Weapons and Firearms Offence Lawyer in Toronto

Facing Firearms or Weapons Charges? Trust Toronto's Premier Defence Lawyers

Are you facing weapons and firearms charges in Toronto? The implications of such accusations can be profoundly serious. Weapons charges carry stringent penalties that can dramatically alter your future. These can range from significant fines to extended periods of incarceration, depending on the severity of the offence. Having a defence lawyer who is not only familiar with firearms legislation but also experienced in handling such cases is vital. They can effectively manage the nuances of your case, offering the best possible defence strategy.

At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we bring years of dedicated experience in defending clients against a variety of weapons charges. Our team is well-versed in the challenges these cases present and is committed to providing vigorous defence aimed at securing favourable outcomes.

What Is a Weapon?

According to Section 2 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the term "weapon" refers to any object that is used, designed to be used, or intended for use in causing death, injury, or for threatening or intimidating someone. This definition encompasses a broad spectrum of items that might not be traditionally viewed as weapons but may be considered as such depending on their use in particular situations. For instance, everyday items such as a set of keys, a remote control, or even a hot cup of coffee could be deemed weapons if they are utilized or intended to be used to inflict injury or intimidate.

Moreover, Section 84(1) of the Criminal Code specifically identifies certain items as restricted or prohibited weapons, which introduces additional legal complexities into cases involving these items. If you find yourself facing a weapons charge, it is crucial to understand how the classification of an item as a weapon can profoundly affect the proceedings and outcomes of your legal case.

What Is a Firearm?

The Criminal Code categorizes a firearm as any barreled weapon that can discharge any shot, bullet, or other projectile capable of causing serious bodily injury or death. This definition also includes the frame or receiver of such a weapon and any item that can be modified to function as a firearm. The scope of this definition covers various types of firearms, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, and automatic weapons.

Firearms are also classified according to their specific characteristics and intended uses, which dictates the level of licensing required for their possession. This highlights the importance of adhering to strict regulatory standards. Additionally, some firearms are designated as restricted, and others are completely banned for civilian use.

Understanding Different Classes of Firearms in Canada

In Canada, firearms fall into three primary categories: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Each category comes with its own set of rules for licensing, safe usage, and allowed activities. It's essential for anyone dealing with firearms in Canada to be familiar with these categories. Starting with the most prevalent category, let's discuss non-restricted firearms.

Understanding Different Classes of Firearms in Canada

Non-Restricted Firearms

Non-restricted firearms are those that are not classified as either restricted or prohibited under the Canadian Criminal Code. This category generally encompasses hunting and sporting rifles, shotguns, and airguns that have an overall length of 660mm or more. Due to their longer barrels and comparatively less dangerous firing capacities, these firearms are regulated less strictly than restricted or prohibited firearms.

Restricted Firearm

A restricted firearm is defined by Section 84(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code as including handguns that are not classified as prohibited firearms, and any firearm with a barrel length of less than 470 mm that can discharge centre-fire ammunition semi-automatically.

This category also encompasses firearms that can be modified to a shorter overall length through folding, telescoping, or similar means. Owners of restricted firearms are subject to stringent regulations, which include obtaining a specific licence and following strict rules regarding the storage, transportation, and usage of these firearms.

Prohibited Firearm

Prohibited firearms include those that are typically illegal for civilian use due to their high risk to public safety. This group encompasses handguns with barrel lengths shorter than 105mm or those designed to discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition, except for those specifically allowed for international sporting competitions under the rules of the International Shooting Union.

Additionally, rifles and shotguns that have been modified to be much shorter than their original design—such as those altered by sawing or cutting—are also classified as prohibited, with specific length restrictions enforced. Furthermore, automatic firearms, which continue to discharge rounds with a single trigger pull, fall into this category.

The government retains the authority to designate certain firearms as prohibited, and any firearm produced outside legal frameworks is automatically considered prohibited, regardless of its type. Also included in the prohibited category are certain semi-automatic rifles equipped with large-capacity magazines.

