A weapons charge can be frightening and disorienting, but you must always remember that anyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Do not give up and automatically enter a guilty plea to a weapons charge. The consequences may be very serious and life-changing.
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What Is Considered a Weapon in Canada?
A weapon, under Canadian law, is interpreted as any object designed to be used or intended for use in causing injury or death to a person, or for the purposes of intimidating or threatening a person. The Criminal Code and the courts consider a weapon in two contexts:
- Any object that may be used to harm another person
- A prohibited or unauthorized firearm
The first definition is such a broad interpretation that any item could potentially be construed to be a weapon. This includes knives, firearms, baseball bats, and other objects usually used for self-defence, but also objects such as chairs, pens, or even cellphones. Seemingly harmless objects can be interpreted as weapons, depending on what the Crown thinks the object was intended to be used for.
Consequences of a Weapons Offence Conviction
There are many different types of weapons offences, and these crimes carry different penalties depending on the nature and severity of the crime. In Canada, a weapons crime can be tried as a summary offence (carrying lower sentencing maximums) or as an indictable offence, which carries a maximum sentence of five years for a first offence. If weapons are used to perform a criminal act (such as theft, assault, or sexual assault), the use of the weapon usually increases the seriousness of the penalty.
Common firearm offences and their penalties include:
- Careless storage or handling. A failure to properly store a firearm or ammunition carries a sentence of between six months to two years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine and a five-year maximum penalty for subsequent offences.
- Careless use. A person might be convicted of "using a firearm" even if they did not mean to cause harm to another person. Also, a firearm does not have to be loaded to result in one of these offences. A conviction can result in one to 14 years in prison for a first offence.
- Pointing a firearm. The act of pointing a firearm at another person carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, or up to five years in prison when tried as an indictable offence.
- Carrying a concealed weapon. A person may be ordered to serve a maximum of five years in prison for carrying a concealed weapon when tried as an indictable offence.
- Unauthorized possession of a firearm. Knowingly possessing an illegal firearm or possession of a firearm without proper authorization carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for the indictable offence.
- Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. If a person possesses a weapon, imitation of a weapon, or unauthorized weapon with the intention to use it to do harm, they may face up to ten years in prison.
- Stealing a firearm. Breaking and entering or robbery to steal firearms crimes are only tried as indictable offences and carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
- Trafficking weapons. Anyone who transfers possession of a firearm, weapon, or ammunition to someone who is not authorized to do so faces an indictable offence. The maximum penalty for trafficking is ten years' imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of three years for the first offence, whether or not any money or other consideration was received in exchange for the weapons.
If you have been detained or arrested on weapons or assault charges, don't make any statements to the police—and don't enter a plea until you've spoken with a lawyer. Contact us today to set up a free initial consultation with our experienced criminal defence team. We can give you an honest assessment of your chances of winning your case and advise you on the best course of action.