Understanding Canadian Criminal Law

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The Advocates Society AIDWYC Criminal Lawyers Association Ontario Bar Association Toronto Lawyers Association Certified as a Specialist in Criminal Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada

Trafficking Cocaine, Marijuana or Other Drugs

drug trafficking

It is a crime in Canada to traffic in a drug prohibited by the (CDSA) . Illegal Drugs prohibited by the CDSA include cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, ketamine, oxycodone, GHB and a slew of other narcotics.

If you or someone you know if facing an allegation of drug trafficking, it is important to consult with a lawyer right away to discuss possible defences to the charge. For more information on drug trafficking, Daniel Brown can be contacted at (416) 297-7200. Otherwise, feel free to read the following frequently asked questions about drug trafficking charges in Canada. For information about other drug offences, read my articles on drug possession chargesdrug importing or marijuana grow-operations.

Frequently asked questions about trafficking drugs:

What does “trafficking” mean?

A person is deemed to have trafficked a drug is they sell, administer, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver the substance to another.  This means that even an act of passing a marijuana joint to another person or buying drugs for a friend and delivering it to them can both be considered trafficking under Canadian law.

Can a person be convicted of trafficking drugs if all they do is offer to traffic drugs without actually completing the transaction?

Offers to traffic drugs are considered the same as actually trafficking the drug. Even if the person making the offer had no realistic possibility to obtain the drugs at all he would still be guilty of drug trafficking.  For example, a charge of trafficking is made out if the accused offers to sell drugs to an undercover officer, even though in fact the accused’s intention was not to sell, or deliver, drugs, but to cheat the buyer by ripping him off.

Can someone be found guilty of trafficking, if they sell an item disguised to look like drugs- but isn’t actually illegal?

Selling something like baby powder but calling it cocaine can meet the definition of trafficking by making an offer to traffic. The prosecutor need not prove that the substance was in fact a drug or a narcotic, as long as it is proven that the accused held out or represented the substance as a drug or a narcotic.

How does being charged with drug trafficking affect a person’s chances at obtaining bail?

Normally, the prosecutor has the burden of proving why a person accused of a criminal offence should be detained in custody pending their trial. This is not the case with drug trafficking charges. Serious drug offences such as trafficking shift the burden onto the accused to prove why he should be released. This “reverse onus” placed on an accused person at a bail hearing makes it more difficult for a person facing serious drug charges to obtain bail.  For more on the bail process in general, read my articles on “obtaining bail” or “changing my bail conditions”.

What types of penalties can someone face for trafficking drugs?

The punishments for drug trafficking can be severe Drug trafficking is one of the few criminal offenses that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

In determining the type of sentence to be given, a judge will examine the number of times a person trafficked drugs, the type of drug sold, the quantity of drug sold and the person’s prior history with the police among other factors.

Are there mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking a narcotic?

For certain drug trafficking scenarios, new mandatory minimum sentences apply. Trafficking drugs involving any of the following aggravating features will carry a minimum one-year jail sentence:

  • for the benefit of organized crime;
  • involving use or threat of violence;
  • involved use or threat of use of weapons;
  • by someone who was previously convicted of a designated drug offence or had served a term of imprisonment for a designated substance offence in the previous 10 years; and,
  • through the abuse of authority or position

For drug trafficking involving any of the following factors, a minimum two-year jail sentence will be imposed:

  • in a prison;
  • in or near a school, in or near an area normally frequented by youth or in the presence of youth;
  • in concert with a youth (person under 18)
  • in relation to a youth (e.g. selling to a youth)

Follow this link for a more detailed review of the mandatory minimum sentencing regime for drug offences.

Besides a criminal conviction and jail sanctions, there are other potential consequences of a conviction for trafficking narcotics.  A person convicted will have a criminal record, which can make getting a job or professional license more difficult. There may also be restrictions on a person’s ability to travel in and out of the country or prohibitions on relocating to other countries such as the United States. For non-residents, there are also potential immigration consequences including the possibility of deportation for a serious drug conviction.

Every case of drug trafficking is different. It is important to speak to an experienced drug lawyer as soon as possible. Daniel Brown can be reached for a consultation at (416) 297-7200.

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