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Toronto Crimes & Misdemeanours Law Blog

Distinction between edible and dry cannabis at issue in Supreme Court case

The Supreme Court of Canada is currently considering arguments about whether the regulation of medical marijuana -- specifically, edible cannabis products -- is arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The case before the high court follows the acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with marijuana possession and marijuana trafficking. In 2009, police found edible marijuana products in his apartment. Those products reportedly included cannabis-infused olive oil and grapeseed oil and marijuana cookies.

Impaired driving case in Halton thrown out because of unreasonable delay

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a person charged with a criminal offence has the right "to be informed without reasonable delay of the specific offence" and the right "to be tried within a reasonable time." If unreasonable delay in either of these capacities occurs, then it may be possible to have the case dismissed.

That was the outcome after more than 11 months of delay in an impaired driving case in Halton. The defendant filed an application to have the charge against him dismissed on the grounds that his trial had been unreasonably delayed. In agreeing with that assertion, the justice hearing the case blamed the court system's backlog on the government's tough-on-crime agenda combined with a lack of government funding.

When a youth is the one charged with domestic assault

A criminal charge can not only have a negative impact on the individual charged; the arrest may also result in unforeseen consequences for the defendant's family, especially if the charge arises from a domestic dispute.

Mental health resources, addiction counselling and support agencies are available to families who are having difficulties at home, but often these resources are not utilized or simply don't have the desired effect. In some cases, a child's behaviour at home is at the centre of the dispute, and parents feel unable to deal with the situation and finally call police. 

Charged with conspiracy to commit a drug crime? Know your defence options

Often people who find themselves charged with conspiracy in Ontario never thought they were "conspiring" to do anything. However, in legal terms, conspiracy occurs when two or more individuals agree together to commit a crime.

In many cases, conspiracy charges are leveled in addition to other charges, which could include anything from embezzlement to drug importation. Most of the time, though, conspiracy charges are linked to drug crimes.

Police claim driver placed penny in mouth before breath test

A recent impaired driving arrest raises some important issues that people in Ontario should understand with regard to breath tests.

First, it is important to know that refusing a breath test is a crime in Ontario, and that breath test refusal can result in serious penalties. Those may include suspension of your driver's licence for a year, a fine, required alcohol counselling and much higher insurance rates. Refusing to provide a breath sample can also result in a criminal record and employment issues.

Amendment makes assault on a TTC driver an 'aggravating circumstance'

When a court deems that a criminal offence was committed under "aggravating circumstances," sentencing may be increased. Examples of aggravating circumstances recognized by Canadian courts include the following:

  • Evidence that the defendant abused someone younger than 18
  • Evidence that there was a relationship of trust or authority between the defendant and the victim
  • Evidence that an assault or other criminal offence was motivated by prejudice or hate
  • Evidence that the defendant abused his or her spouse
  • Evidence that the defendant committed a terrorism offence
  • Evidence that the offence benefited or was otherwise linked to a criminal organization

A recent amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code adds a new aggravating circumstance: assault of a public transit operator.

Charged with domestic violence? Choose a defence lawyer with knowledge of family court proceedings

When a person is charged with domestic assault or criminal harassment, the stakes are high, even if the allegations are false. In these cases, police often have a policy of "arrest first, ask questions later," and people can find themselves unfairly accused or facing charges that simply don't fit the facts.

Being accused of domestic violence can also have a serious impact on family court proceedings, as charges of domestic assault often arise when marriage and common law relationships are ending. The accused individual is usually removed from the home and taken into police custody, and the terms of being released may prevent the person from having access to his or her children.

Bill would limit parole chances for certain murder convictions

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney made headlines back in January when he confirmed the prior intimations of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that new legislation designed to all but eliminate parole for certain first-degree murder convictions was forthcoming.

It now appears as if the wait will soon be over, as Harper announced at a news conference held in the Toronto area this past Wednesday that legislation will be introduced next week that will help ensure that "a life sentence in Canada will henceforth mean exactly that -- a sentence for life."

Ontario police engage in questionable practice of publishing defendants' names

Police forces in some parts of Ontario make it a point to publicly associate marijuana charges with accused individuals, even before the cases have been tried. For example, the Almaguin Highlands Ontario Provincial Police send out press releases that list the names of individuals charged with crimes, including possession of small amounts of marijuana. The detachment is thought to be the only one in the area to engage in this questionable practice.

According to a staff sergeant with the Almaguin Highlands OPP, "We want to publish the names because we want it to sting a little more than a $500 fine." In contrast, the North Bay Nipissing News does not publish the names of individuals who have been charged with but not convicted of marijuana possession.

What is the age of consent in Ontario? Are there exceptions?

The question of consent is primary in many sexual assault cases. Under Ontario law, sexual assault occurs whenever an individual sexually touches another person without that person's consent. In other words, the touching does not have to be extremely violent in order to lead to a sexual assault charge, nor must a sexual assault charge be predicated on sexual intercourse.

In Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16, meaning that persons younger than 16 cannot legally consent to sex. However, there are exceptions. The Criminal Code of Canada recognizes that 14- and 15-year-olds may consent to sexual activity if the older person is no more than five years older than the minor, and if the minor is not in a relationship of authority, trust or dependency with the older person.

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