Drug trafficking charges must be taken seriously. You risk losing your freedom and your constitutional rights if you are found guilty of trafficking drugs, and criminal charges can affect every area of your life. Important elements related to criminal offences need to be addressed by a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defence attorney.
Individuals facing drug trafficking charges in Canada are charged under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Being convicted of drug trafficking charges means facing fines, incarceration, and restrictions on employment and educational opportunities.
Under Canadian law, drug trafficking is defined as follows:
- To sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver the substance
- To sell an authorization to obtain the substance, or
- To offer to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a) or otherwise under the authority of regulations
The Process of Being Charged
Being charged with drug trafficking typically means first being investigated by police officers. If sufficient evidence arises from the investigation, the officers will then send drug trafficking charges to Crown Counsel. After being charged with drug trafficking, you will either be held for a formal bail hearing or released.
Next, you will receive a document stating the date, time, and place of your court appearance. You must also adhere to specific restrictions placed on you if you are released. If you are released on bail, you may be required to do the following:
- Meet with a bail supervisor
- Refrain from using a mobile phone
- Give up your passport
- Stay inside a particular geographic zone
- Inform the court of your address and any future address changes
- Adhere to a strict curfew
- Do not commit any crimes
- Avoid using drugs and alcohol
- Do not communicate with members of a criminal enterprise
Your Court Appearance
There are not many substantive events that will take place when you attend your first court appearance. You will not be required to take any important steps regarding your case during the first court appearance – instead, the court will read the charges you are facing and make sure that you understand the nature of the allegations. Also, you will have the right to order disclosure from the Crown attorney’s office.
After the first court appearance, you will have the opportunity to review the disclosure documents and hire a criminal defence lawyer. Another court appearance date will be scheduled, and the appearance notice you receive will inform you of the date, time, and place of the scheduled court appearance.
It is recommended that you arrive at least fifteen minutes early for your court appearance. Read the docket list and make sure the charges match those listed on your appearance notice. It is also a good idea to turn your mobile phone off before you enter the courtroom.
Duty counsel will be present during your first court appearance. You can ask the duty counsel for assistance during your court appearance. During your first court appearance, you will order the disclosure regarding your case – it may take several weeks for the Crown to prepare the disclosure documents package. By requesting disclosure before you retain a criminal defence lawyer, you can make sure your case is moving through the system on time.
A preliminary hearing is a court proceeding during which the Crown will present evidence against the accused, typically by examining witnesses who testify. You will not present a defence at a preliminary hearing: instead, the defence will analyze and evaluate the case being presented against the accused individual. After the preliminary hearing, the accused is either discharged or committed to trial. If an accused is discharged, this means that sufficient evidence does not exist to prosecute the accused.
If the accused is committed to trial, then a trial date will be set. A judge only needs to see that enough evidence exists to possibly convict the accused; if this standard is met, the accused will be committed to trial.
Preliminary hearings can help your case by allowing a defence lawyer the opportunity to examine the evidence presented by the Crown. Also, learning about specific witnesses and their backgrounds can strengthen your case. If you were subject to an illegal search and seizure, a criminal defence lawyer can draft Charter applications and work toward having some evidence suppressed so that it will not be admitted at trial.
How to Fight Back Against Your Charges
Police officers may have committed a number of errors while performing an investigation related to your drug trafficking charges. Informants, anonymous tips, and sting operations are often used by police departments during drug trafficking investigations.
You can fight back against drug trafficking charges by claiming you did not consent to, have knowledge of, or control the substance in question. You will likely need to demonstrate that you were not in willful and conscious possession of the drug. For example, you may claim that you were unaware that the drug was an illicit substance. Also, you may claim that you were unaware that the drug was in an article of your clothing, or in your possession at all.
You may claim that another party forced you to maintain possession of the drug where police officers discovered it. It is also possible for you to argue that you in fact did not control the drug.
The Crown must demonstrate that the drug you possessed is a controlled substance. However, lab evidence regarding the controlled substance may have been destroyed, or, required certificates related to tests may not have been obtained by the police department. Any certificate must also be served to your defence lawyer. Procedural mistakes made by the Crown can help you fight back against your charges.
Remember, the Crown must prove the drug trafficking charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Any missing or destroyed evidence will make it more difficult for the Crown to bring a strong case against you.
Police officers may have committed an unlawful search and seizure. A skilled defence lawyer will argue that police officers did not have a valid search warrant. A defence lawyer can also argue that the evidence obtained by performing an unlawful search and seizure should be suppressed. These factors can all help you fight back against drug trafficking charges.