Drugs

Proposed Legislation to Decrease Drug Penalties and Increase Penalties for Firearm Offences

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a response to calls for reform against systemic racism in the criminal justice system, last month the Liberal government proposed Bill C-22 which includes amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Bill C-22 proposes the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for some drug and firearms offences, the reduction of prosecutions for simple drug possession charges and allowing for an increase in the use of conditional sentences to be served in the community.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable David Lametti, stated:

The reforms we are introducing are critical to addressing systemic racism and discrimination in the justice system while keeping Canadians safe.  We are turning the page on failed approaches which have disproportionately hurt Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and marginalized communities.  They have also left our communities less safe and created a justice system that is less fair for all Canadians.

PROPOSED CHANGES TO MANDATORY MINIMUM PENALTIES

One of the proposed changes is the repeal of mandatory minimum penalties (“MMPs”) for 14 of the 67 offences currently punishable by MMPs in the Criminal Code and the repeal of all 6 of the offences punishable by an MMP in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

As it reads today, under the Criminal Code an offence punishable by an MMP requires that the judge impose a sentence equal to or greater than the minimum term for that offence, whether or not imprisonment is appropriate given the facts of the case.

The specific offences that carry mandatory minimum sentences that are under consideration for elimination have been found to disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous offenders.

According to the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness:

We know that mandatory provisions can result in sentences that are not proportional to all the circumstances of the offence, and have resulted in disparate, unjust outcomes for racialized and Indigenous people.  Sentencing options that include diversion, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration back into the community produce better outcomes and reduce disproportionate incarceration. 

PROPOSED CHANGES TO SIMPLE DRUG POSSESSION CHARGES

Although Bill C-22 does not outright decriminalize simple drug possession, as many organizations have lobbied for, the new bill does propose that police and prosecutors consider other measures, such as diversion to addiction treatment programs or other supportive services, instead of charging and prosecuting simple drug possession offences.

The proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are aimed at helping those living with mental health or substance use struggles to get the help that is required instead of being stigmatized and punished.

PROPOSED USE OF CONDITIONAL SENTENCE ORDERS

Bill C-22 submits that for cases where an offender faces a jail term of less than two years and does not pose a threat to public safety that judges have the option to order that the term be served in the community under strict conditions.  Proposed conditions include house arrest, curfews, mandatory counseling and treatment for substance abuse.  Under this suggestion, individuals would be able to maintain their employment or continue to care for children or other dependent family members, while allowing for rehabilitation and reintegration.  Individuals who are not a “menace to society” would be diverted into “positive programming” to assist them in turning their live around instead of facing incarceration.

BILL C-21 – PROPOSED INCREASES TO MAXIMUM PENALTIES FOR FIREARMS OFFENCES

The federal government recently introduced Bill C-21, which would increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking, create a process for confiscating legal firearms from individuals who pose a risk to themselves and/or others, and introduce a gun buy-back program for 1,500 models of “assault-style” firearms.

This new legislation would allow municipalities to ban handguns, if their provinces permit it.  Municipalities would have the option to enact bylaws to restrict handgun storage and transport in those municipalities.

In an effort to avoid intimate partner and gender-based violence and self-harm through the use of firearms, the proposed legislation creates “red flag” and “yellow flag” laws to allow individuals to apply to the courts for the immediate removal of another person’s firearms.

It has also been proposed that a new offence be created under the Firearms Act to prohibit any business advertising that depicts, counsels or promotes firearms violence against a person.  This offence would have a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment for the first offence, and five years imprisonment for each subsequent offence.

We will continue to follow the anticipated legislative proposals by the federal government and will report any developments regarding these changes to the criminal justice system in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or any other criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Opioid-Related Deaths Continue to Rise as the Pandemic Persists

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The continuous news cycle regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada has detracted from the opioid crisis that continues to plague Canadians with numbers increasing since the border closure and limited access to services since March of 2020. 

During the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 virus entering Ontario, it has been confirmed or suspected that 695 people suffered opioid-related deaths.  This is a 38% increase compared to the 15 weeks before the pandemic began. 

A report prepared by Public Health Ontario and its affiliates and published in November 2020 found that there were more opioid-related deaths among individuals using drugs alone, outdoors and in hotel/motel settings since the pandemic began in Ontario.  Approximately 74% of the opioid-related deaths were individuals who were alone at the time with no one available to administer resuscitation or naloxone treatment.  It is likely that these findings occurred as the province promoted physical distancing measures and reduced access to safer locations to use drugs, such as supervised consumption and treatment services. 

Researchers also found that opioid-related deaths are disproportionately impacting men aged 25 to 44 residing in neighbourhoods characterized by lower incomes, poorer housing, lower education and higher prevalence of single parent families.  Findings also demonstrated that opioid-related deaths were more prevalent in communities with higher populations of recent immigrants and/or racialized communities.  This finding was similar to the findings of increased infection and death rates for COVID-19 in these communities.

Experts in the field estimate that there were more than 2,200 opioid-related deaths in 2020.  This is a dramatic increase from the 1,512 opioid-related deaths recorded in 2019. 

WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?

Opioids are medications that can relax the body and have pain relieving properties. They can be purchased at the pharmacy to treat minor aches and pains or prescribed by a doctor to relieve medium to severe pain. 

