Ottawa Weapons Offence
Canadian law strictly regulates the possession of firearms and other dangerous weapons, requiring compliance with complex registration, storage, use, and transportation requirements. Canadian citizens owning legal firearms can be prosecuted for failure to comply with these complex requirements, especially if this failure leads to serious injury. Canadian law imposes considerable penalties, including prison time, for illegal possession of firearms, especially when they are used while committing other crimes.
No one should attempt to navigate the Ottawa criminal justice system without the assistance of competent and effective counsel, experienced in criminal defence within the province of Ottawa. Auger Hollingsworth lawyers are ready to provide you with a free consultation. To secure your rights, you should retain a weapons offence lawyer as soon as you learn that you are under investigation for a weapons offence.
Understanding Firearms Law in Ottawa
Canadian law regulates firearms through two statutory frameworks: The Firearms Act of 1995 and the Criminal Code.
Legal possession of firearms and other dangerous weapons requires compliance with strict registration, storage, use, and transportation constraints with criminal penalties, if found in non-compliance.
The Firearms Act covers:
- Prohibited weapons (certain handguns, altered rifles and shotguns, automatic and semi-automatic, tasers, and a list of military grade weapons)
- Restricted weapons (certain handguns, telescoping firearms, certain variants of ammunition)
- Prohibited devices (making firearms automatic or semi-automatic)
As of January 1, 2001, all firearms must be registered with the Canadian Firearms Registry.
Use of firearms or dangerous weapons in the commission of a crime in Canada is governed by the Criminal Code. Under either statutory framework, defendants can face prison, confiscation of weapons, penalties, and a criminal record, if convicted.
Examples of Firearms Charges in Ottawa
The most common firearms charges under the Firearms Act of 1995 include:
- Unauthorized possession (unregistered firearms), failure to report a lost or stolen firearm, failure to report finding a firearm, unsafe storage of firearms, and transporting firearms without authorization from the Chief Firearms Officer.
- Illegal possession of a firearm is perhaps the most common offence, whether failure to obtain a license for the weapon, or if it is restricted, a registration certificate for that specific weapon.
Criminal Code weapons offences include: trafficking, illegal use of a firearm, and use of a firearm while committing a burglary, assault, or other crime, whether discharged or not.
What is Considered a Weapon
The Firearms Act of 1995 lists prohibited and restricted weapons. Weapons include restricted items like crossbows, brass knuckles, and, of course, all sorts of firearms. However, any item that is used to intimate, threaten, or cause harm, especially when used during the commission of a crime, can be categorized as a weapon for the purposes of enhancement of charges or penalties.
Possession of a Weapon as a Danger to Public Peace
Prosecution of a weapon as a danger to public peace requires proof of essential elements:
- The dangerous weapon was in the possession of the accused;
- The weapon was defined as prohibited or restricted by the Firearms Act or Criminal Code;
- The intent of the accused was to endanger the public peace; and
- There was a danger to the public peace
The prosecution must produce evidence that the defendant intended to create a danger to public peace, defined as a disruption of the status quo, i.e., interfering with a normally peaceful state. Consequently, possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon in one’s home without further evidence of intent to bring the weapon outside is not a danger to public peace since the public is not implicated.
Intoxication might also prevent a defendant from forming the necessary intent to disturb the public peace. Without the capacity to have intent, the prosecution cannot prove its case.
Possession of a weapon for the purposes of self-defence is a complicated issue depending on legal and factual circumstances.
Penalties for Firearms Conviction
Penalties for a firearms conviction depend on the threat to public peace and safety. A first-time offence for a non-serious incident might result in sentencing to prison, from 6 months to 5 years, and a $5,000 fine. More severe offences might invoke more severe penalties, with maximum prison sentences of 10 years, and a $5,000 fine.
Repeat offenders face longer prison sentences within the 6-month to 10-year framework.
Defences for Firearms Charges
To secure a conviction for a firearms offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the essential elements of the crime—possession of the weapon described by the Firearms Act or Criminal Code, intent to endanger the public peace, and a danger to the public peace.
Experienced criminal defence lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth are knowledgeable about the law and how the police and prosecution operate in Ottawa. They will investigate and analyze the circumstances of the prosecution to devise a defence strategy.
The role of an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer is to raise reasonable doubt about one or more of the essential elements of the charges. These defences might claim that the possession was not intentional or even known to the accused, that no public peace was affected, or that the accused did not have the mental capacity to form the necessary intent. Other defences might establish that the accused used the requisite standard of care in handling the weapon, so that no offence occurred. Skilled defence lawyers also can question the admissibility of evidence, determining that it was gathered illegally by the police or mishandled.
Self-defence is a tricky defence in Canada. No weapon can be carried for the purposes of self-defence without a good reason. Anticipating an attack is not a good reason. In 2012, Canada enacted the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act to codify when self-defence is a legitimate act. Whether one is entitled to defend still is largely determined by the facts which are often in contestation.
For example, one may defend one’s house and property against a home invasion, however, the degree of force that can be used is limited. If the intruder backs down, lethal force is not permitted. If the intruder does not have a weapon, lethal force is usually disproportionate. How the reasonableness of the use of force is established requires a criminal defence lawyer with experience and skill. That’s why you should consider contacting Auger Hollingsworth now.
The threat of an attack offers an even more complex determination. The victims must perceive that they are under attack, and if they take action, it must be solely for defensive reasons. Finally, the force used to repel the attack must be reasonable under the circumstances. These are difficult factual determinations that require skilled advocacy by experienced criminal defence lawyers.
Use of firearms or weapons in a claim of self-defence further complicates the factual proof and legal determinations. Was the weapon legal, properly registered, and licensed? Was its use reasonable under the circumstances, meaning was the use of the weapon commensurate with the perception or reality of the threat? Despite the 2012 legislation, courts within Canada and Ottawa often disagree on how to assess the legitimacy of a claim of self-defence when firearms are involved.
Contact our Ottawa Firearms Offence Lawyers Today
Choosing an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer can help preserve your rights and defences to criminal charges. At Auger Hollingsworth, we offer a free consultation session during which you can assess our lawyers and we can assess the strength of the prosecution’s claims. During this free consultation, we will:
- Review the criminal charges, if filed, or the request for appearance or subpoena for documents, and any police reports and other documents.
- We will listen to your story and map out the areas for investigation, begin to compile a list of witnesses, and compose the various strategies the facts and law offer.
- We will provide you with an estimate of the cost of legal services.
- If we are unable to provide you with a defence, we will refer you to other counsel.
Call (613) 699-8192 today to schedule a free consultation with the knowledgeable Ottawa criminal defence lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth.