A regulatory offense, also known as quasi-criminal offense is a category of crime in which the criteria for proving the person culpable is lowered. Such offenses are used in order to deter the potential offenders from executing dangerous behavior, instead of imposing punishment for a wrongdoing.
Culpability is a degree to which a person may be held liable for his actions or inactions. To prove that a person is culpable, following three criteria must be met:
- The negative act was done intentionally
- The person could have controlled the act and its consequences
- There was no excuse provided by the person for doing that act.
Connected to regulatory crime is absolute liability offense. In Canada, absolute liability is one of three types of criminal or regulatory offences. According to the law:
“An absolute liability offence is a type of criminal offence that does not require any fault elements (mens rea) to be proved in order to establish guilt. In such a crime, the prosecution only needs to show that the accused performed the prohibited act (actus reus). As such, absolute liability offences do not allow for a defence of mistake of fact.”
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The Supreme Court of Canada defined an absolute liability offence as an offence “where it is not open to the accused to exculpate himself by showing that he was free of fault.”
Such offenses can be compared to the following:
- Strict liability offences: in which accused has the authority to defend.
- Mens rea offences; in which the criminal lawyer Toronto has to prove that the accused had some positive state of mind.
If you dig deeper in to the nature of the offences, you’ll find out the major difference in the,
- Generally, criminal offences are presumed to be mens rea offences, in which prosecutor has to come up with a strong case and evidences to prove the accused guilty. Here, the onus of proof lies on the affected party.
- On the other hand regulatory offences are presumed to be strict liability offences and the prosecutor can simply provide evidences against the accused.
Therefore, most offences are not absolute liability offences, and usually will require an explicit statement in the statute. To determine if an offence is an absolute liability offence, the courts must look at:
- The subject matter of the legislation;
- The overall regulatory pattern;
- The precision of the language used in the statute, and
- The importance of the penalty;
If a person has been sentenced to jail due to an absolute liability offense, it’s against the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedom. It is rather unconstitutional. Specifically, jail violates a person’s liberty and an absolute liability offence is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
The reason is, in absolute liability offences:
- It is not open to a person to avoid liability on the ground that she or he acted under a reasonable mistake of fact which,
- If the facts had been as the accused believed them to be, would have made his act innocent.