Opioids can affect your mind, mood and mental processes, producing euphoria, or a “high” feeling, which often leads them to be used improperly.  The following are examples of opioids that can be prescribed medications:

  • Codeine;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Morphine;
  • Oxycodone;
  • Hydromorphone; and,
  • Medical heroin.

Dependency, substance use disorder and overdose are serious side effects and risks of using opioids. They have the potential for problematic use because they produce a “high” feeling.

Opioids should only be taken as prescribed, never be used by someone for whom it was not prescribed and never be taken with alcohol or other medication (except as prescribed). 

LATEST DATA ON THE OVERDOSE CRISIS IN CANADA

On December 16, 2020, the co-chairs of the federal, provincial and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses issued the following statement regarding data on opioid-related deaths in Canada between January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2020:

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, we were seeing early and promising signs that opioid toxicity deaths were beginning to decline in some areas of the country.  The national data released today offers insight into the severe and worsening impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the overdose crisis … Between April and June 2020, there were 1,628 people who died of apparent opioid toxicity – a 58% increase from the previous quarter.  …

This alarming evidence also shows that from January to June 2020, approximately half of accidental opioid toxicity deaths also involved a stimulant drug, such as cocaine or methamphetamine.  These data confirm that this crisis goes well beyond opioids, encompassing a wider range of substances.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Health Officer, and Dr. Jennifer Russell, Chief Medical Health Officer, appealed to the public to reach out to loved ones who may feel alone or isolated.  The doctors and co-chairs suggest the following measures to protect those vulnerable to overdose, including:

  • education regarding the signs of overdose;
  • carrying naloxone;
  • not using drugs alone;
  • not mixing drugs; and
  • reducing the stigma of those vulnerable to ask for help or visit a safe consumption site.

NEW CANADA PHONE LINE TO PREVENT OVERDOSE DEATHS

The National Overdose Response Service (“NORS), a new Canada-wide phone line, has been established to prevent overdoses by allowing all Canadians to dial a toll-free number and connect with a peer who can dial 911 for help if there is a concern or the client has become non-responsive.  This phone line aims to help those in locations without safe consumption sites or individuals who are afraid to visit a consumption site due to the perceived stigma.

This service is entirely anonymous.  The “peers” on the other end of the phone line are current drug users, recovered drug users or have personal experience with drug use.  Some community members answering the phones are frontline workers and others have been personally impacted by overdose.  They are not paid professionals.

If you are concerned about the risk of overdosing during the current lockdown, you can call toll-free 1-888-688-6677.  For more information, click here.

As both the federal and provincial governments continue in their efforts to tackle the opioid crisis in Canada as well as the current pandemic, Affleck & Barrison LLP will continue to provide updates through this blog.

If you have been charged with a drug related charge or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice. 

Police Officer Sentenced to 12 Months in Jail for Death of Woman in Custody

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A new decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and for the first time in Canada, a police officer has been convicted and sentenced for failing to provide medical assistance to an individual in their custody.

In November 2019, London Police Constable Nicholas Doering (“Doering”) was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life in the death of Debralee Chrisjohn (“Chrisjohn”).

THE FACTS

On September 7, 2016, Chrisjohn, while in police custody, died of a heart attack as a result of having consumed a toxic level of methamphetamine.

A video of Chrisjohn being taken into the Ontario Provincial Police detachment showed her to be limp, silent and demonstrating no signs of movement.  She was witnessed to being dragged into a cell.  At that point, EMS was called, however, by the time they arrived they were unable to save her life.

Chrisjohn was in the custody of Constable Doering, who had arrested her for an outstanding OPP warrant, and transferred Chrisjohn to OPP custody. 

At his trial, Constable Doering testified that he did not believe that Chrisjohn required medical attention and was simply suffering from the effects of methamphetamine.  According to the defence, Constable Doering made an error in judgement that was reasonable based upon his experience with methamphetamine users and his conversation with an EMS supervisor early on in her detention.  Doering denied that he deliberately misled OPP officers.

The following facts were admitted by Constable Doering at his trial:

  • Chrisjohn was unable to provide herself with the necessaries of life while in the custody of Constable Doering;
  • Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug and users often experience confused cognitive function, paranoia, elevated sensory stimulation and agitation and restlessness;
  • Medical treatment is available for those who have ingested methamphetamine, which typically includes monitoring and treating the user’s symptoms in a hospital until the effects have dissipated;
  • Medical treatment is not always warranted for those who experience side-effects from using methamphetamines;
  • If treatment or intervention is required, the sooner treatment is received the better;
  • On September 7, 2016, Chrisjohn required medical treatment due to the effects of using methamphetamines at the time of her transfer to the OPP;
  • Chrisjohn was in a critical state and required urgent medical intervention from the time of her arrival at the Elgin OPP detachment and onwards;
  • The delay in providing Chrisjohn with medical treatment impacted her chance of survival.  If she had received medical attention prior to the arrival of EMS at the Elgin OPP detachment, she may have survived.

THE ALLEGATIONS AND CRIMINAL OFFENCES

At trial, Crown prosecutors alleged that Constable Doering knowingly provided false and incomplete information regarding Chrisjohn’s medical condition to the OPP when he transferred custody and told OPP that she had been medically cleared.  Thus, demonstrating a wanton and reckless disregard for her life and providing the elements of criminal negligence causing death.  Furthermore, it was alleged that Constable Doering’s behaviour was a marked and substantial departure from the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent police officer.