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Different Types of Firearms and Weapons Charges We Defend Against

Dealing with firearms or weapons charges can be daunting. At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we possess in-depth knowledge of the intricacies involved in firearms and weapons offences and have consistently defended our clients with vigour.

The Criminal Code sections 84 to 117 outline various firearm offences, broadly classified into categories such as possession, use, and trafficking offences. We will delve deeper into these categories, beginning with use offences.

Using a Firearm in the Commission of an Offence

The use of a firearm or its imitation during the commission of an offence is a grave criminal act, specifically addressed under Section 85 of the Criminal Code. This provision mandates supplementary penalties for those who use or attempt to use a firearm or an imitation firearm while engaging in, attempting to engage in, or fleeing after the commission of an indictable offence. These legal measures aim to mitigate and deter the increased risks and potential harm that arise from using firearms in criminal activities.

Using an Imitation Firearm in the Commission of an Offence

This offence involves using an object that resembles a firearm to instil fear or gain compliance during the commission of an indictable offence, attempting to commit such an offence, or while fleeing after committing or attempting to commit such an offence. The Criminal Code treats the use of a replica or toy firearm with the same severity as if a real firearm had been used. For instance, if someone commits a robbery using a realistic-looking toy gun, they would face the same legal charges as if they had used an actual firearm in the crime.

Careless Use of a Firearm

Section 86 of the Criminal Code stipulates that firearms must be handled with the highest degree of responsibility. Careless handling of a firearm, which shows disregard for personal safety and the safety of others, could involve scenarios such as leaving a loaded firearm in an easily accessible place or not following safety protocols at a shooting range. 

An instance of such carelessness might include inadvertently firing a weapon while cleaning it, resulting in injury. This offence also extends to the handling of prohibited weapons or devices, restricted weapons, and any type of ammunition, including prohibited ammunition.

Contravention of Storage Regulations

Canadian legislation imposes stringent regulations for the secure storage of firearms to prevent them from being accessed by unauthorized individuals. Violating these storage regulations involves not complying with these mandatory rules. Examples of such violations include storing a loaded rifle in an unlocked closet rather than in a legally required secure gun safe.

Pointing a Firearm

Pointing a firearm at someone without lawful justification constitutes a criminal offence on its own, even if the firearm is not loaded. This action is addressed under Section 87 of the Criminal Code and is regarded as a violent threat. For instance, if a person were to aim a firearm at a neighbour during an intense argument, regardless of their intention to fire, they would be committing a criminal act.

Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose

Section 88 of the Criminal Code deals with the possession of a weapon, imitation weapon, prohibited device, or ammunition for a purpose that is dangerous to public peace or intended for committing an offence. This statute centres on the intent associated with carrying or possessing the item, which must be demonstrated to be malevolent or intended to cause harm.

Carrying a Weapon While Attending a Public Meeting

Under section 89 of the Criminal Code, it is a criminal offence to carry a weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, or prohibited ammunition to a public meeting without a lawful excuse. This law applies to individuals attending or en route to public gatherings.

The intent of this section is to maintain public safety at gatherings and meetings. While acknowledging that there are legitimate reasons for carrying weapons or ammunition, such as for law enforcement, security duties, hunting, or the transportation, storage, and shipment of such items, the provision primarily aims to deter violence at public events, rallies, and meetings by making it illegal to carry these items without a justified reason.

Carrying a Concealed Weapon

Section 90 of the Criminal Code defines the offence of carrying a concealed weapon. It specifically prohibits the act of concealing a weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition unless the individual has received authorization under the Firearms Act. The purpose of this law is to prevent the concealed possession of items that could endanger public safety. To establish guilt for this offence, it must be proven that the accused intentionally concealed the weapon without the necessary legal authorization.

Unauthorized Possession of a Firearm, Prohibited Weapon or Restricted Weapon

Section 91(1) of the Criminal Code regulates the unauthorized possession of a firearm, while Section 91(2) addresses the unauthorized possession of prohibited or restricted weapons, including specifically prohibited devices (such as certain silencers or high-capacity magazines) and prohibited ammunition (such as armour-piercing rounds). It is a criminal offence to possess a prohibited device (other than a replica firearm) or any prohibited ammunition without holding a licence that permits such possession.

