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This information is mainly about adults (people over age 18) who are involved in criminal cases. For information about youth (children between 12 and 17 years) involved in criminal cases, see Youth and Crime.
A crime is an act that breaks one of Canada’s criminal laws. A crime is sometimes called “an offence”. For example, if someone robs a bank, they have committed the crime of robbery, which is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.
The police will investigate the crime. They will talk to people who witnessed the crime and inspect the place where the crime happened. Police also talk to victims of crime. The police decide if they have enough evidence for someone to be charged with the crime of robbery.
The police do not actually charge anyone. Police give their information and evidence to a Crown prosecutor, who will review the evidence and decide if that person should be charged with the crime. Crown prosecution service is provided by the BC Ministry of Justice. Crown counsel are lawyers who work for the Criminal Justice Division and represent the BC government. It is Crown Counsel who charge a person with a crime.
Someone who is charged with a crime is called “the accused.” The accused is presumed to be innocent until he or she is proven guilty in a trial. At the trial, the accused must be proven guilty of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt. If the accused does not plead guilty, at the end of the trial, the judge or a jury will decide if the accused was proven guilty.
If the accused is guilty of the crime, a judge will decide the sentence. Criminal sentencing is based on the criminal act, the person’s criminal record, the impact of the crime on victims and the community and on precedent (similar court cases in the past). The court decision of guilty or not guilty is final, unless it is appealed to a higher court.
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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