What is a crime? Page 159. A crime is any act or omission of an act that is prohibited or punishable by a federal statute.
A crime is any act or omission of an act that is prohibited or punishable by a federal statute.
In plain English, this means that some things that people do or some things that people don’t do that they are supposed to do (like stopping if they have hit someone with their car) are listed as crimes under laws passed by the federal government.
Most crimes are found in the Criminal Code of Canada but there are other federal laws dealing with things like drugs, income tax, youth criminal offences, and customs.
In order for an act or the omission of an act to be considered a crime, 4 conditions have to exist:
1. The act is considered wrong by society. What society considers wrong changes all the time. Read the examples in your text on page 159.
For example, when someone steals from a store, we all pay as the store’s insurance goes up and we pay more for what that store sells.
Elements of a Crime
Actus Reus + Mens Rea = Crime
If there is not both actusreus and mensrea, it is not a crime.
(i.e. Sleepwalking, threat, medical condition)
A state of mind in which someone desires to carry out a wrongful act, with reckless disregard for the consequences.
- meant to do something that was wrong
- knew it was wrong
- was reckless with regard to the consequences
Intent refers to the person’s state of mind and willingness to break the law.
Intent is not motive.
The motive is the reason that someone committed a crime and it never has to be proved although sometimes the evidence of a motive can be good evidence.
For each crime, you have to look to the written law to find out what the required mensreaisfor that particular crime.
To prove this Mens Rea, the Crown Prosecutor (the lawyer who represents the “state”) must prove that the person accused of a crime knew certain things.
Ex. s. 368 (1) (a) CCC
“Every one who, knowing that a document is forged, uses, deals or acts upon it”. In this case the mensrea is “knowing” and the actusreusis “using, dealing with or acting upon”.
Wanton or reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others, sometimes causing serious injury or death.
To show this Mens Rea, the Crown must show that the accused failed, under certain circumstances, to take steps that any reasonable person would take to avoid causing harm to another person.
Ex. S. 209 (1) CCC
Every one is criminally negligent who
a. in doing anything, or
b. in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.
Consciously taking an unjustifiable risk that a reasonable person would not take.
Ex. Someone who needs glasses for driving isn’t wearing them and does not see a child in the street until it is too late to stop his car.
a deliberate closing of one’s mind to the possible consequences of one’s actions.
(i.e. A reasonable person would have asked; you should have asked)
Ex. Someone offers to sell you a used laptop for $10. You buy it and the police charge you with possession of stolen goods. You won’t be successful with a defence of “I didn’t know it was stolen” because a reasonable person would have looked into it more.
These are usually some less serious offences
They are regulatory laws (provincial or federal) meant to protect the public welfare. (environmental)
Liability is the legal responsibility for a wrongful act.
For example, I would probably be liable if I was driving too fast in a school zone and hit someone.
In this case, the accused may acknowledge that the offence took place but use the defence of due diligence.
Due diligence is taking every reasonable step to avoid committing the offence in question.
See the example in your text on page 171 (Acme Waste Disposal)
There is no real defence to an absolute liability offence – The Crown just has to prove that the offence took place and that the accused was responsible for it.
Ex. Driving without a license