Section 215 of the Criminal Code outlines the offence of failing to provide the necessaries of life.  According to the law, where a person is in charge of another, he/she has a duty to provide the necessaries of life.  The standard is not of perfection. The Crown prosecutor must prove that there was a marked departure from that of a reasonably prudent person having charge of another, in circumstances where it is reasonably foreseeable that a failure to provide the necessaries of life would lead to a risk of danger to the life of the victim.

Section 219 of the Criminal Code outlines the offence of criminal negligence.  This offence requires proof that the accused did something or failed to do something that was his/her legal duty to do that demonstrates a wanton and reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others.  The offence also requires that the accused’s conduct was a marked and substantial departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would observe in the circumstances.

Justice Pomerance, in her reasons for judgement, stated:

The evidence in this case suggests that stereotypes and generalized assumptions played a role in the events leading to Ms. Chrisjohn’s death.  …

In short, Cst. Doering had pre-conceived notions about drug users and he held fast to those notions when dealing with Ms. Chrisjohn.  Rather than moulding his theory to fit the facts, he seems to have moulded the facts to fit his theory. …

I am satisfied that a reasonably prudent police officer would have appreciated the need for medical assistance at the time of the transfer to the OPP, if not before, and would have been aware of the risk that failure to obtain such medical assistance would endanger Ms. Chrisjohn’s life. 

Justice Pomerance found that Constable Doering failed to provide Chrisjohn with the necessaries of life and in providing erroneous and incomplete information about Chrisjohn’s medical condition to OPP demonstrated a wanton and reckless disregard for her life, thus contributing to Chrisjohn’s death.  He was therefore found guilty of criminal negligence causing death.

Justice Renee Pomerance sentenced Constable Doering to 12 months in jail.  In her sentencing decision, she stated:

The sentence must convey the irrefutable message that Ms. Chrisjohn’s life was valued and valuable. … [I]n some cases, loss of life will, practically and symbolically, command the most significant form of penalty. This is one of those cases.

Constable Doering has been suspended from his duties with the London Police with pay and is currently appealing the decision. 

We will continue to follow this criminal case as it makes its way through the appeal process and will report any developments in this blog.

If you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Supreme Court of Canada Clarifies Entrapment by Police in Dial-a-Dope Cases

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Canada’s highest court recently released its written decision in a pair of related cases regarding the issue of entrapment.  Javid Ahmad (“Ahmad”) and Landon Williams (“Williams”) were each charged with drug offences after police purchased cocaine from them. 

The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that police must form a reasonable suspicion that the individual on the phone is dealing drugs before asking to buy drugs.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Toronto police responded to tips to investigate alleged dial-a-dope schemes.  This type of scheme involves a seller communicating with their customers over cell phones and arranging to purchase drugs at an agreed upon location.  In each case, officers called a particular phone number and following a brief conversation requested drugs and arranged a meeting spot to complete the transaction. 

Ahmad and Williams were each arrested and charged with drug-related offences.  Both accused argued at trial that their proceedings should be stayed on the basis of entrapment.

In the case of Ahmad, the police received a tip that “Romeo” was selling drugs over the phone.  Following a short conversation with “Romeo”, a deal was struck to sell the officer cocaine and a location was agreed upon.  The officer met “Romeo” (Ahmad) in person to sell him the cocaine, at which time he was arrested and searched.  At Ahmad’s trial, he was convicted and the judge concluded that he was not entrapped as police had not offered him an opportunity to traffic drugs until their tip had been corroborated during the course of the phone conversation. 

In the case of Williams, police received a tip that “Jay” was selling cocaine.  The officer called “Jay” and arranged a meeting time and place to buy crack cocaine.  The drug deal took place.  Eleven days later, another drug deal was arranged.  A month later, the police arrested Williams.  At Williams’ trial, the judge concluded that he was entrapped because the officer who contacted him provided him with the option to sell drugs before forming a reasonable suspicion that he was drug trafficking.  Thus resulting in a stay of the drug-related charges.

Both Ahmad’s and Williams’ cases were heard together on appeal.  The majority of the Court of Appeal held that where reasonable suspicion relates to the phone number, the police can provide opportunities to commit a crime even if there is no reasonable suspicion about the person who answers the phone.  Therefore, at their appeals both Ahmad and Williams were convicted of drug offences.

WHAT IS ENTRAPMENT?

Entrapment takes place when the police encourage an individual to commit a crime or provide an individual with the opportunity to commit a crime without having a reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in that particular criminal activity. 

The Supreme Court of Canada set out two categories for the defence of entrapment in the case of R. v. Mack

  1. The police may present an opportunity to commit a crime only without acting upon a reasonable suspicion that either a specific person is engaged in criminal activity or people are carrying out criminal activity at a specific location;
  2. The police, while having a reasonable suspicion, go beyond providing an opportunity and induce the commission of an offence.

WHAT DID THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA DECIDE?

On appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, both Ahmad and Williams argued that the police did not have the required reasonable suspicion that either individual was involved in criminal activity before asking them over the phone to buy drugs.

The majority of the judges of the Supreme Court concluded that Ahmad was not entrapped and that Williams was entrapped by the police.

