Getting Firearms Back After Plea Can Be Complicated

The Police aren’t always eager to return firearms after a person has been convicted.  A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision highlights the difficulties an individual can face in getting his or her guns back after pleading guilty.

Andrew Shia is an avid hunter. He kept his guns at home, as he was authorized to do. He also had a closet full of marijuana plants at home, as he was not authorized to do.  One day, some police officers came to Andrew Shia’s home. They were responding to a complaint of domestic violence. They looked around the home. They found the marijuana. And the guns. They seized both. They charged Andrew Shia with production of marijuana.

Andrew Shia hired a lawyer to defend him on the charge of production of marijuana. The lawyer thought that if Andrew Shia were to get an absolute discharge, the judge could not make a firearms prohibition order. So Andrew Shia pleaded guilty to production of marijuana. The judge found him guilty, acceded to a joint submission for an absolute discharge and made no firearms prohibition order under s. 109(1)(c) of the Criminal Code.

Andrew Shia thought his troubles were over. But, like his lawyer, he was mistaken. The police refused to return his guns. They said he could not get them back because, as a person found guilty of production of marijuana, he was prohibited from possessing firearms under s. 109(1)(c).

Ultimately, the Court of Appeal found a number of procedural irregularities, quashed the conviction and ordered a new trial.  However, Mr. Shia isn’t out of the woods yet.  A firearms prohibition is mandatory for certain offencers, even if the individual receives a disharge.  Offences for which a prohibition is mandatory include: certain firearms offences, criminal harassment, and trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking importing or producing a controlled substance.  The Shia case serves as a reminder that an individual should be aware of all of the potential consequences that may occur before entering a plea of guilty.


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