortly thereafter, the Crown also decided not to proceed on the criminal organization charges.
The first pre-trial motion was conducted over two weeks and involved challenging the legality of 7 searches. These searches were critical as they formed the foundation for the later wiretaps and numerous production orders. All of these searches were ruled illegal as they breached A.B.’s section 8 Charter rights. As a result of the successful motion, the Crown agreed to withdraw all of the remaining serious charges and the matter was resolved.
R v A.L.
A.L. was charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime in relation to a “random” traffic stop on a Saturday night. After securing his release, Mr. McKay immediately began negotiations with Crown counsel which resulted in a referral to alternative measure and the charges being withdrawn.
R v P.L.
P.L. was charged with possession of nearly 2 oz of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and an possession of a prohibited weapon after the police searched his vehicle. The matter was set for trial but Mr. McKay was able to persuade the Crown to withdraw the charges prior to the trial date.
R v. C.D.
Mr. McKay was counsel for C.D. who was charged with trafficking in cocaine and conspiracy to traffic in cocaine. This major out-of-province prosecution involved the use of wiretaps, informants, search warrants and surveillance evidence. On the first day of trial, Mr. McKay conducted extensive negotiations that resulted in numerous charges being withdrawn. This significantly reduced C.D.'s jeopardy and led to the successful resolution of the matter.
R. v. D.G.
D.G. was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking after the police found almost 2 oz of crack cocaine in his rental vehicle. D.G. was stopped in a “routine” traffic stop which led to the eventually seizure. Mr. McKay launched a constitutional challenge to the traffic stop and the search of his car based upon a breach of D.G.’s right to be free against unreasonable search and seizure. The judge agreed with Mr. McKay’s argument that the police had no grounds to search the vehicle and excluded all drug evidence found in the vehicle. D.G. was found not guilty of all drug charges.