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Ottawa Criminal Law Blog

The Laws that Apply to Your Child when Charged with a Crime

If your child is charged with a criminal offence there are a number of laws that may apply to his or her situation. Think of the criminal justice system like a puzzle, with a lot of smaller pieces of law that fit together to make up the bigger picture. The main acts to be considered are: the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. (There are others, like the Canada Evidence Act, that also play a role but less often).

What is Sexual Exploitation?

Although the age of consent in Canada is 16, in some cases you can still be convicted of an offence for engaging in sexual activity with someone over the age of 16 but under the age of 18. If you are in a position of trust or authority towards a young person, or the young person is in a relationship of dependency with you, or exploitative of the young person, you could be convicted of the offence of sexual exploitation.

What is Invitation to Sexual Touching?

If you have been charged with Invitation to Sexual Touching pursuant to s. 152 of the Criminal Code you may be wondering what exactly this allegation involves. The section states that every person who, for a sexual purpose, invites, counsels or incites a person under the age of 16 years to touch, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, including the body of the person who invites, counsels or incites, is guilty of an offence.

What is Sexual Interference?

The offence of sexual interference applies to situations in which there is any touching of a minor in a sexual manner. This can include masturbation, oral sex or intercourse. Section 151 of the Criminal Code states that every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of sixteen years is guilty of an indictable offence. It does not matter if the minor consented to the activity, except in limited circumstances where the accused is close in age to the minor (see our blog entry on "Age of Consent"). Nor does it matter if the minor instigated the touching so long as the accused had a sexual purpose when taking part. In some cases, it may be possible to argue that the touching was not for a sexual purpose, such as a situation where a parent is giving bath to a child. However, in the vast majority of cases the defence will be based on an argument that the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any sexual activity took place. The focus at trial will be to attack the credibility and reliability of the allegations. A discussion of what is involved in mounting such a defence can be found in out blog entry "The I Didn't Do It Defence to a Sexual Assault Charge."

Consequences of a Conviction for Sexual Assault

If you have been charged with a sexual offence, the consequences of a conviction can be serious. In all but the most minor of offences, some form of jail sentence is likely to be imposed. The length of the sentence can vary. In cases of date rape, the sentence is likely to be between two and five years. In cases of ongoing abuse of children, particularly if there are more than one victim, the sentence can be much higher than five years.

The Defence of Mistake of Age in Sexual Assault

For certain sexual offences against young people, such as sexual interference, it is a defence in some circumstances to be mistaken about their age. In order for this defence to be valid, an accused person must take all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the complainant. So, what does "all reasonable steps" actually mean? The Supreme Court of Canada provided some guidance in the recent case of R. v. George.

Using your device while driving may be a critical mistake

With the increased portability of technology, more drivers can stay connected with their friends and family - as well as their favourite modes of entertainment - during their commutes. Whether you remember the frustration of having to find a telephone booth to make a call or you grew up with a mobile device in your hand, there is no denying the convenience of having loved ones and all your favourite apps at your fingertips.

However, when you are driving, your fingertips should be around the steering wheel. At some point in your life, you have heard the warnings about the dangers of distracted driving, either in your driving education classes or through public service announcements produced by Ontario safety advocates. The penalties for distracted driving offences can be steep, and it may help you to understand the specifics of the province's laws.

The Offence of Voyeurism

The courts are seeing an increase in voyeurism charges, thanks in part to the number of cell phones that now have cameras. Filming someone without their knowledge could lead to you being arrested for this serious offence. Fortunately, the Ontario Court of Appeal recently set out the parameters for this offence in R. v. Jarvis.

The Age of Consent: Sexual Offences

The age of consent for sexual activity in Canada is set out in the Criminal Code. As a general rule, a person cannor consent to sexual activity until they are 16 years old. As a result, if you have sexual relations with someone who is not yet 16 years old it is no defence that he or she consented to the activity. However, there are exceptions.

The Offence of Uttering Threats

If the police are called in the middle of a domestic dispute you may end up getting charged with the offence of uttering threats. Section. 261.4 of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to knowingly utter, convey or cause any person to receive a threat to cause death or bodily harm. In order to be convicted the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt both that there was an utterance or conveyance of a threat and that you intended to threaten your spouse.

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Ottawa Criminal Law Blog | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter