Understanding the Canada Criminal Code

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The Foundation of Canadian Criminal Law

Are you or your loved one facing criminal charges? Do you want to understand more about the case filed against you? Are you searching for possible defences available to you under the law? The Criminal Code of Canada may provide answers to your questions. If you find the Canada Criminal Code too complicated, don’t worry. Our experienced criminal defence lawyers can help you understand the nuances of criminal law.

The official name of the Criminal Code of Canada is “An Act Respecting Criminal Law.” It is a compilation of most criminal laws in Canada and stands at 1,226 pages long. It was enacted by the Parliament of Canada in 1892, per the Constitution Act of 1867. As a federal law, it applies to the entire nation of Canada.

The Code lists and includes definitions of criminal offences, how they are committed, and the punishments for each offence. It also includes a list of defences that may justify committing an offence. Over the years, the federal government has made amendments to the Criminal Code. This is to reflect the change in the Canadian society’s values.

Classifications of Criminal Offences in Canada

A criminal offence may be summary, non-summary, or hybrid.

A summary offence is an offence punishable by no more than $5,000 in fines and/or six months imprisonment. A summary offence is often called a petty crime. Examples of summary offences are disturbing the peace and trespassing at night. Usually, a provincial court judge tries summary offences.

Non-summary offences are indictable offences. These usually carry harsher penalties. An indictable offence may be a very serious indictable offence or an offence of absolute jurisdiction. Examples of very serious indictable offences are murder and treason. These cases can only be tried in a superior court, with or without a jury. An example of an indictable offence of absolute jurisdiction is theft of a property worth up to $5,000. It can only be tried in the provincial court without a jury. All other indictable offences can be tried in the provincial or superior court.

A hybrid offence can be summary or a non-summary, depending on the Crown counsel’s decision. The Crown counsel also decides where to try the case and whether with or without a jury.

Is the Canadian Criminal Process the Same for All Offences?

Canadian criminal process is not the same for all criminal charges. The type of criminal offence determines what procedure will be followed. For example, the process for dealing with indictable offences is usually long and formal. It can involve a trial by a judge or judge and jury. Moreover, it may include a preliminary inquiry or a hearing before the trial. On the other hand, the summary conviction criminal offences process is typically much simpler.

The main objective of criminal code procedure is to ensure a just and fair process in determining guilt or innocence. Bear in mind that a criminal procedure begins long before an accused person appears in court. Roughly, the Canadian criminal process starts when an individual, most often a police officer, has probable and reasonable grounds to believe another person has committed a criminal offence.

What Is the Process Involved in Criminal Prosecution?

In Canada, all legal proceedings are initiated in the name of the Canadian government as represented by the Crown. The Crown counsel represents the “King in Right” of Canada. To prove the criminal act, the Crown needs to demonstrate two things. First, that there was a guilty act (actus reus). Second, that the accused person had a guilty mind (mens rea).

To prove the guilty act, the Criminal Code provides for the wording on how offences are committed. Case law interpretations are also used to explain the Criminal Code. Typically, case law defines the elements that the prosecution must prove to show the guilty act. It is important to note that a person may be prosecuted under the Criminal Code or any statute on criminal offences.

Meanwhile, a guilty mind is demonstrated by the conduct of the accused person. There has to be an indication that the act was done with intent. However, mens rea is not required in offences imposing strict and absolute liability.

When both the guilty act and a guilty mind are proven, the accused may be declared guilty and imposed a penalty.

How Can a Criminal Defence Lawyer Help an Accused Person?

Even if the elements of the offence are already proven, a conviction may still be avoided. Your trusted criminal defence lawyer can use the defences in the Criminal Code or common law to justify your act.

Some defences in the Criminal Code include the following:

  • Automatism or mental disorder
  • Intoxication that caused altered behaviour
  • Duress or being threatened by a higher authority or other persons
  • Necessity of the circumstance
  • Self-defence or defence of property
  • Provocation or unlawful aggression from the victim

Other defences that your defence lawyer can raise are more technical. Proving these requires extensive legal knowledge and experience. These include:

  • Failure to prove an element of the offence

  • Failure to prove guilty beyond reasonable doubt

  • Unlawful arrest

  • Inadmissible evidence

  • Mistake of fact

  • Mistaken identity

Defences may fully or partially justify an act. If the defences fully justify the commission of an offence, the case will be dismissed. If they partially justify an act, the court will consider lowering the penalty.

Let Sondhi Defence Assist You in Your Ontario Criminal Case.

Our experienced criminal defence lawyers are here to assist you. We can provide clear explanations of criminal law and procedures, breaking down complex legal terms and guiding you through the entire process. Whether you’re facing charges or awaiting trial, having proper legal representation is crucial. Choose a reputable firm with a deep understanding of criminal procedures like Sondhi Defence to ensure your rights are protected.

One important consideration when facing a criminal charge is your legal representation. Although you have a right to represent yourself, having a defence lawyer is still in your best interest. Our defence lawyers understand Canadian criminal laws. We are passionate about criminal justice. We know the Criminal Code like the back of our hand. We will represent you in court, from the provincial court to the Supreme Court. We will study your case, conduct an investigation, and go to trial.

At Sondhi Defence, you will be working with energetic and hard-working lawyers. Make sure to get a lawyer with decades of experience handling criminal defence cases. Contact Sondhi Defence today for a consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Purpose of Criminal Law?

Criminal laws are designed to maintain peace in the society. They are meant to safeguard the safety and security of people and their properties.

Who Enforces the Criminal Code?

The federal government of Canada has the power to enact criminal laws. However, the territories and provinces are responsible for enforcing them. Hence, they have police and peace officers.

What Criminal Laws Are Not Included in the Criminal Code?

The following federal laws are not codified in the Criminal Code:

  • Youth Criminal Justice Act

  • Firearms Act

  • Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Get In Touch

If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offence, call us right away at 1 (855) 4-SONDHI and get our team on your side. 

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