Drug Trafficking and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking


  • The Charges You’re Facing
  • Sentencing and Punishment for Trafficking and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking

The Charges You’re Facing
There are a wide range of allegations that typically underlay charges of Trafficking and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking. They range from being a simple courier to having control over a grow operation or laboratory to “dial-a-dope” operations to multi-kilogram transactions. Undercover police operators and informants often feature heavily in these investigations.

Sentencing and Punishment for Trafficking and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking

Marijuana

   Over 3 Kilograms

Maximum: Life imprisonment

Minimum 2 years’ imprisonment if offence committed on prison grounds; or

Minimum 1 year’s imprisonment if:

  • offence committed for the benefit or at direction of a “criminal organization”
  • violence used or threatened in committing offence
  • a weapon was carried, threatened or used in committing offence

No minimum if none of the above factors are present.

Less Than 3 Kilograms

Maximum: 5 years’ imprisonment

Minimum: No minimum

Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine and Ecstasy

Maximum: Life imprisonment

Minimum 2 years’ imprisonment if offence committed on prison grounds; or

Minimum 1 year’s imprisonment if:

  • offence committed for the benefit or at direction of a “criminal organization”
  • violence used or threatened in committing offence
  • a weapon was carried, threatened or used in committing offence

No minimum of none of the above factors are present.

Alternatives to Jail for Trafficking/Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking
There are limited alternatives to jail if you are found guilty of Trafficking or Possession of Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine or Ecstasy for the Purpose of Trafficking (unless you are found guilty of trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking less than 3 kilograms of Marijuana in which case there are many alternatives). Since the maximum legal penalty for Trafficking and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking of these controlled substances is life imprisonment, a discharge is unavailable in law (being only available where the maximum sentence is less than 14 years). From 1996, when conditional sentences were brought into existence, they were the preferred alternative where judges wanted to impose a sentence that would act as a deterrent to others but also provide opportunities for rehabilitation. However, on November 20, 2012, the law was changed to make conditional sentences unavailable for trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine or Ecstasy or over 3 kilograms of Marijuana. The limited options that remain are as follows:

Suspended Sentence

A suspended sentence is one where the court enters the conviction but, rather than fining you or sentencing you to a term of imprisonment, places you on probation for up to 3 years.  If you fail to abide by the terms of your probation order, you can be returned to court and sentenced at that time.  As long as there is no minimum term of imprisonment, a suspended sentence is legally available, although rarely imposed for this offence.

Conditional or Absolute Discharge For Less Than 3 Kilograms of Marijuana

As stated, this sentence would not be available for any offence of Trafficking or Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, Ecstasy or more than 3 kilograms of Marijuana. It is, however, available if the offence relates to less than 3 kilograms of Marijuana (or that is all that is proven).   In this instance, a court has the power to find you guilty but nonetheless decline to enter a conviction.  The court would “discharge” you either absolutely or on conditions that would be set out in a probation order that would last for a defined period.  The big advantage to this disposition is that it is a way to avoid a criminal record even are you found guilty.  Growing for medical purposes for others is a common mitigating circumstance in cases where discharges are granted for this offence.

Fine

As long as there is no mandatory minimum jail term for the particular offence, the court can impose a fine, with or without probation in lieu of jail. There is theoretically no limit to the amount of the fine although it must take into account a person’s ability to pay.

Conditional Sentence or “House Arrest” For Less Than 3 Kilograms of Marijuana

As stated, conditional sentences – jail sentences served in the community – are no longer legally available for Trafficking or Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, Ecstasy or over 3 kilograms of Marijuana. In the event that you are found guilty of trafficking or possessing less than 3 kilograms of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, however, the court can legally impose one. These sentences are only available for terms of less than 2 years and can be followed by a probation order of up to 3 more.  Conditional sentence orders generally permit you to leave your home for work, limited shopping for necessities and medical appointments. Thus, they are obviously an attractive alternative to jail.  The downside is they tend to be longer in duration than straight jail terms and there is no remission (parole) earned in respect of them.  Also, if you breach a conditional sentence order, you may be required to serve out the balance of the sentence in jail.

DISCLAIMER
The statement above is not legal advice. It is simply intended to give a very general understanding of this offence and some of the possible issues and defences that might be considered in defending it. For legal advice, click here.