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Possession of Prohibited or Restricted Firearms

The Charge

Under s. 95 of the Criminal Code, it is an offence to possess a prohibited or restricted firearm that is either loaded or that has ammunition that is readily accessible, unless the person holds an authorization or licence. A “prohibited” firearm includes any handgun that has a barrel equal to or less than 105mm in length and any firearm that is adapted from a rifle or shotgun by cutting the barrel length to less than 660mm. Prohibited firearms also include automatic firearms. A “restricted” firearm includes any handgun that is not a prohibited firearm, that has a barrel length of less than 470mm and is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner. An authorization under the Firearms Act is required for a person to possess any prohibited or restricted firearm, anywhere in Canada.

The Crown may proceed by indictment and seek a sentence of up to 10 years in jail upon conviction. Alternatively, Crown may elect to proceed summarily, in which case the maximum sentence is up to one year in jail. Although there is no longer a mandatory minimum jail sentence for this offence, when the Crown views the offence as having a true “criminal purpose” associated to possessing the prohibited or restricted weapon, Crown will proceed by indictment and will generally seek sentences in the range of 3 years in jail.

The Investigation

A significant number of cases start off at the United States/Canada border with an American visitor who does not understand how seriously different Canadian firearms law is compared to United States laws. While an American may have the right to possess a handgun in the U.S.A., that right becomes a crime with serious consequences in Canada. There are other situations in which the authorities may find a person in possession of illegal firearms. These include situations where vehicles, residences or other places are searched, either with or without a search warrant.

As experienced lawyers defending weapons charges, we understand that in order to prove the offence, customs officials and police have to prove that our client had knowledge and control over the illegal firearm. In the context of a firearm investigation, it is important for a suspect to know that they have the right to remain silent upon arrest. This right is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A person suspected of possessing an illegal firearm has no obligation to acknowledge that they have knowledge of the weapon or control over it.

Recent Successes

R. vs. E.C. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault; Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, the nature of the sex assault itself and our client's true remorse, whether a jail sentence or house arrest were required.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to make a joint submission for a conditional discharge. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions on our client's behalf, the trial judge granted our client the discharge. No jail or house arrest. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. N. O. – Courtenay Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm x2; Assault x3.
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel which cast the complainant's credibility and reliability into doubt. The Crown made an adjournment application which Mr. Gauthier opposed. Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to stay all of the criminal charges upon our client entering into a Peace Bond. No jail; No criminal record.

R. v. K.T. – Insurance Fraud Investigation

Charges: Fraud Under $5000.
Issue: Given our client's repayment of the alleged fraudulent health insurance benefit claims, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Mines was able settle the matter on our client's behalf and received a Release from the insurer ending the matter without any further civil or criminal proceeding. No charges were approved.

R. vs. A.H. – Vancouver Supreme Court

Charges: Sentence Appeal - Forcible entry; Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether the Supreme Court would uphold our client's conditional discharge that was granted to our client by the Provincial Court.
Result: After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions on this sentence appeal, the Supreme Court justice agreed with Mr. Gautier and ruled that the sentence was appropriate in all the circumstances. The court dismissed the Crown's appeal. The conditional discharge was upheld.

R. v. J.F. – Dawson Creek Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: The credibility of the complainant's testimony during this three day trial.
Result: After vigorous cross examination of the complainant and another Crown eyewitness, Mr. Gauthier made submissions which were accepted by the trial judge. The court found our client to be not guilty and aquitted him of the charge. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.C. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault (x2).
Issue: In the circumstances of these historic charges and our client's rehabilitation, whether a community based sentence was appropriate.
Result: Notwithstanding that Crown counsel sought a 20 month jail sentence, the trial judge agreed with Mr. Mines' submission that, in the circumstances of our client's genuine remorse and rehabilitation, it was appropriate to  grant a conditional sentence of 21 months. No jail.

R. vs. G.S. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to continue with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings, brining the matter to an end. No criminal record.

B.G. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft/Fraud Over $5000 (from employer).
Issue: Given the self rehabilitation and civil settlement made by our client, whether a non-custodial sentence was appropriate in this $60,000 theft from employer case.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade the Court that the appropriate sentence was an 18 month community-based sentence with 6 months of house arrest. No jail.

R. vs. J.C. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown counsel to continue the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide new information to Crown and was ultimately able to persuade Crown to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. – Insurance Fraud Investigation

Charge: Fraud Over $5000.
Issue: Given our client's settlement of the fraud claim by paying funds back on a "without prejudice" basis, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade the investigator to not forward any report for charge assessment. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.A. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the complainant and the Crown witnesses gave reliable and crdible evidence at trial.
Result: After vigorous cross examination, the trail judge accepted Mr. Gauthier's submissions that Crown counsel had failed to prove its case. Not guilty verdict. No criminal record.

R. vs. X.L. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether the information police provided to Crown counsel would cause Crown to conclude there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines provided information to Crown on our client's behalf. He was able to persuade Crown that our client was in fact the victim of an assault and was acting in self defence. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

The Defence

Unreasonable Search

Section 8 of the Charter guarantees that people must be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The role of defence counsel in any search case is to analyze the actions of the investigating police officers to test whether their search was, in fact, lawful and authorized by the Charter. In some situations, police must obtain pre-authorization from a justice or judge in the form of a search warrant. Where police overreach their authority, and conduct a search based on mere suspicion, rather than probable grounds, we will apply to the court under s.24(2) of the Charter to have the “fruits of the search” excluded from the trial. Without the admission of the firearm into the trial, the court will find insufficient evidence to convict.

Lack of Possession

In many situations, people are arrested on firearms charges with the firearm not directly in their possession. For example, a handgun might be in the glovebox or trunk of the car. It might be that the accused is not driving their own car but, rather, the car of a friend or relative. In these situations, absent any incriminating confession, it may be possible to argue that the accused had no knowledge of the firearm or that they had no control over it. As experienced defence lawyers, we understand the high standard that the law requires when prosecuting weapons offences. We are dedicated to protecting our client’s rights.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.