Understanding weapons offences in Canada

Understanding weapons offences in Canada

By Greg Dunn

When police outside Calgary pulled over a car for a licence plate violation earlier this spring, they recovered what they said was a significant amount of drugs and an assortment of weapons. Among the weapons seized were four knives, a homemade .22-calibre firearm and a .22-calibre bullet and a BB gun. Two people face charges including possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose along with drug possession.

When people think of weapons, guns or knives often come to mind. But anything that can inflict harm can be considered a weapon, including a frying pan, a flower pot or a baseball bat. Recently, an Ontario man was charged with assault with a weapon after throwing hot coffee at someone.

According to Statistics Canada, police-reported violent crime in 2019 continued to account for about one-fifth, or 22 per cent, of all police-reported Criminal Code of Canada offences excluding traffic violations. While the use of weapons was not documented, it is an issue of concern among the public and law enforcement officials. If you have been charged with a weapons offence you could face fines, jail time and a criminal record.

Different Weapons Charges

The Criminal Code defines a weapon as anything intended to threaten someone, or to cause death or injury to a person. Under the law, there are a number of weapons charges you could face. Aside from firearms offences they include:

Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose s. 88(1) Under this charge if you carry or commit an offence while in the possession of a weapon that would endanger the public, you could face a prison term of up to 10 years. The Code also states you cannot carry or possess an imitation weapon, a prohibited device or ammunition for the purpose of committing an offence that would be dangerous to the public peace.

Carrying weapon while attending a public meeting s. 89(1) As the charge indicates, if you attend a public meeting while carrying a weapon, prohibited device or any ammunition without a lawful excuse you will face charges that come with a maximum jail term of 18 months.

Carrying a concealed weapon s. 90(2) If you conceal a weapon, a prohibited device or any prohibited ammunition unless you are authorized under the Firearms Act you could face a prison term of up to five years.

Unauthorized possession of a prohibited weapon or restricted weapon s. 91(1) If you are in possession of a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device (other than a replica firearm) or any prohibited ammunition, without being the holder of the proper licence you could be jailed for up to five years.

Possession contrary to an order s. 117.01 (1) If you commit an offence while in possession of a firearm, a crossbow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance while prohibited from doing so you face a criminal conviction and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Assault with a weapon s. 267 This is a serious offence resulting in a prison term of up to 10 years if you carry, use or threaten to use a weapon or an imitation while assaulting someone.

Sexual assault with a weapon s. 272(1) If you commit a sexual assault while carrying a real or imitation weapon you could be convicted of an indictable offence and be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

Possession of weapon obtained by commission of an offence s. 96 (1) Anyone who commits an offence while possessing a firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any prohibited ammunition that the person knows was obtained by the commission of a crime or by an act or omission can face a 10-year prison term.

Possession of a weapon for the purpose of trafficking 100 (1) If you are found in possession of a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, any ammunition or any prohibited ammunition for the purpose of trafficking you can be jailed for up to 10 years.

What are Restricted Weapons?

Recently, Alberta’s bid to allow people to carry pepper spray for self defence was rejected by the federal government. In a statement, the government reasoned: “We have to be mindful that all weapons that are prohibited have been prohibited for a reason, as they are extremely dangerous when they fall into the wrong hands.”

  • Pepper spray, which can irritate the eyes causing pain and temporary blindness, is just one item recognized as a prohibited weapon in the Code. Others include:
  • tear gas, Mace or any gas, liquid, spray or powder capable of injuring or incapacitating a victim;
  • hard non-flexible sticks, clubs, pipes, or rods linked by a length or lengths of rope, cord, wire or chain, and any similar instrument or device;
  • any finger ring that has one or more blades or sharp objects capable of being projected from the surface;
  • brass knuckles;
  • a crossbow or similar device designed or altered to be aimed and fired by the action of one or both hands;
  • a belt containing a blade capable of being withdrawn, with the buckle of the belt forming a handle for the blade, and any similar device;
  • a spiked wristband which has a spike or blade affixed to it;
  • a tube or pipe designed for the purpose of shooting arrows or darts by the breath or any similar device;
  • any device consisting of a manually triggered telescoping spring-loaded steel whip terminating in a heavy-calibre striking tip;
  • any electrical or mechanical device designed or adapted to operate the trigger mechanism of a semi-automatic firearm for the purpose of causing the firearm to discharge cartridges in rapid succession; or
  • a knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife.

What are Your Defences?

A thorough examination of the evidence in your case by our firm will determine whether it is possible to get the charge dismissed or the penalty reduced. First and foremost, the Crown must establish the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Were you indeed aware you were in possession of the weapons alleged? Were your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms violated? Section 8 of the Charter states “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”

You always have a right to remain silent and contact legal counsel when facing a criminal investigation. Be polite and respectful but don’t say anything that can be used against you in a court of law. Dealing with the judicial system requires an experienced, knowledgeable legal advocate. Contact Greg Dunn & Associates and get our team working on your behalf. If you have any questions or would like to speak to a lawyer, call us at 403-233-0443. The initial consultation is free.

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Gun Offences