What is a quasi-criminal offence?
Quasi-criminal prosecutions play a significant role in the Canadian legal system, addressing offences that fall between civil and criminal law, dealing with breaches of Regulatory or Administrative Law, rather than Criminal Law. Ultimately, they consist of regulatory and statutory violations, with the intention of maintaining public safety, protecting the environment, and ensuring compliance with various laws.
Overview of Quasi-Criminal Prosecutions
Quasi-criminal offences are distinct from both civil and criminal offences. While civil cases involve disputes between parties seeking compensation, and criminal cases address serious crimes with punitive measures, quasi-criminal prosecutions focus on regulatory violations and the protection of public welfare. The legal basis for quasi-criminal prosecutions lies in federal and provincial legislation, granting authority to specialized agencies and bodies to investigate and enforce these offences.
Although non-criminal in nature, Quasi-Criminal prosecutions share many similarities with criminal prosecutions, as some procedures in these cases can be similar to criminal cases. Moreover, the punishments imposed, such as jail, fines, or loss of an important licence are also comparable, as well as the loss of licences such as to drive and serve alcohol may affect someone’s ability to earn a living. As a generalization, the decision-makers in Quasi-Criminal cases are not judges, but panels and/or tribunals of experts.
Despite the similarities between Quasi-Criminal and criminal cases, there are distinct differences. Quasi-Criminal prosecutions deal with breaches of Regulatory or Administrative Law, rather than Criminal Law.Rules of evidence are often more relaxed and subjective in such cases, and procedures can be more fluid than those used in criminal cases. This does not negate the seriousness of the consequences associated with Quasi-Criminal Prosecutions. In short, if you are found guilty of a Quasi-Criminal charge, you may be facing equally serious punishment as a criminal charge, including imprisonment and monetary penalties.
Quasi-Criminal Prosecutions arise from violations of laws and regulations enacted to ensure public safety, environmental protection, and adherence to various industry-specific requirements. Examples may include, but are not limited to, environmental offences related to pollution or waste management, occupational health and safety violations, and securities and financial market offences. Unlike criminal prosecutions, the standard of proof in quasi-criminal cases is based on the balance of probabilities. This standard requires the prosecution to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the offence occurred. It is distinct from the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used in criminal cases. This lower standard recognizes the administrative nature of quasi-criminal proceedings and focuses on establishing liability rather than proving guilt.
Do Quasi-Criminal prosecutions occur in court?
Quasi-criminal prosecutions follow a specific judicial process, often involving specialized quasi-criminal courts or tribunals. These bodies are equipped with expertise in the relevant regulatory areas and are designed to handle cases efficiently and effectively. Defendants in quasi-criminal proceedings have rights and procedural safeguards similar to those in criminal cases, including the right to legal representation, the right to present a defence, and the right to a fair hearing.
Quasi-criminal offences can result in a range of penalties aimed at deterring future violations and promoting compliance. These penalties include fines and monetary penalties, as well as administrative sanctions and orders.The severity of the penalty depends on factors such as the nature of the offence, the level of harm or risk involved, and the individual circumstances of the defendant. A quasi-criminal conviction can have lasting consequences for the accused. It may impact employment opportunities, professional licences, and reputation. Additionally, a conviction for a quasi-criminal offence may have implications for subsequent criminal prosecutions if related criminal charges arise from the same conduct. If you have been charged with, or notified that you are under investigation for a quasi-criminal offence, it is important that you seek legal advice right away to best prepare for the circumstances. At Strategic Criminal Defence, we offer free consultations for such matters.
What are examples of Quasi-Criminal Offences in Canada?
Quasi-Criminal prosecutions share many similarities with criminal prosecutions. The punishments imposed, such as jail, fines, or loss of an important licence are comparable. Moreover, the loss of licences such as to drive and serve alcohol may effect someone’s ability to earn a living. As a generalization, the decision-makers in Quasi-Criminal cases are not judges, but panels and/or tribunals of experts. A justice of the peace with special jurisdiction may also rule over a Quasi-Criminal case.
There are several areas of law in Canada that provide examples of quasi-criminal prosecutions. Environmental offences address violations of environmental protection laws, including pollution, improper waste management, and the mishandling of hazardous materials. Occupational health and safety offences target breaches of workplace safety regulations, such as failure to provide proper safety measures or negligence resulting in injuries or fatalities. Securities and financial market offences encompass violations of regulations related to insider trading, market manipulation, securities fraud, and breaches of disclosure obligations. As described above, these areas are necessary in safeguarding the public interest in these areas, which is why investigators and compliances officers are employed as such to ensure these regulations are adhered to.
Do I need a lawyer to defend me for quasi-criminal offences?
Quasi-criminal prosecutions face various challenges and defending yourself may become an arduous task. At Strategic Criminal Defence, we offer a free consultation which may be beneficial to someone who has either been charged with a quasi-criminal offence, and we also offer pre charge legal advice (for a person who has not been charged yet).
Critics argue that enforcement effectiveness and resource allocation are issues, as agencies must prioritize cases based on available resources. Public perception and trust in regulatory enforcement also present challenges, as some may question the fairness and transparency of quasi-criminal proceedings, due to the fact that the decision-makers, such as the tribunal, are not members of the judiciary.
However, Quasi-criminal prosecutions are ultimately a vital aspect of the Canadian legal system, addressing regulatory and statutory offences that impact public welfare and compliance with laws. Moreover, the alleviate resources in the courts in that the procedures fall outside of the scope of the standard judiciary by specialized tribunals and other decision-makers.