Legal Terms and Definitions
DUI, Impaired Driving
In Canada, it’s not illegal to simply have a drink and drive. Criminal charges can occur where police gather evidence relating to one of three possible charges:
Impaired Driving (or DUI): Appearing to be physically affected by alcohol so that your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired. These typically include symptoms such as stumbling, slurring, red or watery eyes, or a dazed look. Sometimes police misread cues and presume that these symptoms are due to the consumption of alcohol or marijuana, however in reality may be the result of a prescription medication, a medical condition, fatigue, or myriad other factors. Other times, police simply exaggerate what they see.
Over 80 mg% (‘Over 80’): Having blood alcohol content that is in excess of the legal limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Sometimes it’s difficult to know after a social function if you’re over or under. One drink too many and you’re considered a criminal, one fewer and you’re a law-abiding citizen. Criminal liability in Canada only occurs with a blood alcohol level above .08. In Alberta, however, it is a Provincial Offence to drive with a blood alcohol limit above .05.
Fail or Refuse: Physically unable to provide a sample into the breathalyzer. In some cases this occurs as the result of an underlying medical condition, or the police officer providing confusing instructions as to how to get the instrument to properly accept a sample. You must provide a sample or you will be charged with refusal. A conviction for refusal has the same consequences as a conviction if you had blown over the legal limit or being visibly impaired.
Assaults and Threats
Our criminal lawyers are all experienced in dealing with assault and threat matters under the Criminal Code of Canada such as:
Simple Assault: any unwanted physical contact of another person that does not result in serious bodily injury. The lowest level of assault. A threatening gesture can also be defined as an assault.
Assault Causing Bodily Harm: an assault on another person which results in bodily harm that is neither ‘trifling nor transitory’. An example might be broken nose or cracked orbital bone. House arrest is not available for assault causing bodily harm.
Aggravated Assault: a very serious assault which results in very serious injuries defined as “wounding or maiming”. A stab wound, brain damage, loss of eyesight or hearing, and internal injuries are examples of aggravated assault. House arrest is not available for aggravated assault.
Assault with a Weapon: utilizing a weapon in the course of assaulting someone. The weapon may be something actually designed as a weapon such as a knife or gun, or something which was not designed as a weapon but simply used as one, such as a piece of lumber or a crowbar. You need not actually injure the person — simply brandishing the weapon in the course of an assault is sufficient to establish the charge.
Assault of Police Officer/Resisting arrest: these charges arise in the course of dealing with police officers, often in the course of an arrest. Even in cases where you are wrongfully accused and arrested and you subsequently resist, you can still be charged. Unlike other types of assaults, they are often near impossible to convince a Crown to drop, as police officers put tremendous pressure on the Crown to vigorously prosecute these charges.
Choking: special provisions are set out in the Criminal Code of Canada to deal with allegations of choking. Choking can often be seen to be a ‘watered down’ version of attempted murder, and as a result is a very serious charge often resulting in significant periods of incarceration.
Threats: threatening someone by implying death or serious bodily harm is a criminal offence. Uttering threats either directly or via a third person is illegal — in fact, a threat need not even be heard or make it back to the intended victim for it to be criminal. A threat can in certain circumstances also qualify as a ‘serious bodily injury offence’ and thus make it ineligible for house arrest. A threat to public safety, such as a public shooting or explosion is a very serious matter and result in significant jail time. (Patrick Deegan file).
Extortion: also referred to as blackmail, extortion is making a threat in order to obtain something. In Canada extortion charges will apply even if you are legally entitled to what you are attempting to obtain, as you cannot utilize threats to obtain it. Threats in this context can be virtually anything and extend far beyond simple verbal threats to cause bodily harm. For example ‘pay me my money or I’ll bash your head in’ is clearly extortion. Threatening to ‘call the police if you don’t pay me back’ can also be extortion in certain circumstances. The fine line between what is and what is not extortion can be tricky and complex to navigate in certain circumstances.
White Collar Crime
Ponzi Scheme: a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a nonexistent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors.
Pyramid Scheme: A pyramid scheme is a business model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products or services. As recruiting multiplies, recruiting becomes quickly impossible, and most members are unable to profit. As such, pyramid schemes are unsustainable and often illegal.
Tax Evasion: Tax evasion in a crime in which an individual or entity intentionally underpays, or avoids paying, taxes.