However, there are certain scenarios where temporary possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon does not result in criminal charges. These scenarios include:

  • Under Supervision: Being directly supervised by someone legally entitled to own the weapon, and using it within the bounds that the law allows for that individual.
  • Accidental Acquisition: Inadvertently coming into possession of a weapon, such as discovering an old firearm while clearing out a relative’s estate, followed by either legally disposing of the weapon or securing the appropriate permits within a reasonable timeframe.

Possession of a Firearm, Prohibited Weapon, Device or Ammunition Knowing the Possession Is Unauthorized

The law clearly prohibits knowingly possessing any prohibited or restricted firearm, non-restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition without the necessary licences and registration (as required). To legally possess these items, one must have the specific licence that corresponds to the category of the firearm, weapon, device, or ammunition owned. Furthermore, possession of prohibited and restricted firearms also requires a registration certificate.

Possession at an Unauthorized Place

Section 93(2) of the Criminal Code makes it illegal to possess a firearm, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition in a location where such possession is not authorized. This includes places like public areas, schools, or any other locations where having these items is forbidden.

Unauthorized Possession in a Motor Vehicle

Section 94 of the Criminal Code addresses the possession of a firearm, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition within a motor vehicle, unless such possession is expressly authorized. The purpose of this section is to curb the illegal transport of weapons in vehicles.

Weapons Trafficking

Weapons trafficking is defined as a severe criminal offence under Section 99(1) of the Criminal Code. This law includes the unauthorized manufacturing, transferring, or offering to transfer the ownership of prohibited or restricted firearms, non-restricted firearms, prohibited weapons, restricted weapons, prohibited devices, and any ammunition, including prohibited ammunition. This section is specifically aimed at preventing the illegal spread and accessibility of dangerous weapons and devices.

At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we dedicate ourselves to vigorously defending your rights when handling firearms and weapons charges. Our aim is not only to defend you but also to strategically navigate the legal system to achieve the best possible outcome.

Potential Defences for Weapons Offences in Toronto

Weapons charges are grave and can lead to significant repercussions. It is crucial to understand that you possess legal rights, and there may be various defences available depending on the specifics of your case. We will outline these potential defences below.

Defence of Duress

The defence of duress can be crucial in cases involving weapons offences, especially if your actions were compelled by a threat of immediate harm. In Canadian law, duress is acknowledged as a legitimate defence if you can prove that your actions were driven by a serious and immediate threat to your life or safety, and there was no feasible chance to evade or avoid the situation.

However, for a duress defence to be successful, you must show evidence that you genuinely perceived an imminent threat of harm or death and that this threat was realistically urgent and immediate. This defence is not applicable if the threat pertains to future harm or if it arises from situations that you entered willingly or due to reckless behaviour.

Legitimate Firearm Possession

Having a legitimate reason for firearm possession can serve as a robust defence against weapons charges. In Canada, individuals are allowed to legally possess firearms for activities such as hunting, sport shooting, or, in certain limited cases, for personal protection.

To mount a defence based on legitimate possession, it must be shown that the individual possessed a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) and that the firearm was appropriately registered, if necessary (this applies especially to restricted or prohibited firearms). Furthermore, the individual must have adhered to all relevant regulations regarding the safe storage, handling, and transportation of the firearm.

Mistake of Fact

The "mistake of fact" defence can be relevant in cases of weapons offences where the accused genuinely believed in circumstances that, if true, would have made their actions lawful. This defence is designed for scenarios where you honestly and reasonably believed something that, had it been accurate, would have legalized your actions.

For example, you may have bought or possessed a firearm under the assumption that it was classified as non-restricted, while it was actually a restricted or prohibited weapon. It's essential for the mistake to be considered reasonable, meaning that an average person, given the same information and in the same circumstances, would likely have made the same misunderstanding. This defence does not apply if you were willfully ignorant or recklessly indifferent to the legal requirements related to weapon possession.

