A common misconception among travellers to Canada from the US is the belief that law-abiding Americans can bring guns into Canada, as long as they leave within a short time frame. This cannot be further from the truth. Any guns coming into Canada must be declared. But often, guns are seized at the Canadian border due to genuine mistakes. There are many scenarios where someone has brought guns into Canada by mistake. Perhaps you’ve already checked the vehicle to make sure there were no guns present, but Canadian border officers discover a gun you had forgotten? Or perhaps you were mistaken that you could drive through Canada on the way from Washington to Alaska with your hunting firearms, but was surprised that was not the case?
The problem is that even though you may be bringing guns into Canada by mistake, you can still get charged under the Customs Act, for smuggling or for lying to border officers, or the Canadian Criminal Code, for possession and transportation-related offences. The sentences for these offences could potentially include jail terms.
Many Americans mistakenly bring guns into Canada
For many Americans, firearms legally owned for personal protection can be a significant financial investments. According to Canada Border Services Agency numbers given to our office, Canadian border officers at the Peace Arch, Douglas and Abbotsford-Huntingdon crossings seized 34 handguns worth about $24,000 in total, 52 high capacity magazines, and six long guns, all in the first six months of 2017.
Border officials have been clear that most of the guns seized at the Canadian border are personal firearms belonging to American residents. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s a reality that means many who are charged with Customs Act and firearms related offences are law-abiding people who were simply forgetful or otherwise made a mistake. Many are even police officers or active service members in the US military.
What can you do if you mistakenly brought guns into Canada?
The guns you brought into Canada will be seized. It is likely the vehicle you used to transport the firearms will also be seized. You may have to apply for bail, and may have to put up cash to avoid being remanded into custody while awaiting trial. Fortunately, the courts have recognized that Americans bringing guns into Canada, with the exception of genuine smuggling cases, are often the result of mistakes. This means the court may demonstrate leniency, depending on your situation and the arguments you make.
At Acumen Law Corporation, we are lawyers experienced in defending criminal charges including firearms offences. The vast majority of our clients leave their encounter with the Canadian justice system without a criminal record, and almost none of our clients receive jail time. Bringing guns into Canada can be a serious offence with harsh penalties involved. Don’t let a simple mistake become a regret that follows you later on. Give us a call today at 604-685-8889. Let’s discuss your case and work out the possible solutions.