By U.S. Customs and Border Protection [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

by Toronto Criminal Lawyer

Being charged with an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act can be a stressful and disheartening experience. Do not give up hope. This article is intended to be of some assistance.  I am a criminal lawyer with extensive experience defending drug prosecutions.  Please do not take the reading of this article as triggering a lawyer-client relationship. Each case is different and the advice that you should follow will depend on your particular circumstance. This article is merely to be used as information that can assist you in deciding whether or not you wish to hire a lawyer and what, if anything, you may wish to say to the police or anyone else.
Canada has strict drug laws, and they have recently become stricter since the enactment of the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
Politicians and courts have taken the position that drugs fuel other crimes and ruin lives. If convicted of a drug offence, you could face long periods of incarceration. In fact, many drug offences carry mandatory minimum periods of jail. These penalties, however, are often nothing in comparison to the damage to your reputation, employment prospects and general standing in the community, which can be even more severe!
It is to help you avoid this damage that I have decided to give you the following five tips:

1. You Should Get a Lawyer.

Whether you are simply under investigation or have been charged, a criminal lawyer with experience in defending drug charges can be of great assistance in navigating your way through the system.  There are many pieces of advice that will be gained by hiring a criminal defence drugs lawyer who will review your particular circumstance.  A lawyer who has experience in defending drug cases, like myself, will know what tactics have worked in the past for his or her clients.  A criminal lawyer that you trust has the time and experience to devote to your case is essential if you want to avoid a conviction.

2. Do Not Speak to the Police or Anyone Other Than Your Criminal Lawyer About Your Case

While there are certain pieces of information that you must provide the police so that they can identify you, for example, your name, date of birth and address, you do not have an obligation to provide an answer to any other questions.  The police are permitted to lie in the course of an interrogation that can go on as long as they like.  The police have the singular goal of obtaining information that will assist them in their investigation of a crime occurring – a confession being the best piece of evidence.  False confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

A lawyer–client relationship is privileged, meaning nothing you say to your lawyer can be repeated to anyone else, including the police or the courts, unless that privilege is waived by you.  This privilege can be waived if you bring anyone else into the conversation. For example, if you bring a friend into a meeting with your lawyer, the police and the prosecution can ask that friend what was said in the meeting.  Needless to say, if you say anything to anyone other than your criminal lawyer, that person may also be called as a witness against you in your drugs case.

What to Say to the Police in an Interrogation

The best answer to a question by the police in an interrogation room is “lawyer.”  If that does not satisfy them, put your head down on the table and rest.  The worst answer to a question is a lie. If you say, for example, “I don’t know anything about it,” or, “I am not involved,” and that is not true, that can also be used as evidence of a new offence of mischief by providing false evidence. Again, do not say anything to the police.

3.  You Will Need A Release Plan

Many drug offences, like drug trafficking, importing or exporting and producing drugs are “reverse onus,” offences.  This means that simply by being charged with the offence requires you to “show cause” why you should be released from prison before your trial.  This will require the crafting of a release plan to be presented to the Ontario Court of Justice, often to a Justice of the Peace.

A good release plan will involve a “surety.” A surety can be thought of as a civilian jailor –  a person who will promise the court that they will make sure that you attend court as required and that you do not commit any further offences and follow the release plan while you are out of custody.  Often a surety is a family member or a good friend. A surety promises the court money, either with deposit or without deposit and that if you do not attend court as required or commit an offence, that money may be forfeited after a hearing. Often the court will want you to live with your surety so that they can supervise you.

If you are denied bail at the first instance, you may apply as of right for a bail review in the Superior Court. These hearings are often more difficult because you will have to show why the lower court made a mistake.  You will again have to provide a surety. If the problem with the initial bail hearing was with the proposed surety, you will have to show why the new surety is better.  A criminal defence lawyer with experience in drug offences will help you craft a release plan.

4.  Your Charter Rights May Have Been Violated

All police interactions with the public are subject to review by the courts. If your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been breached, any evidence obtained therefrom may be inadmissible or thrown out. A criminal lawyer with experience in making Charter applications is vital to an accused person who thinks their rights, whether to be free from illegal search and seizure, to a lawyer, to be free from arbitrary detention, to a trial within a reasonable time, or even to life, liberty and security of the person and not to be denied thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, have been violated. The rules of criminal procedure at both the Superior Court and at the Ontario Court of Justice have recently changed so it is important to make sure you get a criminal lawyer who can make an argument in the proper format, to have the best chance of success. A Charter application will inevitably be a highly individualized process, it is important to be frank and thorough with your lawyer at the earliest opportunity so that your defence is of the highest quality and has the best chance of success.

5. You May Be Able To Get Your Confiscated Property Returned to You

Often in drug cases several things will be seized by the police: the drugs themselves, real property, cell phones and pagers, cars, and even cash. This does not mean that you lose all interest in this property. The drugs themselves, unless you have a medical prescription for them, are almost always forfeited to the Crown and destroyed. However, a criminal lawyer can assist you in recovering much of the other property. There are jurisdictional issues and standard of proof issues that can be difficult to understand and navigate if you are not represented by an experienced criminal lawyer.

Conclusion

Again, if you have been charged with a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act offence, do not give up hope. There are lawyers who dedicate themselves to assisting people like you work through this difficult time.

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