Drug Lawyers in Calgary: Experience Matters

Drug charges are those offences which arise from an accused’s interaction with an illicit drug or substance. Drug offences are listed under federal legislation called the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”), not under the Canadian Criminal Code. As drugs are under federal jurisdiction, matters must be negotiated with Federal Crown Prosecutors, rather than Provincial Crown Prosecutors. This adds an extra layer of complexity to a complicated area of offences.

In serious cases, drug offence charges will always result in a jail sentence as the CDSA stipulates mandatory minimum sentences. However, in less serious cases, such as simple possession, a conviction will usually not result in a jail sentence, provided there are no aggravating circumstances, and you have a relatively clean criminal record.

At Strategic Criminal Defence, our team of criminal defence lawyers have supported hundreds of clients with drug offence charges. We have the experience and knowledge needed to provide you with sound advice on the best way to handle your drug charge.

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Key Takeaways

  • A drug charge under the CDSA can carry severe financial, legal, and professional consequences.
  • Bail conditions for drug charges are dependent on the specific charge that you are facing under the CDSA.
  • For simple possession, it is not uncommon for police to release you at the scene on a release order.
  • For more serious charges the police or Crown Prosecutor will often ask the Judge to order that you be held in jail until your trial.
  • Convictions under the CDSA can attract sentences ranging from a diversion or discharge for less serious offences and first-time offenders, to significant jail time for serious offences and repeat offenders.
  • Drug charges can be challenged and beaten in Calgary.

How can a drug lawyer in Calgary help?

Hiring a criminal defence lawyer to defend against a drug charge provides many benefits starting from pre-charge legal advice. It is important that you understand your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when interacting with law enforcement, and a criminal lawyer can provide information relating to unreasonable search and seizure, arbitrary detention, and unlawful arrest. A lawyer can also advise you on your right to remain silent, to help protect against any potential self-incrimination.

A criminal defence lawyer will collect the police information (disclosure) package which includes information about the case and evidence against you. A lawyer can also provide help with gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and retaining experts. Your lawyer will review the information and discuss the case with you, and the Crown Prosecutor. When meeting with the Prosecutor, a criminal defence lawyer will raise legal arguments as to why they should reduce the severity of your potential sentence, or even convince them that your case should be dismissed. If a resolution is not met, a lawyer will help you navigate the criminal justice system and the court process and provide you with representation at your criminal trial.

Due to the complicated nature of drug offences under the CDSA, hiring a lawyer to defend your charge is crucial.

Drug Charges in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act outlines a number of different offences, including:

Controlled drugs and substances are organized into groups called “schedules” in the CDSA. They are divided based on their chemical properties and the effects they have when consumed. Schedule 1 substances, which include oxycontin, cocaine, morphine, heroin, codeine, GHB, and opium, are considered the most serious substances in Canada. Schedule 1 substances will attract greater sentences for any accused who possesses, trafficks, or produces these substances.

Examples of Drug Charges

Some examples of a drug charge may include the following:

  • You bought drugs from another individual to resell them;
  • Police found a small amount of cocaine in your backpack;
  • You are found to be involved in an opioid trafficking operation; and
  • An undercover police officer witnesses you receiving a shipment of fentanyl from overseas
Calgary Drug Lawyer

What are the consequences of a drug charge?

Because of the broad range of offences classified as “drug offences,” punishments for a conviction are diverse. In serious cases, drug offence charges will always result in a jail sentence as the CDSA stipulates mandatory minimum sentences. For example, Section 6 of the CDSA sets out the offences for importing and exporting controlled substances. There is a one year mandatory minimum sentence if the substance is a “Schedule 1” substance and it is committed for the purpose of trafficking. In less serious cases, such as simple possession, a conviction will usually not result in a jail sentence, provided there are no aggravating circumstances, and you have a relatively clean criminal record.

In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from a conviction for drug offences, it can negatively impact your future as well. You may experience problems securing employment in the field of your choice, especially in roles that require handling money or working with vulnerable groups. The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can also hinder immigration and travel, particularly to the United States where drug offences are taken very seriously.

Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences of a criminal conviction for drug possession. 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.

Drug Charge Investigation

Because of the broad nature of drug offences, the nature of the investigations is varied. An investigation may begin with a routine police traffic stop, an intensive surveillance operation, or pursued after a report or complaint from a witness or anonymous informant (i.e. Crime Stoppers).

The Calgary Police Service takes drug offences very seriously. If you are stopped by police, you will be routinely checked for the presence of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Police will then make sure to follow up on every possible trafficking or production lead.

If the police suspect that you are involved in a more serious drug offence, it may lead to a planned evidence gathering operation through surveillance and undercover officers. These types of operations often take many months and involves a significant amount of resources to gather enough evidence to convict you. Many operations culminate in the execution of a search warrant, where a team of police will raid your home and vehicle to seize evidence related to the drug offence.

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.