The court held that police can ask a person during a telephone conversation to commit a crime, but only if there is already reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in criminal activity.  The reasonable suspicion must relate to the specific person committing a crime or a crime occurring in a specific location.  Given the digital world that we live in, a specific location can include a phone number.  Thus, police can have a reasonable suspicion that the phone number is being used for the crime before asking the person who answers the phone to commit a crime.  The court was concerned about the risks to privacy of allowing the location to be expanded to virtual spaces and stated:

…to properly protect these interests, police must have reasonable suspicion over an individual or a well-defined virtual space, like a phone number, before providing an opportunity to commit a crime.

Although in both cases, the police didn’t have reasonable suspicion before calling the phone numbers, the court concluded that the police became reasonably suspicious in Ahmad’s case to suspect he was selling drugs while talking with him on the phone and before asking to buy drugs from him.  In Williams case, the police asked to buy drugs from him prior to having a reasonable suspicion that he was selling drugs during their phone conversation. 

The majority of the court stated:

As state actors, police must respect the rights and freedoms of all Canadians and be accountable to the public they serve and protect. …

At the same time, police require various investigative techniques to enforce the criminal law.  While giving wide latitude to police to investigate crime in the public interest, the law also imposes constraints on certain police methods.

Based upon the specific circumstances in each case, Ahmad’s conviction was upheld and the stay of proceedings for Williams was reinstated.

If you have been charged with a drug-related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise. 

Supreme Court of Canada Rules Bail Conditions Must Be Knowingly Violated

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In its unanimous decision last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Chaycen Michael Zora (“Zora”), who had been convicted of breaching his bail conditions. 

The highest court in Canada concluded that an individual accused of breaching his/her bail conditions must knowingly or recklessly violate those conditions in order to be found guilty of breaching them.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Zora was charged with several drug offences in British Columbia.  He was released on bail and required to abide by twelve conditions.  These conditions included that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, report to his bail supervisor, not possess any non-prescribed controlled substances, not possess or have a cell phone, obey a curfew and be present at his front door within five minutes if and when the police or bail supervisor appeared to check on him, amongst other conditions. 

In October 2015, police rang Zora’s doorbell on two occasions and he did not answer.  He was therefore charged with two counts of breaching his curfew and two counts of failing to meet the condition of responding to police at his home during a curfew check.

At his trial, Zora was acquitted of charges of breaching curfew as it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Zora had been outside of his home after curfew.  However, Zora was fined $920 and found guilty of two counts of failing to appear at the door in response to curfew compliance checks.

Zora argued that he did not hear the doorbell as it was difficult to hear it from where he slept.  Furthermore, he testified that he was undergoing methadone treatment, which made him very tired, and was in the process of withdrawal from his heroin addiction.

Zora also testified that he changed where he slept in his home and set up an audio-visual system at his front door to help alert him to further police checks, which ensured that he was complying with his conditions of bail. 

Zora unsuccessfully appealed the trial judge’s decision.  He then proceeded to take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT

Zora appeals his conviction for failing to comply with his bail conditions by not answering the door when police appeared at his residence to ensure that he was complying with his bail conditions.  In failing to do so, Zora had committed the actus reus of the crime (the physical act of the crime).

The Supreme Court of Canada was asked to determine whether Zora had committed the mental element, also known as the mens rea, of the crime, which also must be present, in order to secure a conviction under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code.

It is a criminal offence, under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code, to breach bail.  This crime carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.  Therefore, an accused may be subject to imprisonment for breaching conditions of their bail even if he/she is not found guilty of any of the original charges. 

In writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Martin explained what was required to satisfy the mental element of the crime:

I conclude that the Crown is required to prove subjective mens rea and no lesser form of fault will suffice.  Under s.145(3), the Crown must establish that the accused committed the breach knowingly or recklessly.  Nothing in the text or context of s. 145(3) displaces the presumption that Parliament intended to require a subjective mens rea. 

…The realities of the bail system further support Parliament’s intention to require subjective fault to ensure that the individual characteristics of the accused are considered throughout the bail process.

…Not only is this conclusion consistent with the presumption of subjective fault for crimes like s. 145(3), it is supported by its place and purpose in the overall bail system, the serious consequences which flow from its breach, and how the consideration of individual circumstances is the proper focus both for setting conditions and determining the mental element for their breach.

The Supreme Court held that subjective mens rea can be established when the Crown has proven:

  1. The accused had knowledge of the conditions of the bail order, or they were willfully blind to those conditions; and
  2. The accused knowingly (or were willfully blind to the circumstances) failed to act according to their bail conditions despite the knowledge of them; or
  3. The accused recklessly failed to act in accordance with their bail conditions (i.e. perceived an unjustified risk that their conduct would fail to comply with their bail conditions).

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held that subjective fault is required for a conviction under s. 145(3) of the Criminal Code.  The court found that the lower courts erred in law by applying an objective rather than a subjective standard of fault.  The Supreme Court allowed Zora’s appeal, quashed his convictions and ordered a new trial on the two counts of failing to appear at his door. 

If you have been charged with a bail related offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Rising Numbers of Opioid Overdoses in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As our attention focuses on the mounting death toll plaguing our country and the entire world related to COVID-19, the numbers of those overdosing from opioids in Ontario is also on the rise.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has recently brought the frightening nationwide trend to the attention of the public.

