Regulatory Offenses

Many of our day-to-day activities and conduct are organized by regulatory laws: everything from driving and hunting to how restaurants operate and how hazardous waste is disposed of falls under regulatory statues. Unlike criminal offenses that are governed by the Criminal Code and intended to minimize criminal activity in Canadian society, the aim of regulatory law is to reduce risks and harm to the public caused by the everyday activities of individuals and commercial entities.

Regulatory offenses are often referred to as quasi-criminal offenses. Although not regulated by the Criminal Code, some regulatory offenses are prosecuted and treated by the courts as true criminal offenses due to the seriousness of the transgression and the likelihood of severe consequences and penalties.

Highway Traffic Act

Designed to regulate driving in Ontario (e.g. speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign, careless driving).

Liquor License Act

Regulates the sale of alcohol by bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs and taverns (e.g. selling alcohol without a permit, selling to minors, selling to intoxicated persons).

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Protects workers from health and safety hazards on the job (e.g. failure to act upon or comply with OHSA regulations, failing to comply with the order of an inspector).

Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act

Regulates fishing and hunting of wild game for the purposes of preservation and protection (e.g. fishing or hunting without the correct license, fishing or hunting out of season, hunting with an unregulated device or method for a particular species).

Fire Protection & Prevention Act

Promotes fire prevention and public safety (e.g. failure to comply with Fire Code, obstruction of Fire Marshal or other designated persons, not submitting to a mandatory inspection)

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act

Promotes public safety when dangerous goods are being handled, offered for transport or transported by road, rail, air, or water (e.g. failing to accompany dangerous goods with required documents, failing to keep supply records, failing to report loss or theft).

Environmental Protection Act

Legislates the rules for ensuring the environment is protected while operating a commercial or individual business (e.g. unlawful disposable of hazardous wastes, failure to clean up contamination, emitting contaminants into the environment).

Penalties For Regulatory Offenses

The penalties for regulatory offenses vary greatly and are dependent on the seriousness of the offense committed. Possible penalties include large monetary fines, probation orders as well as incarceration. Non-legal consequences can be enforced as well, for example: individuals who are found guilty of a regulatory offence under the Highway Traffic Act may lose their driving privileges or an establishment that serves alcohol to minors may lose their license to sell liquor.

In general, federal regulatory offenses carry with them more severe punishment than violations of provincial or municipal regulations. Whereas provincial and municipal regulatory regimes impose penalties such as monetary fines as well as the loss of various licenses, federal regulatory offenses are often considered true criminal offenses and may result in a criminal record as well as incarceration.

Do I Have A Defence?

Criminal convictions require proof that that accused committed a crime or intended to commit a crime. Furthermore, that proof must demonstrate that the party is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. That same degree of proof and proof of intent is not required to be convicted of a regulatory offense. Negligence is often all the proof that is needed to secure a conviction, making it far more likely that those accused of a regulatory offense will face penalties.

Given that regulatory offense charges proceed with the assumption that the accused is “guilty until proven innocent” and that a charge is likely to result in a conviction, your goal should be to receive as lenient a penalty as possible. While you may think that your only option is to plead guilty, there are a host of possible options for you under the provisions of any specific legislation. It is Vishal Sharma’s job to know what those options are and how to pursue them to your benefit. If you or your company has been charged with a regulatory offense, contact Vishal today to learn more about your alternatives.