To convict someone of a criminal offence in Canada, the Crown Prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable suspicion that the defendant is guilty of both the “actus reus and mens rea” of the alleged crime. The actus reus of crime indicates the actual criminal act, while the mens rea represents the intent to commit a criminal act.
Actus Reus And Mens Rea Example
Let’s explain these two fundamental elements of crime through an example. In a murder case, the actus reus will be determined if the Crown Prosecutor can prove that the defendant’s extreme physical actions led to the death of the victim. The mens rea will be determined if the Crown Prosecutor can prove that the defendant intended to kill the victim. In the majority of cases, both the actus reus and mens rea need to be proven beyond a reasonable suspicion.
Exceptions To Mens Rea
There are some unique types of crimes known as an absolute liability and strict liability offences that don’t have a mens rea element of a crime. These kinds of offences are regulatory crimes that are associated with environment protection, highway traffic, or public health.
In case of such offences, the Crown Prosecutor just needs to prove you guilty of the actus reus element of the alleged crime to secure a conviction. Whether or not you had any intention to commit the offence will have no bearing on your case proceedings.
Proof Beyond A Reasonable Suspicion
Irrespective of the type of offence, the Crown Prosecutor still has to prove that you’re guilty of the fundamental elements of the crime beyond a reasonable suspicion. The Crown must meet the legal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt before they can find guilt in any criminal case.
This legal standard doesn’t require absolute certainty that you’re guilty of the felony, though it does require more than a reasonable probability (more than 50%) that you’re guilty of the crime. In any criminal case in which there’s a good reason to doubt that you did commit the crime, you’ll get cleared of the criminal charges.
Conviction On Circumstantial Evidence
Contrary to a popular misunderstood belief, it’s still possible that the court might find you guilty of an alleged offence in a criminal case where the evidence presented against you is purely circumstantial.
Difference Between Direct And Circumstantial Evidence
There’s a considerable difference between direct and circumstantial pieces of evidence. Direct evidence connects you with the criminal offence without the requirement of making further inferences. For example, if you’re caught on surveillance camera while stealing someone’s property, that can be considered as a piece of direct evidence of your guilt of stealing, followed by a conviction of the crime.
Circumstantial evidence requires making an inference before concluding that you’re involved in a criminal act. For example, if the police find a weapon that was utilized to kill somebody with the victim’s blood and your fingerprints, the weapon and your fingerprints can be considered as circumstantial evidence of your guilt of killing, followed by a conviction of the crime.
High Legal Burden On The Crown Prosecutor
Making a compelling case against you purely based on circumstantial evidence will require the Crown Prosecutor to meet a high legal burden. Specifically, the Crown will have to demonstrate that the circumstantial evidence presented against you has no other logical explanation than finding you as a person guilty of the crime.
Slaferek Callihoo is an experienced criminal defence law firm based in Edmonton, Alberta. Visit our website to obtain more information regarding our expert legal services or contact us for professional legal counsel.