Canadian drug legislation is sometimes mistakenly viewed as overly liberal due to the legalization of marijuana, but, in reality, it imposes severe consequences on drug offenders. These consequences were harshened after the adoption of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, introducing mandatory minimum penalties for various drug offences, including possession for the purpose of selling. For these reasons, any charge for drug possession, especially with an intent to sell, immediately calls for the involvement of an experienced drug possession lawyer to address and mitigate the consequences.
In Canada, drug possession is not considered a criminal offence only in the sense that it is not included in the Criminal Code. Instead, drug possession, either for personal use or for the purpose of selling, is regulated by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
The CDSA Act classifies drugs in separate Schedules, and defines penalties for each type of offence. Consequently, all cases of simple drug possession, or possession with intent to sell, are prosecuted similarly to offences regulated by the Criminal Code.
As a result, the distinction between criminal offences and drug offences in Canada is purely technical. Meanwhile, the punishment for those charged with drug possession for the purpose of selling amounts to life imprisonment.
The following information provides more insight on how the prosecution can prove such cases, what the penalties are for each type of offence, and why you would need an experienced drug lawyer to provide a reliable legal defence.
Proving Drug Possession and Intent to Sell
In a similar vein to any criminal offence, the prosecution can only charge someone with drug possession with intent to sell when it can prove all the elements of the offence. If any of the elements are absent, or if your lawyer for drug cases is able to prove that there is no legitimate evidence behind it, the charges will be dismissed.
To charge someone with drug possession, the prosecution must prove that the individual had knowledge of the nature of the substance, and exercised control over it. Having a drug on your person, such as in your pocket, your car, or your house, can serve as evidence that you were in control of the drug.
Intent to sell can be more difficult to prove, unless someone is caught actively distributing the drugs. Most often, the evidence for the intent to sell is based on the quantity of the prohibited substance. If the quantity exceeds the amount for personal use, for example, when someone is found with more than 30 kg of cocaine, it is enough to charge them with drug possession for the purpose of selling.
What Are the Penalties for Possession with Intent to Sell?
In cases of possession with intent to sell, the next step in the legal process is indictment, which typically results in much more severe consequences than summary offences. According to the CDSA Act, a person found guilty of possession with intent to sell is liable to a charge of up to life imprisonment (25 years), and additional minimum punishment for a term between 1-2 years. The maximum penalties are determined based on the type of drugs, their quantity, and the presence of other aggravating factors defined in the Act.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act classifies drugs by several categories, defined in Schedules I-III. If a controlled substance is mentioned in Schedule I (which includes “hard drugs” such as cocaine or heroin) or Schedule II (cannabis and derivatives) of the CDSA Act, the maximum penalty for possession with intent to sell is life imprisonment. For substances in Schedule III (amphetamine family, e.g. LSD), the sentences range between 3 to 10 years.
Therefore, being in possession of more than 30 kg of a Schedule I substance, such as cocaine or heroin, with the intent to sell is punishable by life imprisonment. The same offence in relation to LSD, a Schedule III substance, would result in a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Legal Defense for Intent to Sell
Given the stress of being charged with a drug-related offence and the severity of the possible repercussions, one would need an experienced lawyer for drug cases to ensure a reliable legal defence. Each case is individual and depends on the circumstances, however, a knowledgeable drug lawyer would have a number of strategies to address each situation and alleviate the consequences.
The Canadian legislation offers a number of unique opportunities for proper legal defence and fair trial, including access to the evidence the prosecution has against you. This allows for the possibility of weighing all the alternative defence strategies and selecting the one which has the highest chance of success. According to the legal system, the prosecution discloses some of this evidence only to the legal counsel, which is another reason to involve a lawyer for drug possession as early as possible.
The legitimacy of the evidence against you is another important factor that can be used in your defence. According to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the police must respect individual rights when they are doing searches, or otherwise investigating the crimes. A violation of these rights opens an opportunity to challenge police evidence in court, and to potentially have it dismissed.
Although drug possession with intent to sell is excluded from the Canadian Criminal Code, it is prosecuted similarly to the most other serious criminal offences, and comes with heavy sentences. The prosecution bases their charges off of the suspect’s knowledge of the controlled substance, and their control over the drug. The intent to sell can be proven in several ways, either directly, when someone is caught selling the drug, or indirectly, based on the quantity of the controlled substance.
In the event you find yourself facing charges of drug possession or possession with intent to sell in Canada, it is advisable to contact an experienced legal counsel from Vilkhov Law as early as possible. Our drug lawyers will start working towards your release on bail, check the evidence against you, advise you of your options, and will ensure a robust legal defence.