What are Drug Charges?
Drug charges are those offences which arise from an interaction with an illicit drug or substance. This guide acts as general information for drug charges. For specific offence information, see the links listed below.
Drug offences are listed under federal legislation called the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”), not under the Canadian Criminal Code. Because 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.
The main types of drug offences are:
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. Below are some of the most common substances in each schedule:
- Schedule I: Oxycontin, cocaine, morphine, heroin, codeine, GHB (the “date rape” drug), opium;
- Schedule II: Synthetic cannabis and its derivatives;
- Schedule III: LSD; psilocybin mushrooms (“magic mushrooms”);
- Schedule IV: Barbiturates including clonazepam, diazepam, amytal, nembutal, seconal, and anabolic steroids;
- Schedule V: Propylhexedrine and any derived salt; and
- Schedule VI: Substances needed to create other drugs, such as ephedrine, lysergic acid, norephedrine, pseudoephedrine, potassium permanganate, red phosphorous, white phosphorous, acetone, ethyl ether, sulphuric acid, and toluene.
Investigation of Drug Offence Charges in Saskatchewan
Because of the broad nature of drug offences, the nature of the investigations is also 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 Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Service takes drug offences very seriously. If you are stopped by police, you will be routinely checked for the presence of drugs and/or 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 involve a significant amount of resources in order 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/or vehicle to seize evidence related to the drug offence.
Penalties for Drug Offences in Saskatchewan
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. 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.
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 that stem from a criminal conviction for a drug offence. In fact, we can often 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 Offences in Saskatchewan
What are the best defences to drug offence charges in Saskatchewan?
With drug offence charges, we will work with Federal Crown Prosecutors to seek a resolution that does not involve a criminal conviction wherever possible.
Because of the list of offences that fall under the umbrella of “drug offences,” and the varied circumstances involved in such charges, there are many different possible defences. It is important for your criminal defence lawyer to review the facts of your case and prepare your defence accordingly.
Our experienced defence lawyers will use the most effective defence against the charges according to the precise circumstances of your case. Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a good defence lawyer can greatly reduce the severity of the consequences for you.
How can I help defend drug offence charges in Saskatchewan?
If you have been charged with a drug offence in Saskatchewan, 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 information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
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/or licenses, 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 offence charges in Saskatchewan?
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 drug offence lawyer will be able to review your case to determine if there are any defences that can lead to your acquittal.
Drug cases are highly technical and fact-specific. Additionally, because of the lengthy police surveillance involved, drug 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. Please be sure to read further about the specific drug offence charge you are facing:
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Drug Offence Lawyers. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.