Quasi-Criminal Prosecutions

There are many federal and provincial laws in addition to the criminal offences under the Criminal Code and Controlled Substances Act that result in penalties that can be as severe as the ones found in criminal law. Convictions for these “quasi-criminal” offences can include hefty fines and even jail time.


Quasi-Criminal prosecutions deal with breaches of Regulatory or Administrative Law, rather than Criminal Law. They are not classified as criminal charges per se because they are not based on breaking the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

While non-criminal in nature, Quasi-Criminal prosecutions share many similarities with criminal prosecutions. For example, some procedures in these cases can be similar to criminal cases. Moreover, the punishments imposed, such as jail, fines, or loss of an important license are also comparable. Moreover, the loss of licences such as to drive and serve alcohol may effect someone’s ability to earn a living.

Typically, the decision-makers in Quasi-Criminal cases are not judges, but panels and/or tribunals of experts. A justice of the peace with special jurisdiction may also rule over a Quasi-Criminal case.

Despite the similarities between Quasi-Criminal and criminal cases, there are salient differences. Rules of evidence are often more relaxed and subjective in such cases, and procedures can be more fluid than those used in criminal cases. This does not negate the seriousness of the consequences associated with Quasi-Criminal Prosecutions.

Should you be found guilty of a Quasi-Criminal charge, you may be facing equally serious punishment as a criminal charge, including imprisonment and monetary penalties.

At Caramanna Friedberg LLP, criminal law is not simply a vocation for us. It is our passion. Fighting for justice is in our DNA. Founded in 2002 by Sal Caramanna and Matthew Friedberg, our firm is now one of the largest criminal litigation firms in the province of Ontario. 

If you have been charged with a Quasi-Criminal offence, contact Caramanna Friedberg LLP today at (416) 924-5969.

See also Environmental Prosecutions, Tax prosecutions, Fraud.

Frequently Asked Questions

Quasi-Criminal offences relate to breaches of regulatory or administrative law. They are not criminal charges, and a conviction of a quasi-criminal offence will not result in a criminal record if conviction. However, there can still be harsh penalties, including fines and jail time.

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Quasi-criminal offences can be covered by a federal, provincial, or municipal law. Offences under the following acts are examples of quasi-criminal offences:

  • Consumer Protection Act;
  • Environmental Protection Act;
  • Food and Drugs Act;
  • Highway Traffic Act;
  • Income Tax Act; and

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
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  • Factual Innocence: Failure of the prosecutor to prove the elements of the offence, as required.
  • Due Diligence: Where the accused demonstrates he acted with the care, diligence, and skill of a reasonably prudent person.
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Just because a quasi-criminal conviction does not result in a criminal record, does not mean that the penalties are minor. Absolute liability offences can result in heavy fines, but no jail time. Strict Liability and other mens rea offences can result in fines, jail time, or both.

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Absolute Liability Offences only require the prosecution to prove that an unlawful act or omission occurred. The prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant had any form of intent. The accused is not entitled to rely on a defence, such as due diligence, necessity, or accident. Absolute liability offences can carry heavy fines, but no jail time.

An example of an absolute liability offence is failing to stop at a stop sign under the Highway Traffic Act.

Strict Liability Offences also only require the prosecution to prove that an unlawful act or omission occurred, and they are not required to prove intention. However, the accused is entitled to prove due diligence as a defence to the charge. You can face both fines and jail time if convicted of a strict liability offence.

An example of a strict liability offence is careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act.

A Mens Rea Offence is like a criminal offence, in that the prosecution is required to prove both the physical act and the mental element (intent).

An example of a mens rea quasi-criminal offence is making a false statement on one's tax return under the Income Tax Act.

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A quasi-criminal offence is not a criminal offence, and a conviction will of a quasi-criminal offence will not result in a criminal record. Quasi-criminal offences involve morally or blameworthy conduct. The prosecution of a quasi-criminal offence often proceeds in a similar manner as to a criminal case, in terms of the procedure.

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