Drug Charge Defences

  • Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and evidence do not support you being at the scene, interacting with the illicit drug, or other basic elements of the offence.
  • Consent, Knowledge, Control: One of the best ways to defeat a drug charge is to show that you did not consent to, have knowledge of, or control over the drug. This may involve proving that you did not know that the drug was in fact a drug, that you did not know that you had the drug on your person, that you were forced to keep the drug where it was found, or that you had no control over the drug. If you can prove any of these things, then you will not be considered to be in possession of the drug.
  • Not a Controlled Substance: Sometimes it may be the case that the Prosecutor has failed to take the steps required to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug was a controlled substance under the CDSA. It is important to note that you can be found guilty of trafficking even if the substance you were trying to traffic was not one listed in the CDSA. If you advertised some substance that is listed under the CDSA, and trafficked that substance on that basis, you can still be found guilty of drug trafficking.
  • Charter: It is possible that while investigating you for a drug offence, the police violated one or more of your constitutional rights. If the violation is serious enough, it could result in the exclusion of evidence against you.
Calgary Drug Lawyer

Bail Conditions for Drug Charges

Bail conditions for drug charges are dependent on the specific charge that you are facing under the CDSA. For simple possession, it is not uncommon for police to release you at the scene on a release order. Police will provide you with a Promise to Appear document outlining your charges, and any required appearances you must make. This document may also include conditions that you are required to follow while on release.

However, if you have a prior drug conviction of any sort, you are charged with possession of a more serious substance, or of very large quantities, the police or Crown Prosecutor will often ask the Judge to order that you be held in jail until your trial. In these cases, a formal bail hearing may be required to secure your release. Additionally, drug production and trafficking are among the most serious charges you can face under the CDSA, and the police will likely keep you in custody and require a formal bail hearing to determine your release.

Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail.

Frequently Asked Questions about Drug Offences

Will a drug conviction show on my criminal record?

A drug conviction may appear on your criminal record. Depending on the nature of the charges that you are facing, and depending on your personal circumstances, you may be able to have your drug charges withdrawn and completely avoid a criminal record through a diversion program. If you are not eligible for a diversion program, you can still avoid a criminal record with a successful application for a discharge. If a drug offence conviction were to be placed on your criminal record, you may be able to apply for a record suspension after a certain period of time.

How long does a drug case take?

The length of a drug case is determined by the charges you face, the seriousness of the offence, and the complexity of the legal issues to be explored. The length of the case can also be affected by the court and prosecution resources in your particular jurisdiction. In a busy jurisdiction with limited court resources, longer wait times in obtaining a trial date are to be anticipated.

If you are proceeding to trial, the Supreme Court of Canada has indicated that most summary conviction matters should be completed within 18 months unless there are exceptional factors which have contributed to unusual delays. In the case of more complicated drug cases with multiple accused, it could take over 2 years for a trial to occur.

Can I travel while a drug case is ongoing?

If you have an ongoing drug case, you will be permitted to leave Canada provided that you do not breach any of your release conditions. However, your travel to the US will likely be affected. US immigration officials have access to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) Database, which means they will be able to see whether you have outstanding charges when you present yourself at the border. Drug possession and trafficking are considered by the United States Customs and Border Protection to be crimes of “moral turpitude”, and even pending charges can result in a denial of entry.

If you have criminal charges and are considering travelling to the US, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to assist you in evaluating your entry prospects prior to travelling. Our office now offers a “waivers” service to gain entry into the US, even with a criminal charge or criminal record. For more information on this service please visit the Pardons page.

Can I go to jail for drug charges?

If you are convicted for a drug charge under the CDSA, you can go to jail. In serious cases, drug offence charges will always result in a jail sentence as the CDSA stipulates mandatory minimum sentences. However, in less serious cases, such as simple possession, a conviction will usually not result in a jail sentence, provided there are no aggravating circumstances, and you have a relatively clean criminal record.

Do I have to tell my employer about drug charges?

There is no legal responsibility to inform your employer if you have been charged with a drug offence under the CDSA. Most police forces will not inform your employer that you have been criminally charged unless there is a reason to do so. This could include your employer being a potential victim, or you are placed under conditions to avoid your workplace upon release.

Related Offences

  • Drug Production: Drug Production is the charge which arises from the producing of a controlled substance listed under the CDSA. Production itself is defined under Section 2 of the CDSA as manufacturing, synthesizing, cultivating, harvesting or otherwise obtaining the substance by a process or method.
  • Drug Possession: Drug Possession is the charge which arises from having a substance in your control which you are prohibited to possess.
  • Drug Trafficking: Drug Trafficking is the charge which arises from selling, administer, giving, transferring, transporting, sending or delivering a substance listed under the CDSA without authorization.
  • Drug Possession for 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.

Client Reviews

Michael Oykhman is a very professional lawyer and the first time I spoke to him he asked about my situation and he gave me some very helpful advice and assistance and also told me his odds of winning this case. During the days I was in contact with micheal I could feel the level of professionalism of him and his team, he is able to respond back to you with any questions you have within 24 hours. In the end he was as successful in helping me win my case as he had initially promised me.If you are still struggling to find a lawyer, I highly recommend Michael Oykhman.


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I had the pleasure of working and trusting my case with Joseph Beller. I had 2 counts against me, and in the end, Joseph was able to present and use his “fighter skills” in court to have my charges lowered to a conditional discharge. On top of this, this firm follows its mission values statement by being ethical, transparent, available, and very friendly. Joseph and his team treated me with the utmost respect from start to finish. Thank you again, Joseph! I hope to never call you again 😊


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