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What Do I Do If My Gun Was Seized By The Police?
Let’s find out from our criminal lawyers Calgary what the consequences are for seizing firearms in Canada.
What Lawful Authority Do They Have to Seize My Gun?
Section 117.04(2) of the Criminal Code gives peace officers the ability to seize firearms when there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not desirable for the person to have possession of the firearm or if there are safety concerns. Specifically, the section states:
117.04(2) Where, with respect to any person, a peace officer is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not desirable, in the interests of the safety of the person or any other person, for the person to possess any weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, the peace officer may, where the grounds for obtaining a warrant under subsection (1) exist but, by reason of possible danger to the safety of that person or any other person, it would not be practicable to obtain a warrant, search for and seize any such thing, and any authorization, licence or registration certificate relating to any such thing, that is held by or in possession of the person.
If you are involved in an incident where the police get involved, your gun or guns may be seized. Additionally, any person can call the police and tell them that they have a firearm and they are fearful for whatever reason. This typically occurs in domestic relationships.
As the section states, the police may seize your firearm with or without a warrant. If a warrant is granted, there is no requirement to list the specific firearm they are authorized to search and seize.
If they seized your gun, the officer who seized it must initiate a firearms disposition hearing within 30 days of the seizure. This data is often missed. Therefore, it is important to have a skilled and strategic lawyer on your side. If they don’t initiate the hearing within that timeline, the firearm should be returned to you. However, if criminal charges proceed, the firearms will be held until the court process is done and through any potential appeal period. It is possible that the prosecutors will seek forfeiture and destruction. Your lawyer needs information from you in order to assess the disposition.
What Happens in a Firearms Disposition Hearing?
If an application is made to seek forfeiture and destruction within that 30-day time period, you will have to attend the hearing and demonstrate to the judge why you should have your firearm returned to you. At the end of the hearing, the judge that heard the application can issue an order that the firearm is returned to you, or they can make an order that the firearm is forfeited to the Crown. The judge also has the ability to make an order that you are not entitled to possess firearms or other weapons for a period of time not exceeding five years. If your gun was used in the commission of a criminal offence and there is a finding of guilt for that offence, the gun will be permanently forfeited to the Crown.
It is also important to understand that any authorization relating to the firearms (like a PAL or RPAL) is also deemed to be revoked (pursuant to the Firearms Act) even if it has not been seized and you are not convicted of any offences.
Ms. Williamson recently helped Mr. TAR, who had his firearms seized after his girlfriend called 911 to report some unusual behaviour he was displaying. She was concerned he may be suicidal. The RCMP attended and spoke with her client. They learned he owned two firearms and seized both pursuant to section 117.04(2). However, they failed to initiate the disposition hearing within the requisite time. Ms. Williamson was able to have both firearms returned quickly after the incident. One was of sentimental value to her client, who was greatly appreciative of her work. This is an example of how a defence lawyer can secure the return of your firearms and preserve your ability to own, access and possess guns in the future.
Finally, understand that you are at risk of permanently losing your firearms (and the ability to access future guns) after they have been seized; call our office as soon as possible so that one of our defence lawyers can help you ensure that they are not permanently forfeited to the Crown. Not only will we be able to assist you with recovering your guns from the Crown, but we are serious lawyers who defend serious allegations every single day.