According to federal data, more than 14,000 Canadians have died due to opioids in the last four years.

In Ontario, there has been a 25% increase in fatal drug overdoses from March to May 2020 in comparison to the same three month period last year.

Other provinces in Canada have also seen an increase of drug overdoses in the last few months. Alberta has reported an increase in opioid-related EMS calls from 257 in March to 550 in May of this year.

British Columbia has seen a 39% increase in overdose deaths in April of 2020 compared to the same month last year.  B.C. also reported 170 deaths from overdose in May 2020, which was more than the number of COVID-19 deaths that month.  During the three months that government measures of social distancing were put in place, more than 400 deaths due to overdose were recorded in B.C. as well.

CONTRADICTORY MESSAGES FOR DRUG USERS

Although overdose prevention sites continue to operate, physical distancing guidelines result in less individuals being able to use these services.  These sites provide a space for those who use drugs to safely consume them and receive overdose response measures if necessary.

Recently, overdose prevention sites have changed their layouts, installed barriers and served fewer clients at a time or by appointments to ensure physical distancing measures were being employed.  It has been reported that one site of this nature in Toronto that had an average of 100 visits a day is now seeing half of that number.

Staff who work at these supervised consumption sites began using personal protective gear while meeting with clients and during street outreach.  Some clients became upset encountering staff dressed in this manner.  Some felt that staff were sending them a message that they were dirty or that they have a disease. 

The new measures to protect against COVID-19 may also cause difficulty for staff to establish and maintain trust with clients given all the physical barriers now employed. 

These new safety measures are also entirely contradictory to the strategies that staff traditionally use to help drug users.  Typically those that consume drugs are told never to use alone, whereas now they are being told to stay home and physically distance themselves from others.

SOCIAL ISOLATION MAY BE CONTRIBUTING TO THE OPIOID CRISIS

Feelings of stress, uncertainty, social isolation, and loss of access to services may also be contributing to the rising overdoses in Canada. 

Those individuals who were actively using drugs at the beginning of the pandemic may be increasing their consumption.  Those that were in recovery may have begun using drugs again, especially if they have encountered losses related to the pandemic or the loss of supports that they once had as a result of the pandemic.

Another factor to consider in the rising number of overdoses may be the additional access to money through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) offered by the government. 

COVID-19 IMPACTS THE DRUG SUPPLY CHAIN

During COVID-19, it is harder for individuals to access their drug of choice. 

Disruption in international travel and closed borders due to the pandemic has made the unregulated drug supply very unpredictable, and possibly more toxic.  As it has become harder to acquire substances from overseas, dealers and users are using whatever ingredients are available.

According to Guy Felicella, of the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use:

When (drugs become) more challenging to get, the potency goes up, the price goes up, everything goes up, and in that sense it becomes more deadly by the day.

DEMAND FOR MORE FUNDING AND DECRIMINALIZATION OF ILLEGAL DRUGS

Public health officials throughout Canada are pressuring the federal government for more funding for a safe supply of drugs in their provinces and cities. 

A recent report from Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, outlines the growing concern in Canada:

The ongoing opioid poisoning crisis in Toronto and across Canada has intensified and been further compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic.  These dual public health crises are having significant impacts on people who use drugs in our community as well as their families, friends and loved ones.  Services that people rely on, many of them lifesaving, have closed or significantly reduced their service hours and/or capacity.

In addition to extra funding, Dr. Eileen De Villa is requesting that the federal government decriminalize illegal drugs for the duration of the pandemic.  This suggestion is made in an effort to promote a public health approach to the problem and not a criminal justice approach.

According to Nick Boyce, director of the Ontario Harm Reduction Network:

Laws actually incentivize drug dealers and suppliers to come up with new and different drugs.  We learned this lesson in the 1920s with alcohol prohibition where people switched from drinking beer to toxic moonshine.  We’re seeing that with the opioid drug supply now.

As both the federal and provincial governments continue in their efforts to tackle the opioid crisis in Canada as well as the current pandemic, Affleck & Barrison LLP will continue to provide updates through this blog.

If you have been charged with a drug related charge or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice. 

Increase In DUI Charges Following Festive R.I.D.E. Campaign in Durham Region

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The presents have been unwrapped and the new year’s confetti has been swept away at the same time as Durham Police’s Festive R.I.D.E. campaign has come to an end for 2019.

Durham Police ran their annual seven week R.I.D.E. campaign (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere), which concluded on New Year’s Day 2020.  As a result of this campaign, a grand total of 104 motorists were charged with drinking and driving offences, which was an increase from those charged in 2018.

Prior to the commencement of the Festive R.I.D.E. campaign, Durham Police have charged 644 motorists with impaired driving offences in 2019.  This is a 19% increase in charges from 2018.

CHARGES ARISING OUT OF TRAFFIC STOPS IN 2019

This past year, Durham Police stopped more than 19,000 vehicles during the 2019 R.I.D.E. campaign.  During these traffic stops, 787 motorists were given roadside breath tests.  Of those given breath tests, 86 motorists had their driver’s license suspended for three days for registering in the “warn” range.  There were 104 motorists charged with drinking and driving offences. 

In comparison to the 2018 winter holiday season, less vehicles were stopped by Durham Police this year.  In 2018, 25,110 vehicles were stopped during Durham Police’s annual RIDE campaign and 117 motorists were charged with drinking and driving offences in Durham.  During that year’s R.I.D.E. campaign, 111 motorists had their driver’s license suspended for three days after registering in the “waning range” during their roadside test.

