Dangerous Offender Designation
A Dangerous Offender Application is one of the most serious circumstances a defendant can face. Upon conviction of certain violent offences, or patterns of violent offences, the Crown (Prosecution) may seek to designate an offender a "Dangerous Offender." If an accused is designated a "dangerous offender" , they risk being sentenced to an indefinite sentence (i.e. a life sentence with the opportunity for parole).
What is a Dangerous Offender Designation
A person may be designated a "dangerous offender" through two routes. General dangerousness from violent behaviour and dangerousness from sexual behaviour.
In order to be designated a "dangerous offender" through the general violence route an offender must:
- Be convicted of a "serious personal injury offence" as defined by s. 752 of the Criminal Code; and
- Be determined by the court to represent "a threat to the life, safety or physical or mental well-being of other persons" on the basis of:
- A pattern of behaviour (which the underlying offence is part of) that shows a failure of restraint and a likelihood of causing death or injury to other persons, or inflicting severe psychological damage on other person, in future;
- A pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour (which the underlying offence is part of) that shows a substantial degree of indifference to the reasonable consequences of their actions; or
- Any behaviour in relation to the underlying offence that is "of such a brutal nature as to compel the conclusion that the offender's behaviour in the future is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint."
In order to be designated a "dangerous offender" through the sexual violence route an offender must:
- Be convicted of a "serious personal injury offence" as defined by s. 752 of the Criminal Code;
- By their conduct in any sexual matter, show a failure to control their sexual impulses, which demonstrates a likelihood of causing injury, pain or other evil to other persons through failure in the future to control their impulses.
Even if an offender is not found to be a dangerous offender, the court may still designate an offender a "Long Term Offender" following a failed Dangerous Offender Application. While less severe than a Dangerous Offender Designation, a Long Term Offender Designation still has severe consequences for an offender, including a minimum sentence of two years imprisonment and ten years of supervision when out of custody.
What are the Potential Sanctions Accompanying a Dangerous Offender Designation
If the court finds an offender to be a "dangerous offender" , it may
- impose a sentence of detention in a penitentiary for an indeterminate period (i.e. a life sentence with the opportunity for parole after 7 years);
- impose a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of two years and order that the offender be subject to long-term supervision for a period that does not exceed 10 years; or
- impose a sentence for the offence for which the offender has been convicted.
What sentence is imposed will depend on what level of sanction the court believes is necessary to adequately protect the public against the commission of murder or a serious personal injury offence.
What Defences are Available During a Dangerous Offender Application
Because a Dangerous Offender Application follows a conviction on a "serious personal injury offence" , the first and best defence is be acquitted of your underlying criminal charges. The defences available to the underlying charges will vary from charge to charge and on the facts of your case.
If you are convicted of your underlying criminal charges, defending against a dangerous offender application generally come in two stages.
First, the defence can argue that the Crown has failed to prove that you meet the statutory criteria to be a "Dangerous Offender" . The exact nature of these submissions will depend on the route the Crown choices to pursue in their argument, but may turn on arguing that patterns of past offences do not establish a likelihood of future harm or uncontrolled dangerous behaviour.
Second, if the defendant is found to be a "Dangerous Offender" , the defendant can seek to demonstrate to the court that there is a "reasonable expectation" that a sentence less than indefinite detention will "adequately protect the public against the commission by the offender of murder or a serious personal injury offence."
Depending on the circumstances of your case, other procedural defences may also be available.
The information above provides a general overview of Dangerous Offender Applications. However, no two cases are alike. Every case is fact-specific and ranges in complexity, depending on the issues at play.
Are you subject to a Dangerous Offender Application? Contact our office today at 416-924-5969 to learn more about how we can help you. Our team of lawyers is prepared to conduct a thorough review of your situation and develop an approach tailored to your needs. Obtaining proper legal representation is the first step in preparing a successful defence.