Insider Trading: Insider trading is often considered a type of fraud, though many people are surprised to learn that not all insider trading is illegal. Insider trading is against the law if a securities transaction, which is the sale or purchase of stocks, is engaged in by a person, or small group of people, inside the company, who have special knowledge not available to others.
Fraud: Fraud is committed by misrepresenting facts in order to gain something in return. Examples include bank fraud and insurance fraud.
Bribery: Bribery is committed when a person uses something of value to tempt or influence someone to act in a specific way, to make certain decisions, or to express certain opinions.
In Canada, criminal charges can occur under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, where police gather evidence relating to one or several of these possible charges:
Drug Possession: having in your possession a drug for personal use. This includes but is not limited to: MDMA, cocaine, cannabis marijuana, oxycodone, PCP, amphetamines, morphine, resin, meth, heroin, etc. Drugs are categorized in complex schedules within the Controlled Drug & Substances Act, and being in possession of a Controlled Substance from Schedules 1, 2 or 3 is illegal and considered a felony. There are hundreds of drugs within these three Schedules ranging from heroin, morphine cocaine, codeine (Schedule I), cannabis/marijuana (Schedule II, and amphetamines, LSD, and methamphetamine (Schedule III).
Drug Trafficking: selling or transferring drugs to another individual (the intent to distribute must be proven)
Drug Possession for the purpose of trafficking: having in your possession a quantity of drugs large enough to be for the purpose of selling or trafficking the drug. In some cases this could include small amounts of drugs packaged or found in such a state that would appear to be for transfer or sale.
Drug Importing and Exporting: either bringing/smuggling drugs into or out of Canada
Production: producing a drug. Examples of this could be growing marijuana; cooking meth; cutting cocaine; cooking crack; etc.
In order to prove the charges against you, the Crown Prosecutor must meet a number of legal prerequisites:
A legal search and seizure. Often police and other law enforcement officials do not know or respect the limits of their powers. These actions often result in unlawful searches and seizures.
Knowledge and Control. The Crown prosecutor must also prove that an accused person knew about the substance found and had the ability to exert some form of control over the drug.
The substance itself. The Crown will also be required to send the drugs seized to a forensic laboratory in order to be analyzed, confirming whether the drug seized is, in fact, what the police believe it to be.
The Canadian Criminal Code includes the following as typical offences:
Sexual Assault: a physical confrontation between you and another person that was for a sexual purpose. Sexual assault can range from something as minor as grabbing or groping to anything as serious as forced intercourse.
Sexual Interference with a minor: a sexual interaction with a person under the age of 16 years old. This is sometimes referred to as “statutory rape” because the law does not consider whether the sexual contact was consensual or not. The criminal act is made out by virtue of the fact that the complainant, or victim, is under the age of 16 years old. Includes minimum sentences of 90 days if proceeded summarily and one year if proceeded by indictment.
Sexual exploitation: a sexual interaction with a person who holds you in a position of trust. The complainant or victim for these types of offences may be older than 16 years old. Includes minimum sentences of 90 days if proceeded summarily and one year if proceeded by indictment
Voyeurism: observing or recording someone for a sexual purpose where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Domestic violence situations fall under several categories and may include:
Domestic Assault: a physical confrontation between you and a spouse or family member that does not result in injuries.
Assault Causing Bodily Harm: an assault on another person which results in bodily harm that is neither ‘trifling or transitory’. An example might be broken nose or cracked orbital bone. House arrest is not available for assault causing bodily harm.
Aggravated Assault: a very serious assault which results in very serious injuries defined as; “wounding or maiming”. A stab wound, brain damage, loss of eyesight or hearing, and internal injuries are examples of aggravated assault. House arrest is not available for aggravated assault.
Assault with a Weapon: utilizing a weapon in the course of assaulting someone. The weapon may be something actually designed as a weapon, such as a knife or gun, or something which was not designed as a weapon but simply used as one, such as a piece of lumber or a crowbar. You need not actually injure the person — simply brandishing the weapon in the course of an assault is sufficient to establish the charge.
Wildlife Act: Alberta provincial statute governing wildlife offences in the Province of Alberta.
