Illegal possession of Firearms in Ontario

A Calgary police officer made headlines across Canada when it was reported that he had unlawfully purchased a shotgun without a possession and acquisition license and the gun was not stored in his home in a safe manner. The gun was discovered during a domestic incident that involved the accused officer. No charges were laid with respect to the domestic incident, but the incident led to the discovery of the shotgun for which charges were laid.

Types of Illegal Possession Offences

Illegal possession of a firearm is a common charge that often occurs at the same time as other charges, such as: the careless storage or use or handling of a firearm, pointing a firearm, possession of a restricted weapon with ammunition, etc.

Possession of weapons offences are covered by sections 88 through 98 of Canada’s Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46. These offences include:

  • possession of weapons for dangerous purpose,
  • carrying weapon while attending public meeting,
  • carrying concealed weapon,
  • unauthorized possession of a firearm,
  • unauthorized possession of prohibited weapon or restricted weapon,
  • possession of firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized,
  • possession at unauthorized place,
  • unauthorized possession in a motor vehicle,
  • possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition,
  • possession of weapon obtained by commission of offence,
  • breaking and entering to steal a firearm, or
  • robbery to steal firearm.

Penalties for Weapons Possession Offences

The penalties for each offence can range from range from summary conviction offences with maximum penalties of six (6) months of imprisonment and indictable offences with maximum penalties of ten (10) years of imprisonment.

Many of these offences are hybrid offences where the prosecutor may elect to proceed by way of summary conviction or indictment depending on the circumstances of the case.

Defences for Possession Offences

There are defences to possession charges that are written into the Criminal Code. For example s. 91 defines the requirements for the unauthorized possession of a firearm offence with a potential defence built into the language of the section: being under the direct and immediate supervision of a person who may lawfully possess it.

In addition to these specific defences for weapons offences, your criminal lawyer may be able to raise other defences to undermine the required elements of the offence. Or, your lawyer may bring a motion for the evidence to be excluded where it was obtained in a manner inconsistent with your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Possession Offences in Practice

In R v McKenzie, 2016 ONSC 5025 (CanLII), the accused, Chris McKenzie, was found guilty of three offences, all flowing from his unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm, namely, a Hi-Point 9 mm. handgun, and ammunition.

Specifically, McKenzie was found guilty of:

  1. the unlawful possession of a “prohibited firearm with readily accessible ammunition” while not the holder of a license or authorization, contrary to s. 95(1) of the Criminal Code;
  2. the unlawful possession of a firearm without being the holder of the necessary license or registration certificate, contrary to s. 91(1) of the Criminal Code; and
  3. possession of a prohibited firearm while he was prohibited from doing so by court order, contrary to s. 117.01(1) of the Criminal Code.

Mr. McKenzie was sentenced to serve three years in custody for the firearm offences, and another six months consecutive of custody due to breaching the court order. Firearm offences are serious and as illustrated above have potentially life-altering consequences to a person found guilty of such offences.

Contact Us at Donnell Law Group

If you or a loved one is accused of or charged with a criminal offence, a trusted criminal lawyer may be able to help you right away. We have the necessary legal experience in defending those accused of a wide range of criminal offences, including weapons offences. Our lawyers can assist you at 1-888-307-9991.

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