Your Guide to Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges by Drug Lawyers in Victoria
Table of Contents
- What is Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking?
- Investigation of Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
- Bail Process and Conditions for Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
- How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
- Where can I pay for bail for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
- How do I change my release conditions for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
- Penalties for Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
- Defending Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
- What are the best defences to drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
- How can I help defend drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
- What can a lawyer do to help me defend against drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
- Further Reading
- What’s Next?
- Drug Possession FAQs
What is Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking?
Drug possession for the purpose of trafficking is the offence of possessing illicit drugs or other controlled substances with the intention of eventually trafficking them. This offence is similar to that of drug possession, but with the additional element that the person charged was intending to sell or transport the substance.
Drug offences are listed under federal legislation called the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”), not under the Canadian Criminal Code. This means that if charged, you will be dealing with Federal Crown Prosecutors, instead of Provincial Crown Prosecutors.
The definition above sets out three types of possession:
- Actual personal possession – the drug is on your person.
- Constructive possession – the drug is not on your person but is kept with another person or at another place with your knowledge and consent, for your own or someone else’s benefit, whether or not the place belongs to you.
- Joint possession – the drug is not on any one person but is kept with another person or place with the knowledge and consent of all persons with joint possession.
Possession in law is made out if you had knowledge and control of the drug, which can be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence. Once these elements are established, the Crown must prove that you intended to traffic the controlled substance.
You may be charged with PPT even if the police did not see you trafficking. Some of the factors considered relevant to proving the element of trafficking are:
- The substance is in large amounts, inconsistent with personal use;
- The substance is of atypically high purity or quality;
- The substance is worth a large amount of money;
- The substance is packaged in a way that is consistent with trafficking (e.g. small baggies);
- There is the presence of tools typically used for trafficking (e.g. scales, baggies, phones, etc.); and
- A large amount of money was found with the substance, consistent with prior sales.
If any of these factors are present, a Judge may make the inference that you possessed the substance for the purpose of trafficking.
Investigation of Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
Police may initiate a PPT investigation for a number of reasons. Often the police conduct surveillance of a suspected drug trafficker based on a tip from an informant or an anonymous source through Crime Stoppers. In those circumstances, the police may seek a warrant to search a home or vehicle for drugs, cutting agents, packaging materials, cash, or weapons.
During a traffic stop, if the police observe or smell a drug or related paraphernalia in your vehicle, they may have grounds to arrest you and/or your passengers for simple drug possession. They will then conduct a more thorough search of your vehicle for indicators of PPT. Similarly, if you have been placed under arrest for another offence, the police can search your person for indicators of PPT.
After the police have gathered their evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all the evidence they collected, known as the “disclosure package,” to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
Because of the serious nature of a PPT charge, it is rare for the police to release you from the scene. In most cases, the police will keep you in custody and require a formal bail hearing to determine your release.
The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the district office or Courthouse.
On a weekday, you will be transferred from the district office to the Victoria Courthouse for your bail hearing. The address of the Courthouse is as follows:
850 Burdett Ave
Victoria, BC V8W 1B4
If you are arrested after approximately 3 p.m., you will be held at the detachment until the following morning, at which time you will be transported to the Courthouse for your bail hearing. Your hearing will be conducted in front of a Provincial Court Judge.
If you are arrested on Friday after approximately 3 p.m., or if you are arrested on a weekend, your bail hearing will be conducted at the detachment via telephone with a Justice of the Peace from the Justice Centre.
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.
Because of these difficulties, while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, until that happens, stop questioning you.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail. We will immediately do the following:
- Call in to the district office where you are being held, or the Victoria Courthouse if you have been transported, and speak to you.
- Contact the Prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the court about why you should be released on bail.
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider the following factors:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
If you are released on bail with this type of charge, tight restrictions will likely be applied to your release.
Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also to ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit).
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the Judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required, you pose no significant risk of harm to the public, and you will not re-offend. This may sometimes be difficult with drug charges, but not impossible.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we cannot convince the Prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the Court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review, which is conducted at the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Where can I pay for bail for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
If you or a loved one are charged with PPT in Victoria and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. You can pay bail at any court registry (courthouse) in British Columbia. If you live in Vancouver, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Victoria.
The Victoria court registry is open from 8:30 – 4:30, Monday to Friday. The contact details of the registry office at the Victoria Courthouse are as follows:
850 Burdett Ave
Victoria, BC V8W 1B4
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after you have your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
Release on bail for PPT charges may include restrictions that impact your day-to-day life. This could include conditions to refrain from:
- Breaking any laws,
- Contacting certain individuals,
- Visiting certain places,
- Using drugs or alcohol,
- Possessing a mobile phone,
- Possessing weapons,
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest),
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew), and/or
- Travelling to other provinces or out of the country.
The Judge can also impose some additional conditions, such as:
- Residing where approved,
- Reporting to probation,
- Attending counselling,
- Maintaining or seeking employment, and/or
- Wearing an ankle bracelet.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise conditions, including:
- Your criminal history,
- Your physical and mental condition,
- The nature of the alleged PPT charge,
- The likelihood that you will flee,
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage,
- Whether you have stable employment,
- Whether you have stable living arrangements, and
- Whether you have ties to the community.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown Prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
The penalty for PPT can be hefty, including a significant jail sentence depending on the nature and quantity of drugs involved.
The primary indicator of the maximum possible punishment is the type of drug found in your possession, for example:
- Cocaine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, codeine, GHB (“date rape” drug), and opium carry possible sentences of life imprisonment;
- LSD and psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment if prosecuted by way of indictment, and 18 months if summary.
You may also face a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 – 2 years if certain factors are present, including:
- You committed the offence for the benefit or at the direction of a criminal organization;
- Threats and violence were used in committing the offence;
- A weapon was used in committing the offence;
- You have a prior conviction for a designated substance offence within the last 10 years;
- You committed the offence near a school, or another public area frequented by underaged persons;
- You committed the offence in a prison; or
- You used the services of a minor in committing the offence.
Other factors that can impact the sentence range include your personal circumstances, criminal history, and the circumstances of the offence.
In addition to the penalties above, a conviction for PPT can have wide-ranging negative consequences on your future:
- Drug charges may affect your reputation in your community or with social groups;
- Potential employers may refuse or terminate your employment if their business involves handling money or the use of valuable property;
- Your friends, family and peers may view you as unworthy of their trust;
- You may have civil, immigration, or child custody consequences; and/or
- You may have difficulties travelling abroad, including to the United States.
Therefore, even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all the possible penalties. Often, good representation can result in no criminal record. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences of a criminal conviction for PPT. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the Prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Victoria
What are the best defences to drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
The offence of possession for the purpose of trafficking is made out if you had knowledge of, control over, and an intention to traffic a controlled substance. This means that the Crown Prosecutor has the burden of proving that you were aware of the illegality of the substance, you had a degree of authority over it, and you possessed it “with the intention” of selling or transporting it.
Drug prosecutions are often highly technical in nature. Just because drugs were involved does not mean a conviction is automatic. Some of the most common defences for drug charges include:
- Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and evidence do not support you being there, interacting with the illicit drug, or other basic elements of the offence. This could include:
Identity: In some circumstances where the offence was not recorded by surveillance footage, or the footage is poor quality, you may be able to raise an identity defence. For example, authorities could have made a mistake in identifying you as the perpetrator based on the poor quality of the footage. In order to effectively raise this defence, you may need corroborative evidence, such as an alibi to where you were at the time of the offence.
Not an illicit drug: If a substance is not scientifically proven to be an illicit drug under one of the CDSA Schedules, it is not illegal to interact with it. Typically, the substance will be sent to a laboratory to undergo multiple sample tests in order to prove it is a controlled drug or substance.
- Insufficient Possession: There are several defences that can be raised to challenge the elements of the offence of drug possession. This means challenging that you did not have knowledge of the illicit drug and/or did not have control over it. These defences include:
No mental intent: A common defence available for drug charges is that you did not intend to interact with the illicit drugs. For example, if you were holding a backpack filled with an illicit drug for a friend or family member with no reason to suspect it contained the drugs.
Innocent possession: Where the sole intent of possession is to turn the drug over to authorities or destroy it, the element of control is not fulfilled. For example, intending to dispose of an illicit drug that you found on your property.
De minimis non curat lex: If you’ve been charged with possession of a very small amount of an illegal drug, this could be a defence. For example, if you have unmeasurable traces of an illicit drug in your possession.
License: If you are licensed or authorized to possess an illicit substance, this could help challenge a PPT charge.
- Insufficient Trafficking: Once the Crown proves that you possessed the drug, they bear the burden of proving that you intended to traffic the substance that you possessed. A defence that challenges this intent can help defend you against a PPT charge. This type of defence could include:
No intent to traffic: Because PPT adds the element of ‘for the purpose of trafficking’ to possession, the Crown is required to prove that you held the drug for the eventual goal of selling or transporting it. A charge for PPT often rests on circumstantial evidence such as large quantities of the drug or the presence of drug paraphernalia. Any evidence that negates the Crown’s theory could be a useful defence.
Agent for the purchaser: If you acted as an agent for someone else to purchase an illegal drug, you have a defence. For example, if you introduce someone to a drug dealer and they purchase a controlled substance.
- Entrapment: Where law enforcement acts undercover to provide opportunities for the commission of an offence, without reasonable suspicion that you are already involved in criminal conduct.
- Violation of Constitutional Rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence. With PPT, this typically arises as an unlawful search and seizure of the substance, or an unlawful detention and/or arrest.
The Crown is required to prove that you not only committed the physical acts of PPT, but that you intended to perform the actions involved. While the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, you may bear some responsibility in raising certain defences at trial.
The availability and strength of any defence depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of potential defences in PPT cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the Court at trial. Even if you believe you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about the defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
If you have been charged with PPT in Victoria, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action for gathering information.
If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful for building an effective defence (or convincing the Prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges in Victoria?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.
An experienced and capable PPT lawyer will be able to review your case to determine if there are any defences that can lead to your acquittal.
Below are a few notable cases dealing with various aspects of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking charges:
In R v Le, 2001 BCCA 658 the accused’s premises were searched and a large quantity of drugs was found, in addition to $2840 in cash and a book containing handwritten figures and calculations. The British Columbia Court of Appeal found that this was sufficient circumstantial evidence to convict the accused of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
In R v Kwok, 2002 BCCA 177 the British Columbia Court of Appeal considered whether drugs thrown over the fence of a correctional institution were possessed for the purpose of trafficking. The Court found that because the drugs in question were packaged in a way that was consistent with packaging in the drug trade, the contraband was possessed for the purpose of trafficking.
Drug possession for the purpose of trafficking cases are highly technical and fact-specific. Additionally, because of the lengthy police surveillance involved, PPT cases are often very complex.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Lawyers. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.