What are the sentences for Possession and Trafficking of Fentanyl in Ottawa & Ontario?

Given that Fentanyl is a relatively new street drug, the applicable sentencing ranges have yet to be clearly established by the courts in Canada. The few sentencing cases to date suggest that Fentanyl offences will be treated much like heroin offences.

Fentanyl is a powerful prescription opiate.  It comes in a time-release patch that sticks to the skin. It is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and 20 times strong than heroin. Fentanyl has largely replaced Oxycontin amongst drugs users, since the new tamper-proof formula makes it difficult to crush Oxycontin for ingestion.

When users cut up the patches to allow for chewing, injection, or drinking of the drug, unpredictable fatal doses are a real danger, particularly for users who are not already dependent on opioids.

Federal prosecutors have been seeking harsh sentences for Fentanyl, arguing that it is more dangerous than heroin. Prosecutors have been arguing that Fentanyl stands at the pinnacle of dangerous hard drugs. Ottawa & Ontario courts have been imposing long jail sentences for people who traffic in Fentanyl, due to the dangers it poses.

Sentences for Simple Possession of Fentanyl in Ottawa, Ontario

As of September 2014, there are no reported Canadian cases dealing with sentences for simple possession of Fentanyl. I have had two recent simple possession cases, where the original charges were reduced from possession for the purpose of trafficking.  Both cases indicate that the tariff for simple possession of heroin will likely apply to Fentanyl:

1. In a 2013 Ontario Court of Justice case, a repeat offender was sentenced to 90 days jail for possessing about 10 Fentanyl patches.

2. In a September 2014 Superior Court of Justice case, the judge imposed a 90 day jail sentence on a first time offender who possessed about 10 high strength Fentanyl patches and 30 Hydromorphone pills. Trafficking, gun, and proceeds of crime charges were withdrawn in exchange for the plea. The Crown had asked for a 6 month sentence based on the dangers of Fentanyl.

The Superior Court judge noted that Fentanyl is part of Schedule I of the CDSA, and is not in a more serious schedule of its own. The judge noted, however, that the sentence would have been much higher for possession of Fentanly for the purpose of trafficking.  In effect, the judge ruled that Fentanyl possession is the same as heroin possession. The judge relied on the 1979 Ontario Court of Appeal decision in R. v. Keith Richards.  Richards received a suspended sentence for simple possession of 22 grams of high grade heroin, after he had performed two benefit concerts and was undergoing treatment.

The sentencing range for simple possession of heroin typically ranges from a suspended sentence to a short period of jail.  It appears that this range will apply to Fentanyl as well.

Sentences for Trafficking Fentanyl in Ottawa, Ontario

There are a series of recent lower court decisions where heavy jail sentences have been imposed for Fentanyl trafficking. Federal prosecutors have been presenting expert evidence from toxicologists on the high toxicity and dangers of Fentanyl in support of these high sentences. In effect, the lower courts have been imposing sentences consistent with the heroin trafficking tariff and higher.

In R. v. Brooker, [2014] O.J. No. 2609 (O.C.J.), the accused sold 23 100 mcg patches and 15 Hydromorphone pills to undercover officers. Brooker had previous trafficking convictions, which meant that he faced mandatory minimum jail sentences. Based on a joint Crown/Defence position, the judge imposed a 4 year jail sentence.

In R. v. Mitchell, [2014] O.J. No. 2556 (O.C.J.), the accused was convicted of possessing a total of 70 Fentanyl patches for the purpose of trafficking, on two different dates. Mitchell had no criminal record.  A 6 year jail sentence was imposed based on a joint Crown/Defence position.

In R. v. Rowley, [2014] O.J. No. 2610 (O.C.J.), a 4 year jail sentence for trafficking in 50 Fentanyl patches, as well as a large amount of marijuana, was imposed based on a joint Crown/Defence position. Rowley had previous convictions.

In R. v. Mederios-Sousa, a 2014 unreported O.C.J. case from Brampton, a 2.5 year jail sentence was imposed for possession for the purpose of trafficking.  The accused had no criminal record. The accused and her accomplice stole about 58 Fentanyl patches, 2500 oxycodone pills, and 1700 Hydromorphone pills from the pharmacy where she worked.

There is also an excellent paper on Fentanyl  case law in a recent Criminal Lawyers Association newsletter: “Are You Ready for Pharmageddon? Prescription Opiate Abuse and the CDSA”, by Matthew Oleynik, For the Defence, July 2014.

Charged with Fentanyl Offences in Ottawa Canada? Jail is a real possibility.

People charged with Fentanyl offences face the very real prospect of jail and should hire an experienced drug lawyer. Drastically higher sentences are being imposed for possession of Fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking as compared to simple possession. People convicted of trafficking can expect to be sentenced in line with the penitentiary sentences that apply to heroin trafficking or higher. Even simple possession of Fentanyl in Ottawa can result in jail, or a permanent criminal record.

Ottawa Criminal Lawyer

Charged with a criminal drug offence? Contact Ottawa criminal lawyer Brett McGarry to discuss the best defence for your case.

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Sentences for Possession and Trafficking of Fentanyl in Ottawa & Ontario
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Sentences for Possession and Trafficking of Fentanyl in Ottawa & Ontario
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People charged with Fentanyl offences face the very real prospect of jail and should hire an experienced drug lawyer. Even simple possession of Fentanyl can result in jail, or a permanent criminal record.
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