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Major Defences to Criminal Charges- Part 1

There are many defences that an individual may rely on after a crime has transpired. It is useful to understand and be able to identify the major defences to common crimes in case one applies to your particular situation.

The first defence is the defence of mental disorder which is discussed in section 16 of the Criminal Code. It basically states that an individual who has committed an act or omission while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered that individual incapable of fully understanding the nature and quality of the act or omission or knowing it was wrong, is not held criminally responsible.
However, some elements must be proven in order for this defence to be accepted. Firstly, the court must ensure that the accused is suffering from a recognized mental disorder or as per section 2 of the Criminal Code, a “disease of the mind”. Once a disease of the mind has been established, the courts must prove 1) if the accused is incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their act and, 2) they are incapable of knowing it is wrong.

The second defence is the defence of intoxication. There are two types of intoxications; voluntary intoxication and involuntary intoxication. Involuntary intoxication occurs where an individual has consumed an intoxicant without being aware they were doing so. Common examples of this are when an individual’s drink was spiked when they were not looking, the individual is tricked into eating something containing drugs, or has had an adverse reaction to medication. Due to this, the individual was not able to form intent to commit the crime voluntarily.
Voluntary intoxication occurs when an individual has voluntarily impaired their judgment and has committed a crime subsequently. This defence cannot be raised in crimes involving assault or violence. It may be a defence only if the intoxication was so severe that the accused was in a state similar to insanity or automatism and unable to form the intent to commit the offence, as long as it did not involve assault or physical violence.

Automatism is another defence that may be raised in accordance with the common law test. It refers to behaviour or actions that a person performs while in a state of impaired consciousness. The first type of automatism is the action that is caused by a mental disorder or extreme self-induced intoxication. If this defence is established, it will be dealt with in the same way as individuals who meet the requirements of the defence of a mental disorder. They will be found not criminally responsible if all the elements are met. The second type of automatism is the action that is caused by something other than a mental disorder or extreme intoxication. This non insane automatism, as it is referred to, must be established that the impaired consciousness was caused by something other than a mental disorder or self-induced intoxication. An example of this would be a blow to the head or sleepwalking.

You should consult a lawyer if you believe you can raise any of the above offences to your particular case. The lawyers at Bykov Empel LLP have extensive experience in dealing with criminal matters and will ensure your case is in good hands. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, call the Lawyers at Bykov Empel LLP at (416) 519-3259 for a free consultation.