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

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. After conducting an initial review of the file, Ms. Ferg obtained the disclosure from the original trial and conducted some additional inquiries. After lengthy discussions and negotiations with the Crown, the matter was sent back to the Court of Queen’s Bench for a new trial without the need for a full hearing before the Alberta Court of Appeal. 

Heather Ferg
Drug Offences

A.D. was charged with possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking and simple possession under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as well as possession of proceeds of crime under the Criminal Code of Canada after his car was searched during a traffic stop. The drugs alleged to be involved were Alprazolam, Marihuana and Cocaine. Mr. McKay was retained as counsel and the matter was set for trial. Prior to trial, Mr. McKay and Ms. Ferg filed an extensive Charter notice alleging numerous violations of A.D.’s rights.  The arguments included violations of A.D.’s right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, insufficient grounds for arrest, as well as a violation of A.D’s right to counsel. The Charter notice also alleged that the police officer who arrested A.D. was abusive in her conduct and violated his section 7 right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The matter proceeded to trial and the parties entered into a voir dire to hear evidence in relation to the Charter motion. After the testimony of the arresting officer, the parties had discussions and the matter was resolved.  While the charges he was facing carried a potential for significant jail time, A.D. pled guilty to two counts of simple possession and received a fine.

Ian McKay, Heather Ferg
Drug Offences

After an extensive police investigation involving numerous wiretaps, C.D. was charged with two counts of committing offences for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization over a period of almost a year and a half. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison each.  The matter (which involved 4 other co-accused facing numerous counts of attempted murder) was set for a 6 week judge and jury trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Shortly before the proceedings were to commence, Mr. McKay and Ms. Ferg were able to resolve the matter. A.B. pled guilty to a single count of drug trafficking and was able to put his criminal charges behind him. 

Ian McKay, Heather Ferg
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
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