Charter Rights Violations

Violations of Charter rights can serve as a defence in weapons offence cases by contesting that the actions of the prosecution—such as searches, seizures, detentions, or the conduct of trials—were unreasonable, arbitrary, or discriminatory. The particular section of the Charter invoked will depend on the specifics of the case and the nature of the alleged violation. For instance, if a weapon is discovered during a search that was conducted without a valid warrant or in the absence of exigent circumstances that justify a warrantless search, the evidence obtained might be excluded under Section 24(2) of the Charter. This section is designed to deter abuses of power and uphold the integrity of the legal system.

Furthermore, if an accused was not given the opportunity to consult with a lawyer immediately following their arrest, or if they were questioned without being informed of their right to remain silent, these issues could also form the basis for challenging the legality of any statements or evidence collected in such circumstances.

Penalties for a Weapons Offence Conviction

The repercussions of being convicted of a weapons offence in Canada are significant and can enduringly impact an individual's freedom, reputation, and future prospects. It is vital for anyone facing such charges to understand the associated penalties.

  • Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose: When charged as an indictable offence, this crime can result in up to 10 years of incarceration; if prosecuted summarily, the penalty may include up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
  • Carrying a Concealed Weapon: This offence can lead to 5 years of incarceration if charged as an indictable offence, or up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if handled summarily.
  • Possession of an Unauthorized Firearm: As an indictable offence, this can lead to 10 years of incarceration; there is no provision for summary punishment.
  • Possession of a Restricted or Prohibited Firearm: If charged as an indictable offence, it carries a penalty of 10 years in incarceration, and if charged summarily, up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
  • Possession at an Unauthorized Place: An indictable charge for this offence can lead to 5 years of incarceration, while a summary charge could result in up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
  • Unauthorized Possession in a Motor Vehicle: This offence carries a penalty of 5 or 10 years of incarceration if indicted, or up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if handled summarily.
  • Unauthorized Possession of a Firearm: Facing this charge as an indictable offence can result in 5 years of incarceration, whereas a summary charge might lead to up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
  • Weapons Trafficking: This can result in 5 or 10 years of incarceration if pursued as an indictable offence, or up to 2 years less a day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if charged summarily.
  • Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence: This grave offence can result in 14 years of incarceration if indicted, with no summary penalty available.

Seek Counsel from an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer

Facing weapons charges can be an overwhelming and perplexing experience. However, you don’t have to navigate this challenging time by yourself. The guidance of an experienced criminal defence lawyer can be pivotal in comprehending the laws, safeguarding your rights, and constructing the most robust defence possible.

At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we provide detailed legal representation that is customized to the particularities of your case. We are dedicated to securing the most favourable outcomes for our clients. Our attorneys engage closely with each client, ensuring transparent communication and comprehensive guidance throughout the legal process. This approach guarantees that you are fully informed and well-prepared for every aspect of your case.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a firearms licence with a criminal record in Canada?

Possessing a criminal record does not automatically prevent you from acquiring a firearms license. Nevertheless, when evaluating an application for a Possession and Acquisition (PAL) license, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will consider the presence of a criminal record as a significant factor. If you have a criminal record, you must disclose its details in the addendum of your application form. The RCMP carries out an extensive background check that assesses the nature of your criminal record, the amount of time since the conviction, and your conduct subsequent to the offence. Applicants with a criminal record should anticipate more intensive scrutiny and might be required to provide additional documentation or evidence to bolster their application.

Each application is evaluated individually, and the key to successfully obtaining a firearms license with a criminal record lies in being honest and open about your past during the application process.

Can I possess a weapon for self-defence?

In Canada, possessing a weapon for self-defence is governed by strict regulations and is closely monitored. Although self-defence is a recognized legal justification under the Criminal Code, the use of firearms in such circumstances is highly regulated and must be warranted by the situation.

Canadian law does not support a "stand your ground" principle that allows for the use of lethal force in every instance of a perceived threat. Rather, Section 34 of the Criminal Code allows for actions taken in self-defence or the defence of another person, provided those actions are considered reasonable given the circumstances. This typically means that the force used must be proportional to the threat and necessary to avert harm or death, with a significant emphasis on the need for a reasonable belief in the immediacy and severity of the threat encountered.

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