Criminal Quiz Summary Notes
I know it’s illegal, but is it a crime?
Many things are illegal: jay-walking, speeding, or setting up a clothes line outside to dry your laundry (in West Vancouver), but they aren’t necessarily crimes. What then makes something a crime?
Criminal law deals with offences committed against society (often these appear to be against individuals). The purpose of criminal law is to keep order in society and deter the committing of crimes. Thus, criminal law emphasizes:
As we will see, criminal law does not focus on compensating victims of crime. Sources of Criminal Law
Under the Constitution, the federal government has sole discretion to decide what is a crime and the corresponding penalties. Most criminal law is found in three pieces of federal legislation (and one remaining common-law crime):
1. Canadian Criminal Code – contains most of the criminal law; 2. Controlled Drugs and Substances Act;
3. Youth Criminal Justice Act; and
4. Common-law crime of Criminal Contempt of Court.
While the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal matters , the provinces can pass laws that are often considered quasi-criminal. Laws governing the operation of motor vehicles, noise bylaws or pollution may have similar penalties as criminal law, but are not technically viewed as criminal.
Suggested conditions for proposed new criminal laws:
The action must harm other people
The action must violate basic values of society
Using the law to deal with the action/problem should not violate basic values of society
Criminal law should be able to make a significant contribution to resolving the problem (consider drug addiction – is it a legal problem or a medical problem?) Types of Criminal Offences
Offences may be grouped into three different categories:
1. Summary conviction offences – are minor criminal offences and usually result in prompt appearance in court and maximum penalties usually of a fine of less than $2,000 and/or six months in jail. Defacing a coin or passing on a defaced coin is a summary conviction offence.1Summary conviction offences are also the only criminal offences that have a statue of limitation – six months!
Section 456 of the Criminal Code For more “light” reading on various crimes visit the Canadian government’s website at: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/C-46/bo-ga:s_1/20090929/en#anchorboga:s_1
2. Indictable offences – are the most serious offences that give rise to penalties of up to life imprisonment – first degree murder, for example.
3. Hybrid offences – are offences that may result in the Crown attorney proceeding by way of summary conviction or by indictment. Charging a criminal interest rate (s. 347) is punishable either as an indictable offence (up to five years in prison) or by summary conviction (fine up to $25,000 and/or a prison term of up to six months).
What are the elements (parts) of a crime that must be proven in court? As a result of the common law, and more recently section 11(d) of the Charter, the Crown prosecutor (or just the “Crown”) has the burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, if the judge or jury is not convinced of the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, he/she must be acquitted (set free or found not guilty) – this is also known as the “Burden of Proof”. The relevant question becomes what exactly must the Crown prove? There are two parts that must be proven in every criminal trial: 1.
Actus Reus – is the actual act (thing) that is considered a criminal act. The Criminal Code establishes what acts are prohibited. Thus, for the crime of break and enter, the Crown must prove that the accused both broke into the house (smashed the window) an d that she entered. This is why police will often watch suspected criminals outside a home and wait until she/he enters before arresting them.