The Criminal Code is the primary statute governing criminal law in Canada. It is not, however, the only statute. Other acts of parliament exist, such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act include criminal sanctions for criminal offences. Only the Federal Government can create true criminal offences. Provincial governments cannot create a criminal offence. Despite this, a provincial offence can carry a jail term. The conviction for the provincial offence, however, will not carry with it a "criminal" conviction.
The Criminal Code is the statute which governs the criminal law in Canada. The Criminal Code works in conjunction with other parliamentary acts, such as the Canada Evidence Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, in addition to the common law created by judges of the Ontario Court of Justice, the Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Both parliament and the Courts operate under the proverbial legal umbrella of the Constitution, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any law, including any criminal law, that is inconsistent with the Charter is of no force and effect, and thus liable to challenge within the criminal courts. The statutes and the common law, as well as any Charter provisions and ensuing case law generated, combine to provide the rules with which the courts operate, and the laws by which citizens are governed. The Criminal Code is one of the most active statutes in Parliament. It is routinely amended; it is routinely altered. A recent trend in criminal law is the addition of mandatory minimum sentences for a multitude of offences.
As a criminal defence lawyer who practises exclusively in the area of Criminal Law, Paul Lewandowski is intimately familiar with the Criminal Code and its workings. Certainly there are specific sections which present more regularly, such as assault, theft, fraud, sexual assault and robbery. Despite this, a working knowledge of the entire breadth of the Code is an advantage that few lawyers possess. It is often seen that an accused person sends in their civil lawyer into criminal court, whereupon they have no understanding of the workings of the criminal system. If you are charged with a criminal offence, it is highly advisable that you seek out counsel who specialize in criminal law, and who appear regularly in criminal court.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Are all Criminal Code offences prosecuted by a Federal prosecutor?
No. Even though the Criminal Code of Canada is a Federal statute created by the Federal government, the application and prosecution of Criminal Code offences is often undertaken by provincial prosecutors. This may vary by jurisdiction. In Ottawa, the Provincial Crown's office is charged with the task of prosecution all offences under the Criminal Code, ranging from theft, to sexual assault, to murder. In contrast, all prosecutions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are undertaken by the Federal Crown's office.
Does the Criminal Code of Canada apply even in Quebec?
Yes. Unlike in the United States, the Criminal Law falls under Federal jurisdiction. Thus, the Criminal Code is applicable even in Quebec.
Is every criminal offence contained within the Criminal Code of Canada?
No. Other acts created by Federal parliament contain criminal offences. The most often used examples are the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. However, it can accurately be said that the Criminal Code of Canada contains most of the criminal offences in Canada.
Since the Criminal Code is a Federal statute, can I have my matter transferred from Ottawa to Vancouver for my trial?
No. The prosecution of your offence will occur in the jurisdiction in which it is alleged to have occurred. In rare instances, prosecutions can be moved, but that is the exception, not the rule. In most cases, the Crown will agree to transfer a file for the purpose of effecting a guilty plea.