What it means for you to hire a weapons/firearms lawyer
The definition of weapons in the Criminal Code is extremely broad and there are various offences that a person can be charged with that reflect the breadth of this (assault with a weapon, possession of dangerous weapons). However, no weapons offences are treated as seriously as firearms offences.
The prosecution of firearms offences is governed by both the Criminal Code (Part III) and the Firearms Act and its various regulations. The Firearms Act divides weapons into categories of weapons: restricted, non-restricted and prohibited. What is important to remember is that a person can be charged with a firearms offence related to the legal ownership of a firearm that fails to meet the requirements of the Act, such as careless use of a firearm or possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized. Such persons usually consider themselves generally law abiding citizens. Persons charged with such offences should retain counsel immediately and should also not cooperate with police investigating these offences. For example, should a police officer ask to search your home, you should not consent. You should also not make a statement. Police often charge people with such offences having encountered firearms incidentally, such as when responding to a domestic complaint. If police are able to produce a warrant to search your home, then ask to see the warrant and allow them to search, but make a record of what occurs (in your cell phone for example) and contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Gun owners are often surprised that they become a target of police and can find themselves charged with criminal offences.
In Toronto in particular where there is less of an understanding of legal gun ownership, police officers and Crown Attorneys often use the same resources and treatment towards legal gun owners as they do to illegal gun owners. Speaking to a criminal lawyer if you are such a person is vital to protect both your liberty and your ability to continue to legally own and possess firearms.
More serious crimes, such as possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, weapons trafficking and importing a prohibited weapon, used to carry a statutory minimum penalty of three years imprisonment, though this was struck down in the cases of R v. Smickle and R v. Nur that were released in 2013 by the Ontario Court of Appeal. Though the mandatory minimum sentence has been struck down, Crown prosecutors will often oppose bail on the secondary and tertiary grounds (the grounds related to the safety of the public and the confidence in the administration of justice respectively) in cases with persons charged with these type of offences and the penalties of conviction are still severe. As in less serious offences, it is of vital importance not to assist the police in their investigation.
You have the right to remain silent and you should exercise that right.
There are often issues related to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as the stop of a vehicle and the search of an accused person, as well as issues related to actual possession and knowledge and control of an illegal gun.
In addition to these issues, often persons find themselves charged with these serious offences who are not involved in activity that would be immediately thought of as criminal activity. For example, a pistol or miniature crossbow is a prohibited weapon in Canada, despite a regular crossbow being a weapon that does not require a licence to possess. Some prohibited firearms were inherited, but are not considered antique according to the definition in the Firearms Act.
Whatever the case, a charge involving a firearm or a prohibited weapon is always looked at as a very serious charge and has become one of the most stigmatizing charges in the Criminal Code, particularly in Toronto where gun violence is so rampant. If you have been charged with a firearms or weapons offence, it is of vital importance to contact a criminal lawyer immediately and prepare for a contested bail hearing.