Imagine you are in this situation: the police have found some illegal drugs, and, for whatever reason, they have associated them with you. You have been arrested and charged with Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (commonly, "PPT"). Now is the exact time to exercise your rights and seek qualified, competent and experienced legal counsel.
What is Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking?
PPT is the offence of possessing “illicit” drugs or other “controlled substances” with the intention of eventually trafficking them, under federal legislation, Section 5(2), Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”). If charged with drug offences, Federal Crown Prosecutors, not Provincial, will handle the case against you. Legally, you might have the charge of being in “possession” of a drug, even if you don’t have actual physical possession of the substance, and the requirement of “trafficking” can also be broad.
Types of Possessions
The CDSA refers to 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.
What Must the Crown Prove for a Conviction?
To obtain a conviction for possession for the purposes of trafficking, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You were in knowledge and control of a scheduled drug under the CDSA,
- You knew you were in possession of a scheduled drug,
- Your possession of the drug was not authorized, and
- You possessed the drug for the purpose of trafficking, sale or distribution.
If the prosecutor proves possession, they must also prove you had the “intent to traffic”, as opposed to just for personal use. This may include any admissible circumstantial evidence that could establish some factors, such as:
- The drug is in large amounts, or quantity, inconsistent with personal use;
- The drug is of atypically high purity or quality;
- The drug is worth a large amount of money;
- The drug is packaged in a way that is consistent with trafficking (e.g. small baggies);
- There is the presence of tools typically used for trafficking (“paraphernalia”, e.g. scales, baggies, phones, etc., as opposed to solely personal use); and
- A large amount of money was found with the drug, consistent with prior sales.
Investigation of Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges
The police may initiate a PPT investigation for many reasons. Often, the police conduct surveillance based on a tip from an informant or an anonymous source through Crime Stoppers. If so, a police officer may seek a warrant to search a home or vehicle for drugs, cutting tools, 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 or your passengers for simple drug possession. They may 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 you for indicators of PPT.
After the investigation, the police may arrest you. If you are not present at the scene, police may track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
If you have been charged, police will provide a collected evidence package, the “disclosure package,” to the prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Your lawyer 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.
Penalties for Possession with Intent to Traffic in Canada
An experienced drug defence lawyer is essential for the primary goal of finding you not guilty. However, he or she may also be important for reducing jail or other punishment during sentencing.
If found guilty of PPT, there are a range of possible court penalties and sentences, depending under which “schedule” the drug is listed, whether the crown proceeds by summary or by indictment and other circumstances:
- For drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, codeine, GHB (“date rape” drug), and opium, a possible prison sentence of life imprisonment;
- For drugs like LSD and psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), a possible prison sentence of 10 years imprisonment if prosecuted by way of indictment, and 18 months if summarily;
- Plus substantial fines;
- Plus Probation.
Further consequences include:
- Criminal record;
- Possible revocation of immigration status;
- Travel and work problems and restrictions; and,
- Loss of reputation.
Defences to Drug Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Charges in Canada
Drug prosecutions are often highly technical in nature. It is essential to have a qualified and experienced lawyer or law team working on your case.
Here, we talk about some of the possible defences available.
There are numerous possible defences to show you did not have the necessary knowledge or control of the drug to establish legal possession, including:
- No Mental Intent: A defence based on intent to interact with an illegal drug, such as holding a bag for someone else without reasonably suspecting it contained an illegal drug.
- Innocent Possession: A defence based on possessing the drugs with the intention of destroying, removing or turning them over to police, as the prosecution must establish that the requirement of your control is proven.
- Very Small or Trace Amounts: This may be a defence based on the insufficiency of the quantities of the drug (“de minimis non curat lex”).
- Licence: A defence because you may be licenced or authorized to possess the drug.
If the prosecution proves you had possession of the drug, they also have to prove you intended to traffic it. Defences include:
- No Intent to Traffic: A useful defence to counter the prosecution’s circumstantial evidence factors that you intended to sell or transport the drug, such as based on an unusual amount of paraphernalia, could negate that evidence.
- Agent for a Purchaser: For example, a defence based on your only introducing the buyer to the seller of the drug.
Where the police or their agents act undercover to provide opportunities for the possession of drug trafficking, there could be a defence that they did not reasonably suspect that you were already involved in possession of traffic.
Violation of Constitutional Rights
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before or after any arrest, so there may be a defence if the police did not follow those rights, such as where there was unlawful search or seizure, or unlawful detention or arrest.
Contact an Experienced Drug Offence Lawyer Today
The consequences of PPT or other drug charges are extremely serious, so it is important to promptly seek the assistance of an experienced and qualified defence lawyer.
Contact us, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, for a free consultation by telephone at 416-658-1818, or by asking for a free case evaluation by email through our website: https://www.torontodefencelawyers.com.