The Process Of A Charge For A Criminal Offence In Canada
Dennis Reeve, criminal lawyer with the Newmarket firm of Hobson & Reeve, explains the process of a charge for a criminal offence.
Amongst other responsibilities, police officers detect and investigate criminal acts. As a result of an investigation if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed they have an obligation to lay a charge.
A charge is an allegation that a criminal offence has been committed. The police officer prepares a formal document called an “Information”. The Information describes the act or acts alleged to be crimes and the person they allege who committed those acts. The Information can contain one or more charges.
The officer takes the Information before a Justice of the Peace and swears under oath that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that the described charges have been committed.
Note that it is a police officer who, in the execution of their duty, lays the charge – not the victim or complainant. The result is that the victim/complainant does not have the power or make the decision as to whether the charges are dropped or whether they proceed.
The reason we do it this way is because the Criminal Code expresses society’s limits of tolerance. It is in the interest of society as a whole that these limits be enforced by charge and prosecution. The purpose of the Criminal Code is to protect public interests, not private interests. Private interests are settled through a civil law process, not the criminal law.
This is important, often in domestic assault cases, where one party will make a statement to the police about present or past offences they say their spouse has committed. Later, if they decide they want to drop the charges, they can’t.
If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Newmarket, Ontario Region, contact Hobson & Reeve Barrsiters for a consultation.