Drug related charges are serious and complex criminal charges. These charges can result in serious penalties up to a maximum of life imprisonment, and a criminal record for drug possession or drug trafficking can have serious implications on your ability to travel, your future job prospects, and your immigration status.
If you are facing drug related charges, it is important to get advice from an experienced criminal lawyer — contact our lawyers today.
What Is A Drug Offence?
Drug offences are crimes that are charged under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act. These encompass offences such as:
- Simple possession
- Possession for the purpose of trafficking
- Trafficking in a controlled substance
Possession is defined as having something in your personal physical possession, knowingly in the possession or custody of another person, or knowingly in any place for the use or benefit of yourself or another person. Possession includes some (but not necessarily total) control over the item. This applies to drugs.
Drug trafficking is defined as selling, administering, giving, transferring, sending, or delivering a controlled substance or something held out to be a controlled substance. The definition of drug trafficking also includes selling an authorization or offering to sell, administer, give, transfer, send, or deliver a controlled substance.
What are the different types of drug trafficking charges in Alberta?
- Section 5(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act prohibits trafficking in a controlled substance listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or VI.
- Section 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act prohibits the possession of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or VI for the purposes of trafficking.
What are the different substance schedules for drugs in Canada?
Schedule I substances are often called “hard drugs”, this includes Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Heroin, and Fentanyl. Other drugs, including various “synthetic weed” drugs, are listed under Schedule II and may be subject to the provisions of the Cannabis Act. Schedule III drugs include recreational or easily abused psychoactives such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD, and more. Schedule IV includes prescription drugs that can be abused (e.g. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines (downers), steroids, and other substances, including Khat).
What Happens If I’m Charged With A Drug Offence?
Generally, if someone is arrested for a drug offence, they will be released by police or held for a bail hearing. They may be released on specific conditions, such as to not possess any intoxicating substances or prescription medication not in their own name.
It is strongly recommended you contact an experienced criminal lawyer if you’ve been charged with a drug offence.
How To Fight A Drug Offence Charge
One of the common ways to fight drug possession or drug trafficking charges is to argue that the way the police obtained the evidence against you does not comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the police breached your rights under sections 8, 9, or 10 of the Charter, the evidence against you may be excluded. They must prove that the items alleged are drugs, or were intended to be drugs, and that the accused possessed them.
What Are The Penalties Of A Drug Offence In Alberta?
The penalties for drug offences can range from non-judicial programs like Alternative Measures, to minor fines and probation, all the way up to serious jail time. Drug charges also may carry mandatory minimum jail sentences.
- If the Crown prosecutes the charges by summary conviction, the penalties for possession of Schedule I, II, or III substances on a first offence range from a fine of $1000 or less, 6 months imprisonment, or both.
- For subsequent offences, the penalty may be a fine of $2000 or less, 1-year imprisonment, or both.
- If the Crown prosecutes the charges by indictment, the penalties for possession of Schedule I, II, III, or IV substances may be a term of imprisonment up to a maximum of 7 years, 5 years, 3 years, or 18 months, respectively.
- The penalties for trafficking in Schedule III, IV, or V substances range from a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment if the Crown chooses to prosecute the charges by summary conviction, to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment if the Crown chooses to prosecute the charges by indictment.
- The maximum sentence for trafficking in Schedule I or II substances is life imprisonment.
In Alberta, courts treat the possession and trafficking of hard drugs very severely — 3 years’ imprisonment is the starting point for commercial trafficking in cocaine at more than a minimal level, 5 years’ imprisonment is the starting point for commercial trafficking in heroin at more than a minimal level, and 9 years’ imprisonment is the starting point for wholesale fentanyl trafficking.
Are You Looking For A Drug Lawyer In Edmonton Or Alberta?
If you have been charged with a drug crime, it is important that you speak with a lawyer immediately. Only experienced legal counsel can assist you in defending your Charter rights, and in helping you achieve the best possible result.