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Introduction to Criminal Law (From Canadian Criminal Justice System, P 32-41, 1982, Craig L Boydell and Ingrid Arnet Connidis, eds. -- See NCJ-108176)

NCJ Number
K L Clarke; R Barnhorst; S Barnhorst
Date Published
10 pages
This article provides an understanding of the basic structure of Canadian criminal law.
Crime and criminal law, particularly in terms of the community, are defined, and the differences between civil and criminal law and proceedings are explained. The Criminal Code (1869) is Canada's main source of substantive and procedural criminal law. The Code's structure and offense classifications are outlined. Offenses are divided into two main categories (indictable offenses and offenses punishable by summary conviction), and the procedural differences are discussed. Indictable offenses are serious acts such as murder, kidnaping, and robbery. A review of the history of grand jury and petit jury functions in relation to indictable offenses notes that for most indictable offenses, the accused can elect one of three trial procedures: trial by magistrate, trial by judge without a jury, or trial by a judge and a jury. Treason, sedition, piracy, and murder must be tried before a judge and a jury. Preliminary hearings are usually required for indictable offenses not tried before a magistrate. Defendants must be personally present at trial for indictable offenses. Maximum prison terms, including life, are imposed, and fines may be imposed in addition to or instead of imprisonment. Offenses punishable by summary conviction, such as common assault and public disturbance, are not allowed jury trials or preliminary hearings. Defendants do not have to be present at summary proceedings. Punishment is limited to a maximum $500 fine or imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months. A review of the grounds and procedures for appealing both classes of convictions notes that most appeals are based on questions of law, questions of fact, or questions of mixed law and fact. A brief descriptive hierarchy of the main functions of judicial authority in Canada, from justices of the peace through the Supreme Court, is included.