Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences For Weapons Violations Constitutional?
In the wake of Toronto’s 2005 “Summer of the Gun”, Canada’s conservative government passed several laws as part of a tough on crime initiative, including mandatory minimums for possessing a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public’s peace or for the purpose of committing a criminal offence. Specifically, Canadian Criminal Code Section 95 — possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition — sets forth a three-year mandatory minimum for a first offence, and five years for a second or subsequent offence.
However, such penalties may be unconstitutional. In a recent unanimous decision handed down by the Ontario Court of Appeals, the five-judge panel determined that such mandatory minimums are “cruel and unusual” and “grossly disproportionate” to the crime. In its review, the court determined that both violate Section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court further explained that the law was written so broadly as to potentially send people to jail for “licence violations” and that a “cavernous disconnect” exists between the severity of such an offence and the severity of the sentence.
However, the court upheld one-year mandatory minimums for offences using a firearm, whether or not bodily harm is caused.
This case will now likely be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Weapons Offences in Ontario
In addition to the law addressed by the recent case, several other Ontario weapons charges exist, including, but not limited to:
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a licence;
- Using a weapon during the commission of a crime;
- Carrying a weapon during the commission of a crime;
- Possessing a restricted weapon; and
- Possessing a firearm in your car
The penalties if convicted of any of these charges may be severe and include the potential for jail time.
How does the Ontario Court of Appeals Decision affect Ontario Weapons Charges?
The recent ruling may affect many individuals facing firearm charges, including those people charged with possessing unloaded restricted guns with ammunition accessible. However, this ruling will likely not impact the penalties associated with other more serious weapons violations. As a result, if you face any weapons related charges, it’s critical to consult with a knowledgeable Ontario criminal defence lawyer to determine how this ruling may impact your case, and to begin preparing a vigorous defence in your matter.
The Legal Team at Hobson & Reeve Have Years of Experience Representing Clients Charged with Weapons Violations
The experienced weapons charge defence lawyers at Hobson & Reeve understand the key strategies to prepare the best defence in your matter and protect your future and your freedom. The legal team at Hobson & Reeve’s Ontario law firm is dedicated to staying on top of the latest developments in criminal law and will put their 60+ years of experience to work fighting for your rights. As former Crown prosecutors, David Hobson and Dennis Reeve have unparalleled insight into the most effective strategies to help you or a loved one fight any type of criminal charge.
For more information about how this ruling may affect you, or if you or a loved one need criminal defence assistance, please contact the dedicated criminal defence lawyers at Hobson & Reeve at 866.619.9646 for a free consultation.
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