If you’ve been charged with a weapons offense, it may be a very stressful time for you. Weapons charges are considered serious offences in Canada, and if you’re found guilty, you can expect to do some significant time. The Canadian justice system is very tough on weapons, mainly due to the mounting threat of gun violence, and the general intolerance for it among the population. If you are currently facing trial for a weapons charge, here’s what you should expect.
Understanding Different Kinds of Offences
There are different types of weapons offenses, and they have different penalties. The two main types of weapons offenses are possession and use offences. You can be charged with a use offense if you recklessly handled, stored, or used a firearm. You could also be charged for use if you used a weapon in a robbery, pointed a weapon at someone for any reason, unloaded a weapon, or even for using an imitation firearm.
Possession charges include concealed weapons, being in possession of a weapon with the intent of committing a criminal act, unauthorized possession of a firearm, or a restricted or prohibited weapon.
Note that you could be charged for carrying a concealed weapon even if you had absolutely no intention to use it in a criminal way. In one particular case, a man was charged with concealed weapon possession for carrying a decorative Japanese style dagger after a bus driver saw it protruding from one of his front pockets. So even miscarrying a weapon could with no bad intent could get you in trouble with the law.
Other common types of weapons offenses include trafficking, import, and export, assembling, or destroying/defacing weapons. Also, using a weapon in relation to another crime, like drug trafficking or sexual assault, increases the severity of the crime and the sentence.
What Can be Done?
Well, the first thing you should do is talk with a criminal justice lawyer in your jurisdiction. If you live in the greater GTA area, then work with a weapons lawyer Toronto who understands the local criminal code and is familiar with Toronto courts.
A weapons lawyer will be able to find out if you were a victim of an illegal search for instance. Or they may have your case thrown out for lack of evidence. In other cases, they could lower your charge from a use to a possession charge after proving that the weapon wasn’t being carried with the intention of committing a crime or in connection with another criminal act.
What Kind of Sentences can You Expect?
Weapons offenses usually carry minimum mandatory sentences in Canada. These, however, are very complex and will require legal help if you want to fully understand them.
The mandatory penalty for using a real or imitation firearm is 1 year. The mandatory sentence is the same for obtaining a weapon through criminal means. Building an automatic firearm also carries a 1-year mandatory penalty. Unloading a firearm with the intent to wound or cause death carries a 4-year mandatory penalty.
These are just a few examples of mandatory minimum sentences. Note that some that used to be in effect is no longer after being struck down, such as one-year mandatory penalties for trafficking firearms, or 3 years for a first offense of possession of prohibited or restricted firearms with ammunition. So only a qualified lawyer will be able to keep you up to date and make sure that you don’t have false expectations.
Weapons charges are very serious, and should not be taken lightly. Whatever you do, make sure that you work with the right team and know exactly what you should expect in your case.