Although the number of motorists charged with impaired driving was lower this year than last year, the rate of impaired charges laid increased.  In 2019, one in every 188 motorists stopped by the police was charged with an offence of drinking and driving in comparison to one in every 214 motorists charged with an offence in 2018.

Durham Police also laid 379 charges for various Highway Traffic Act offences during their traffic stops.  Police also charged 4 motorists with drug offences and 7 motorists with offences related to the Cannabis Act.

ALLEGED IMPAIRED DRIVING ACCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED OVER THE HOLIDAYS

Festive R.I.D.E. campaigns ran throughout the Greater Toronto Area this past holiday season.  Despite these efforts, numerous motor vehicle accidents occurred during the holiday season as a result of suspected impaired drivers in the GTA.

On the evening of December 22, 2019, two international students were killed while walking on the sidewalk when a driver lost control of his vehicle, jumped the curb and plowed down the pedestrians in Scarborough.  A third pedestrian was also injured in the accident and was taken to hospital in serious condition.  Michael Johnson of Pickering was arrested at the scene of the collision and is facing nine charges, including two counts of impaired driving causing death and one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm. 

On the evening of December 26, 2019, a four-vehicle collision occurred on the Queen Elizabeth Way in Oakville.  Four individuals were transported to hospital with minor injuries.  One motorist was taken into custody on suspicion of drunk driving.

On December 27, 2019, a man was taken into custody on suspicion of impaired driving after he lost control of his vehicle, veered off the road and slammed into a TTC bus shelter that had people inside of it in the area of Sheppard Avenue and Progress Avenue in Scarborough.   There were no reported injuries as a result of this accident.

On New Year’s Eve, a 68-year-old man died at the scene of a car accident when a suspected impaired driver collided with his Toyota in the area of Elgin Mills Road and Ninth Line in York Region.  Stanley Choy of Whitchurch-Stouffville was charged with impaired driving causing death, operation with a blood alcohol concentration 80 plus causing death, and dangerous operation causing death.

TIPS TO AVOID IMPAIRED DRIVING CHARGES

Impaired driving is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada and the consequences are very serious.  In Canada, the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration for fully licensed drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (0.08).  In Ontario, motorists can face serious penalties if their blood alcohol concentration is found to fall between 0.05 and 0.08, considered the “warn” range.

The legal team at Affleck & Barrison LLP would like to provide the following tips to avoid the consequences of an impaired driving charge:

  • Always have a plan to return home safely, either a designated driver, public transit, calling a friend or loved one, a ride share or taxi, or plan to stay overnight and sleep it off;
  • Tell your family and friends about your plan to get home safely;
  • Do not over-indulge in alcohol or cannabis;
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water;
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether there are any side effects related to driving when using prescription medication;
  • Parents should model safe driving behaviours by avoiding driving a vehicle while impaired; and
  • Be aware that fatigue and stress may affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Alberta Court of Appeal Sets Minimum Sentencing for Fentanyl Trafficking

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As the country copes with the opioid crisis, the highest court in Alberta has now set a new sentencing starting point for those convicted of fentanyl trafficking.  The court recognized the peril that Alberta is in and stressed that it is up to the courts “to protect the public by imposing sentences that will alter the cost-benefit math performed by high-level fentanyl traffickers”.

A special five-justice panel of the Alberta Court of Appeal heard two appeals by the Crown prosecutor regarding fentanyl trafficking and unanimously ruled that convictions for wholesale fentanyl trafficking should receive a minimum sentence of nine years.

THE APPEAL DECISION REGARDING CAMERON PARRANTO

Last year, Cameron O’Lynn Parranto (“Parranto”), who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for trafficking in fentanyl in Edmonton.  Police seized the equivalent of a half-million doses of fentanyl.

Parranto pleaded guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking in fentanyl and other drugs for two sets of offences. 

After a search warrant was executed at Parranto’s home, police recovered 27.8 grams of fentayl, 182.5 grams of methamphetamine, 82.6 grams of cocaine, 396 morphine pills and 168 oxycodone pills.  They also found $55,575 in cash, a loaded handgun, ammunition, police and sheriff badges, body armour, a dozen cell phones, scales and a cash counter.

Following Parranto’s release for his first set of offences, he was arrested three months later when greater quantities of fentanyl, methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and the date rape drug GHB were uncovered. 

Parranto pleaded guilty to both sets of offences and was handed an 11-year sentence for eight offences, five years for the March 2016 offences and 6 years for the October 2016 offences. 

The court of appeal increased Parranto’s sentence to 14 years, minus credit of 3 ½ years for pre-sentence custody.

THE APPEAL DECISION REGARDING PATRICK FELIX

Earlier this year, Patrick Felix (“Felix”), a wholesale drug trafficker in Fort McMurray, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in trafficking fentanyl after pleading guilty.  Investigators seized approximately $1 million worth of drugs and 3,000 fentanyl pills.

Felix obtained drugs and stored them at a “stash” location.  He employed “runners” to take orders, retrieve the drugs from the stash location and complete the deals.  “Food bosses” were also used to manage the runners, collect money from the sales and then provide Felix with the proceeds.