WAPPRIITA and CITES: A combination of Canadian Federal legislation and an international treaty which regulate the importation of wildlife into Canada. They work in tandem. Specifically, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was formed on July 1, 1975 it is an international treaty signed by many nations worldwide to regulate commercial sale of animal parts and act as a deterrent to poaching. The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) is Canadian legislation passed to meet its international obligations under CITES.
Hunting offences: includes hunting without a license, hunting out of season, hunting in a dangerous manner, hunting at night, hunting on occupied land, hunting following aircraft flight, hunting of non-residents etc.
Guiding offences: all the offences applying to hunters also applies to guides.
Possession offences: includes possession of illegally obtained wildlife, possession of wildlife without a license and possession of poisoned wildlife.
Importation offences: illegal importation of wildlife from outside the country, illegal importation of wildlife from one province to another, importing wildlife into Canada which was illegally hunted in another country.
Firearm offences: Include improper storage and transportation; improper discharges and capacity, etc.
Fraud and Theft
There are many variations in the Criminal Code of Canada outlining Fraud and Theft matters, such as:
Theft Under $5000: Stealing money or goods of a value of less than $5,000. Shoplifting charges often fall here.
Theft Over $5,000: Stealing money or goods of a value of greater than $5,000. Conditional Sentence Orders (House arrest) are not available for these types of offences.
Fraud Under $5,000: Defrauding someone, or something, of a value of less than $5,000. In a fraud allegation the person or institution defrauded does not even necessarily have to suffer a loss. Fraud can be made out where the deceit alleged could have resulted in a loss. For example, trying to cash a false cheque could be considered a fraud even if no funds are ever dispersed.
Fraud Over $5,000: Defrauding someone, or something, of a value of more than $5,000. Conditional Sentence Orders (House arrest) are not available for these types of offences.
Uttering a forged document: A very specific offence dealing with documents that are false or forged in some fashion. For example, a cheque on which you forged the signature, or a fake document you created yourself to obtain a benefit.
Manslaughter & Murder
Our criminal lawyers are well-equipped to deal with even the most serious of murder charges. A list of these charges include:
First-degree murder: first degree murder is premeditated murder. This means that there must be a certain degree of “planning and deliberation” before intentionally taking the life of another. First-degree murder can attract consecutive sentences for multiple victims and has a minimum parole eligibility of 25 years.
Second-degree murder: second degree murder also involves the intentional taking of a life but does not include “planning and deliberation”. This may occur where someone is killed in the heat of the moment. Second-degree murder has a minimum parole eligibility of 10 years but can range between 10 and 25 years.
Manslaughter: manslaughter results where someone loses their life due to a criminal act. The loss of life does not need to be intentional for a manslaughter charge. The variance in manslaughter sentences can be quite wide-ranging from probation to significant periods of jail time. However, recent changes in the Criminal Code have imposed minimum sentences for certain kinds of wrongful deaths. For example, any death in which a firearm was used has a minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years.
Attempted Murder: attempted murder occurs where someone tries to take the life of another person unsuccessfully. To prove this charge, the prosecution must prove the intention to kill. This is often a difficult burden to meet.
Criminal Negligence Causing Death: ‘crim neg’ is when you exhibit negligence that meets a criminal negligence standard and a death results. Any kind of behaviour that is reckless or grossly negligent and results in death can attract criminal liability and jail time.
In Canada, criminal charges can occur under the Firearms Act where police gather evidence relating to one or several of these possible charges:
Careless use/storage/transportation of a firearm: uses, carries, handles, ships, transports, or stores a firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.
Pointing a firearm: points a firearm at another person, whether the firearm is loaded or unloaded. Does not include imitation firearms.
Using a firearm in the commission of an offence: uses a firearm, whether or not the person causes or means to cause bodily harm to any person as a result of using the firearm, committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence; or, during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence.
Possession of a firearm for a dangerous purpose: carries or possesses a weapon, an imitation of a weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition for a purpose dangerous to the public peace or for the purpose of committing an offence.
Failing to produce a valid possession license: fails to surrender to a peace officer, a firearms officer or a chief firearms officer any authorization, licence, or registration certificate held by the person when the person is required to do so.
Restricted firearm: a handgun that is not a prohibited firearm, a firearm that has a barrel less than 470 mm in length, and is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner, a firearm that is designed or adapted to be fired when reduced to a length of less than 660 mm by folding, telescoping or otherwise, or a firearm of any other kind that is prescribed to be a restricted firearm.