Heroin is a depressant derived from morphine and the opium poppy. It is also known as dope, dust, junk, smack, and horse. Due to its addictive nature and potential health impacts, heroin is listed as a Schedule I substance in Canada, the most serious category of drugs. Heroin is also taken seriously due to being associated with organized crime, which poses a danger to the public. Depending on the specific offence and the quantity of heroin, there could be a range of penalties imposed.
Offences involving possession of heroin face the lowest in the range of penalties. Possession is a hybrid offence, meaning that the Crown Attorney has an option on how to proceed. On summary conviction, the penalty is a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment for a first offence, or a $2,000 fine and/or up to one year imprisonment for each subsequent conviction. The maximum penalty is up to 7 years imprisonment if the Crown chooses to proceed as an indictable offence.
Trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking are indictable offences that face a minimum one year sentence, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The import or export of heroin is also an indictable offence with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. However, the minimum sentence depends on the amount of heroin involved. If the amount of heroin is one kilogram or less, the minimum sentence is 1 year imprisonment. If the amount of heroin is over 1 kilogram, the minimum sentence increases to at least 2 years imprisonment.
As an indictable offence, the production of heroin faces a minimum sentence of 2 years imprisonment. However, if certain aggravating factors are present, the minimum sentence increases to 3 years. The maximum sentence for production of heroin is life imprisonment.
Any drug-related conviction can potentially have unforeseen consequences. Employment may be impacted if your employer or regulating agency requires the reporting of any drug-related convictions. Travel may also be impacted, as many countries consider a person to be inadmissible if they have a drug conviction.
Naturally, people facing any drug-related charge wish to avoid having a criminal record. However, it is unlikely that a criminal record can be avoided for a number of reasons. The judge may take a tough stance towards any drug charge. The Crown Attorney may be unwilling or unable to negotiate. The evidence may not allow for avoiding a criminal record. A good lawyer, though, will review the evidence against you and seek any available options which would minimize any sentence.
- Drug treatment court or diversion an option under certain circumstances?
- Possession involves “knowledge” (know the product is heroin or that it was present), and control (dictated by circumstances)
- Are absolute/conditional discharge, suspended sentence, probation, conditional sentence options for any charges?
- Would performance of counselling or community service before sentencing help?