Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer Number: 768
Possession of a narcoticRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 768
The federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act lists all illegal drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and hashish. It is illegal to knowingly have any of these drugs in your possession at any time, even if they do not belong to you.
What is considered possession?
Under the law, the Crown prosecutor must prove certain things before you can be found guilty of possession. First, the Crown prosecutor must prove that you had physical custody of the drug, which means that the drug was somewhere on your body, or in a place that you control. For example, your home or your car are places that you control. Second, the Crown prosecutor must prove that you knew the substance was an illegal drug.
Trial procedures for possession
Possession is a hybrid offence, which means that the Crown prosecutor will decide whether to treat your case less seriously, as a summary conviction offence, or more seriously, as an indictable offence. Although the Crown prosecutor’s decision will depend on many factors, generally, if it is the first time you have been charged with possession and you only had a small quantity of drugs, your case will be treated as a summary conviction offence.
Penalties for possession
The Crown prosecutor’s choice will also affect the penalties that can be imposed if you are found guilty. For the summary conviction procedure, the maximum penalty for drug possession is a fine of $1,000 and six months in prison if it is your first offence. If it is not your first offence, the maximum penalty is a $2,000 fine and one year in prison. However, the penalties usually given by the court for first time offenders possessing “soft drugs” such as marijuana, range from a fine between $250 and $500 and probation.
For more serious drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, the Crown may seek a jail sentence even for first offenders. If the Crown prosecutor proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty is seven years in prison.
Visit Canada’s Department of Justice for more information about criminal law and the justice system in Canada, or, view the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to see information regarding specific drug related offences.
If you have been charged with possession of a narcotic, or any criminal offence, contact one of our preferred criminal law experts:
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