In 2015, Felix sold drugs to an undercover police officer on six separate occasions.  Felix provided 2,388 fentanyl pills and 2.5 kilograms of cocaine for a total price of $173,400. 

At trial, Felix pleaded guilty to four counts of trafficking in fentanyl and cocaine.  He was sentenced to seven years for each count of fentanyl trafficking and four years for each count of cocaine trafficking to be served concurrently.  A concurrent sentence occurs when all sentences are served at the same time, with the longest sentence period controlling the length of time in jail. 

The Crown prosecutor appealed the sentence and requested that the appeal court establish a minimum sentence for those convicted of wholesale trafficking in opioids.  On appeal, the Crown also argued that the trial judge made “case-specific errors that affected the fitness of the sentence imposed”. 

At the appeal, Justice Antonio wrote that the sentence imposed by the trial judge was “demonstrably unfit” in part due to the judge’s failure to distinguish between commercial trafficking and wholesale trafficking and failing to take into account Felix’s role in the organization.

Justice Antonio, writing on behalf of all the judges on the bench, stated:

Mr. Felix’s role was at the top of his organization, which is a weighty aggravating factor.  He energetically ran a business that was structured to maximize profit while minimizing the chance of criminal consequences to himself.  He was responsible for pouring poison into his own community and potentially others, jeopardizing the health and lives of untold numbers of end users.

Trafficking in cocaine has a four-and-a-half year starting point for sentencing.  A starting point for sentencing of a low-level commercial dealer of heroin is typically five years. 

The court will take into account the dangerousness of the drug and the scale of the offender’s involvement in the drug operation when establishing a minimum sentence for those convicted.  The court of appeal found that wholesale trafficking is more morally blameworthy than commercial trafficking as it presents a grave danger to individuals, communities and the greater public interest.  The appeal court defined wholesale trafficking as one that traffics large amounts of one or more drugs or distributes drugs on a large scale, possibly for resale.

Given the appeal court’s comments, the Crown was successful on appeal and set a starting point for those found guilty of commercial trafficking at nine years.  Felix’s overall sentence was increased by the court to 10 years.

If you have been charged with a drug related charge or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice. 

Drug Conviction Overturned on Appeal as Police Delayed Access to Lawyer

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned Daniel Marlon Noel’s conviction for drug offences.  The court found that Durham Regional Police breached his Charter rights by not allowing him to promptly speak to a lawyer on the night of his arrest.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On December 21, 2015 at 10:28 p.m., Durham Regional Police entered a residence where Daniel Marlon Noel (“Noel”), his partner and his brother were living pursuant to a search warrant.  All three individuals were suspected of operating a small-scale cocaine trafficking operation, which was under investigation by Durham Regional Police.  That evening, Noel was arrested at gunpoint by Officer Aiello in a bedroom containing his belongings and identification.  Officer Aiello did not advise Noel of his right to counsel.

Noel was taken to a central location in the house and within five minutes of the police’s entry into the residence Officer Gill read him his rights to counsel.  Noel asked to speak to a lawyer, however, no efforts were made to allow for his right to counsel.

The police search of Noel’s bedroom recovered $5,670 Canadian, $71 U.S., 73 grams of cocaine, 55 grams of marijuana and a digital scale.

Noel was transported to the police station at 11:04 p.m. and arrived at the station at 11:10 p.m.  Officer Gill testified that, while being led to the transport vehicle, Noel admitted ownership of the drugs and claimed that his brother was not involved. 

At 12:48 p.m., Officer Capener placed two calls to duty counsel for Noel and his partner, Stacey Long, and left messages requesting a return phone call. 

At 1:25 a.m., Noel learned that his brother had received a call from duty counsel.  Officer Westcott left another message for duty counsel to call Noel.

At his trial, Noel alleged the following Charter breaches:

  • That the entry to his home violated section 8 (right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure);
  • That his arrest violated section 9 (right not to be arbitrarily detained); and
  • That his right to counsel was breached which violated section 10(b) (right to retain counsel without delay).

The trial judge rejected all arguments regarding Charter violations, except that Noel’s right to counsel without delay was violated.  However, Noel was denied the exclusionary remedy that he sought under the Charter, the evidence was admitted and Noel was convicted of the drug offences.

THE APPEAL

Noel appealed his conviction and argued on appeal that the trial judge erred in failing to find breaches of his Charter rights. 

The appeal court concluded that there was a violation of section 10(b) of the Charter and found that the police had a “cavalier attitude about a fundamental, important, and long-settled Charter right to consult counsel without delay”.  Furthermore, the police could not provide a reasonable explanation for the delay. 

The appeal court wrote:

Mr. Noel remained in custody without the benefit of counsel for at least three hours, unable to receive the direction, reassurance, and advice that counsel could provide.  … [Noel] asked to speak to counsel promptly but that right was denied. … We conclude that it would damage the long-term interests of the administration of justice to admit the evidence and thus be seen to condone the carelessness and disorganization exhibited by the police with respect to Mr. Noel’s right to counsel without delay.

The appeal court allowed Noel’s appeal, set aside his convictions and substituted a verdict of acquittal. 

RIGHT TO COUNSEL

The right to counsel is one of the most important and recognized rights provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Section 10(b) of the Charter provides:

10.       Everyone has the right on arrest or detention: 

b.         to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right.

