Breaking the Law: 5 Things Every Canadian Needs to Know About Criminal Law

Most Canadians will never deal with the criminal justice system. But, when you do, it’s a Kafka-esque experience, one that you think you’re sleepwalking through.

Criminal law is the specialty of law that deals with criminal offenses. Criminal offenses can range from serious crimes like rape, murder, carjacking, bank robberies, DUI to minor infractions like not wearing a seat belt, speeding or public intoxication.

Criminal laws are typically enacted by the state or federal government. Anyone who fails to abide by these laws and commits any of these offenses has to face the consequences. In criminal law, the emphasis is on punishment, which is different from civil law, where the emphasis is on victim compensation and resolution of conflict.

Here are five things every Canadian needs to know about criminal law:

1. What is Punishment Like?

In criminal law, there are consequences when one fails to abide by the rules of society. The punishment may vary but generally includes prison time. The duration of jail time may depend on the type of crime and its seriousness. Sometime the justice system may confine you to house arrest, and then after release, you may have to follow rigid guidelines as part of your probation. But in other cases, you may be sentenced to jail for a very long time.

In all cases, the government tries to balance the crime committed by the convicted person and the extent of damage they caused to another person(s).

2. You Pay Hefty Monetary Fines

In criminal law, those who are guilty are usually mandated to pay monetary fines. The fines may vary depending on the crime, and if the money was ill-gotten, the government might seize your car, home or your property. Your bank accounts can be frozen until you pay all the fines.

3. Yes, There is a Deterrence

One of the key objectives of rules and regulations that govern criminal law is ensuring that the individual doesn’t repeat the offense. To deter people from committing future crimes, the government imposes a penalty that is likely to discourage the individual from any future criminal behavior. For example, if you violently assault someone, you may go to jail for a very long time.

For most normal individuals, this is serious enough for them to think twice before committing the same crime again. However, the concept of deterrence may not be very effective in reality as repeat crimes are quite common among those who commit criminal offenses.

4. Do the Crime, do the Time

Sometimes the justice system has to keep very dangerous criminal away from society. Thus, to protect the public, the court may sentence the defendant to a long-term jail sentence. Those who commit heinous crimes may even be given the death penalty. The aim is to ensure that the offender never gets another opportunity to cause harm to a third party.

5. A Rehabilitation Program

Criminal law also emphasizes rehabilitation. In many cases, the court will recommend rehabilitation for some convictions. For example, if you were arrested for a DUI, the court may require that you complete a course at a rehabilitation facility, where you learn how to be sober, how to sustain this sobriety and to also understand that your conduct was wrong and how you should avoid demonstrating the same behavior in future.

6. Are the Victims Properly Remunerated?

In criminal law, when a wrong has been committed, the justice system tries to repair it.

For instance, if a person manages a Ponzi scheme by falsely promising huge returns but ends up spending all the money for himself, the court will try and restore some of the lost money by making sure the criminals pay back their victims.

The money may come from the sale of their home, cars, other properties and whatever they have in the bank. The point is that the law is designed to ensure that the rights of victims are protected.

The justice system, particularly in Canada, is a long, arduous, and stressful process. It is not cakewalk, whether you are charged with a crime or you are taking somebody to court. But it is there for everyone to access, and that’s better than a kangaroo court or a band of vigilantes.

In the end, it is always better to have a criminal lawyer have your back from start to finish.

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