The rights afforded under this section are designed to inform a detained individual of the scope of their situation and to ensure that legal advice is available. 

The right to counsel consists of an informational and an implementational component.  Thus, a detained individual must be informed of the right to counsel and this right must be understood by the individual (i.e. an interpreter may be required).  The implementational component involves the obligations and restrictions upon the police in conducting their investigation once the right to counsel has been asserted. 

The right to counsel must be provided without delay.  This is often interpreted to mean immediately in order to protect the detainee from the risk of self-incrimination 

Police must advise the detainee of his/her right to counsel and explain the existence and availability of legal aid and duty counsel if one cannot afford or cannot reach a lawyer.  Thus, the right to counsel also has a corresponding right to retain counsel of one’s choice. 

When a detainee has exercised his/her right to counsel, police must refrain from trying to elicit further evidence and refrain from questioning the individual until he/she has had an opportunity to speak with counsel. 

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Sentencing Hearing Delayed for Man Who Killed His Mother While in ‘Cannabis-Induced Psychosis’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Jason Dickout pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November.  His sentencing hearing was to begin in early September, but has been postponed to early next year pending the completion of a forensic assessment.  Dickout has remained in custody for almost a year since entering his guilty plea.

According to Dickout’s defence lawyer, psychological assessments completed shortly after his client’s arrest indicated underlying mental health issues and therefore the defence was willing to wait for a complete forensic assessment.  Due to a clerical error, the assessment will not be completed until the end of the year. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

In April 2017, Dickout spent the Easter weekend with his parents in northeast Edmonton.  After his father left for work and his mother went grocery shopping on Monday evening, Dickout “smoked two inhalations of dried marijuana” with his sister, Ashley.

Dickout began almost immediately “exhibiting signs of erratic and anxious behaviour, making other animalistic noises and talking nonsensically”.  Hoping to calm her brother down, Ashley gave him some prescribed cannabis oil, which he had never consumed in the past. 

Two hours later, Ashely called 911 to report that her brother was screaming and repeatedly stabbing their mother in the neck with a six-inch knife.

Police arrived to find Dickout naked from the waist down with blood on his face, t-shirt and his bare feet.  A knife covered in blood and a pair of men’s pyjama bottoms lay on the floor beside Dickout’s mother, Kathy Dickout.  Dickout was found behaving erratically and alternating between screams and hysterical laughing.  He said, “this was all for a laugh”.

Kathy Dickout died as a result of knife wounds, which had severed her jugular vein and carotid artery.

EMTs had to sedate Dickout and he was taken to hospital before he was taken into police custody and arrested.  He told officers, “I killed my mom.  She was so beautiful.  She was always thinking of me.  My mom deserves to live.”

Two doctors examined Dickout at Alberta Hospital and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with the symptoms, with the symptoms abating within  a couple of days”. 

Two doctors examined Dickout and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with other symptoms, with the symptoms abating within a couple of days”.

WHAT IS CANNABIS-INDUCED PSYCHOSIS?

Cannabis-induced psychosis is a possible side effect of cannabis consumption after recreational or chronic use of the drug.  Symptoms can include anxiety, illusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, impaired thinking, paranoia, an inability to focus, loss of touch with reality, disassociation, loss of motivation, disorganized thoughts, suspiciousness, grandiosity, catatonia, agitation and delusions.

Psychosis triggered by the use of cannabis typically begins suddenly and ceases soon after the psychoactive substances in the drug have left the body.  In some cases, there may be an underlying mental illness present that makes it more likely for the drug to cause psychotic symptoms. 

Research has proven that cannabis may cause a psychosis-like state in those that were already at high risk for psychotic disorders.  There may also be a genetic predisposition to cannabis-induced psychosis.  Researchers have found a gene called catechol-O-methyltransferase, which could make individuals more vulnerable to negative side effects of cannabis consumption.

The use of cannabis may also adversely affect medication compliance in those that are using prescription medication to treat psychotic illnesses. 

Studies have also proven that cannabis use in adolescence can be a factor that worsens the symptoms of serious psychotic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Most individuals who experience cannabis-induced psychosis are not dangerous.  However, there is a possibility that an individual who has lost touch with reality will engage in risky or paranoid behaviours.  They may also suffer from delusions of grandiosity which can lead to dangerous behaviours, such as reckless driving or jumping from a hazardous height. 

STUDY LINKS VAPED THC TO “DAMPENED” BRAIN ACTIVITY

New research from the University of Guelph found that rats exposed to a single dose of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC (the vapourized psychoactive component of marijuana), experienced dampened brain activity lasting one week, similar to those suffering from schizophrenia and cannabis-induced psychosis.

The research team surgically implanted electrodes into the brains of eight healthy rats that had never been exposed to THC.  In a sealed rat chamber, the rats became exposed to pure vapourized THC or a saline solution.  The rats’ brain activity was then monitored. 

Lead author and assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Guelph, Jibran Khokhar stated:

We found across all the regions [of the brain] the single exposure of THC changed the individual activities of these brain regions, but also altered how these regions communicate, or jive, with one another. 

Vaporized cannabis is gaining popularity and as more concentrates come on the market, we see an increase in wax and shatter – high concentrate forms of THC – and will probably be vapourized with these vape pens.

We will continue to follow Jason Dickout’s case and will provide updates in this blog when more information becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.