Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence (Offence)
|Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence|
|s. 85 of the Crim. Code|
|Election / Plea|
Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
|Types of Release||Judicial Release Only|
|Minimum||1, 3 years incarceration|
|Maximum||14 years incarceration|
Offences relating to use of firearm in commission of an offence are found in Part III of the Criminal Code relating to "Firearms and Other Weapons".
|Crown Election|| Defence Election|
|s. 85 [use of firearm in commission of an offence]||Indictable Offence(s)||N/A||Yes|
Before the statutory increased penalties can be applied for convictions under s. 85, notice of increased penalty under s. 727 must be made. Section 727 notice prior to plea is required if Crown is relying upon increased duration on a subsequent s. 109 weapons prohibition order.
|Offence(s)|| Attendance Notice
| Release By
On Attendance Notice
| Release By
On a Promise to Appear
Undertaking or Recognizance
| Release By
a Judge or Justice
on a PTA, Undertaking or Recog.
| Direct to Attend |
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act
s. 2 ID Crim. Act
When charged under s. 85, the accused cannot be released by police under s. 497 or 498 and so must be held by police when arrested. They must then be brought before a judge or justice under s. 503 and are only to be released by an order of a judge or justice under s. 515. A youth will be subject to a maximum penalty of 3 years under s. 42(15) of the YCJA and can be given an attendance notice without arrest under s. 496 or a summons and if arrested, can be released by the arresting officer under s. 497 on a attendance notice or by an officer-in-charge under s. 498 on a promise to appear or recognizance. The youth can also be released by a justice under s. 515.
If police decide to bring the accused before a Justice pursuant to s. 503, there will be a presumption against bail (i.e. a reverse onus) if the offence, prosecuted by indictment, was committed:
- while at large under s. 515 [bail release], 679 or 680 [release pending appeal or review of appeal] (s. 515(6)(a)(i));
- "for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association" with a criminal organization (s. 515(6)(a)(ii));
- where the offence involved a firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, while the accused was subject to a prohibition order preventing possession of these items (s. 515(6)(a)(viii)); or
- where the accused is not "ordinarily a resident in Canada" (s. 515(6)(b)).
A peace officer who charges a person under s. 85 of the Code can require that person to attend for the taking of fingerprints, photographs or other similar recordings that are used to identify them under the Identification of Criminals Act.
For all offences there is a discretionary general publication ban available on application of the Crown, victim or witness to prohibit the publishing of "any information that could identify the victim or witness" under s. 486.5(1) where it is "necessary" for the "proper administration of justice". Other available publication bans include prohibitions for publishing evidence or other information arising from a bail hearing (s. 517), preliminary inquiry (s. 539) or jury trial (s. 648). There is a mandatory publication ban in all youth prosecutions on information tending to identify young accused under s. 110 of the YCJA or young victims under s. 111 of the YCJA.
Before the statutory increased penalties can be applied for convictions under s. 85, notice of increased penalty under s. 727 must be made. See s. 85(3), below.
Offences under s. 85 are "designated" offences under s. 752 for the purpose of dangerous offender applications.
Offences under s. 85 are designated "serious personal injury" offences under s. 752(a) only if it has a maximum penalty of 10 years incarceration or more and involves "use or attempted use of violence against another person" or "conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person".
See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.
Using firearm in commission of offence
85. (1) Every person commits an offence who uses a firearm, whether or not the person causes or means to cause bodily harm to any person as a result of using the firearm,
- (a) while committing an indictable offence, other than an offence under section 220 (criminal negligence causing death), 236 (manslaughter), 239 (attempted murder), 244 (discharging firearm with intent), 244.2 (discharging firearm — recklessness), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon) or 273 (aggravated sexual assault), subsection 279(1) (kidnapping) or section 279.1 (hostage taking), 344 (robbery) or 346 (extortion);
- (b) while attempting to commit an indictable offence; or
- (c) during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence.
Using imitation firearm in commission of offence
(2) Every person commits an offence who uses an imitation firearm
- (a) while committing an indictable offence,
- (b) while attempting to commit an indictable offence, or
- (c) during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence,
whether or not the person causes or means to cause bodily harm to any person as a result of using the imitation firearm.
(3) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
- (a) in the case of a first offence, except as provided in paragraph (b), to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year; and
- (b) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of three years.
- (c) [Repealed, 2008, c. 6, s. 3]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 85; 1995, c. 39, s. 139; 2003, c. 8, s. 3; 2008, c. 6, s. 3; 2009, c. 22, s. 3.
Proof of the Offence
Proving using a Firearm in Commission of an Offence under s. 85(1) should include:
Proving using an imitation firearm in commission of an offence under s. 85(2) should include:
Interpretation of the Offence
A firearm must not merely "proximate for future use”, but rather must be ready for present use during the offence.
The phrase "in commission of an offence" requires that the underlying offence be proven.
- R v Steele, 2007 SCC 36 (CanLII),  3 SCR 3
- R v Pringles,  1 SCR 1645, 1989 CanLII 65 (CanLII)
- "firearm" is found in s. 2.
- "Imitation Firearm" is found in s. 84.
- see "use" of firearms for interpretation.
Participation of Third Parties
Certain persons who testify are entitled to make application for the use of testimonial aids: Exclusion of Public (s. 486), Use of a Testimonial Screen (s. 486), Access to Support Person While Testifying (s. 486.1), Close Proximity Video-link Testimony (s. 486.2), Self-Represented Cross-Examination Prohibition Order (s. 486.3), and Witness Security Order (s. 486.7).
A witness, victim or complainant may also request publication bans (s. 486.4, 486.5) and/or a Witness Identity Non-disclosure Order (s. 486.31). See also, Publication Bans, above.
On Finding of Guilt
For serious personal injury offences or murder, s. 606(4.1) requires that after accepting a guilty plea, the judge must inquire whether "any of the victims had advised the prosecutor of their desire to be informed if such an agreement were entered into, and, if so, whether reasonable steps were taken to inform that victim of the agreement". Failing to take reasonable steps at guilty plea requires the prosecutor to "as soon as feasible, take reasonable steps to inform the victim of the agreement and the acceptance of the plea" (s. 606(4.3)).
Under s. 738, a judge must inquire from the Crown before sentencing whether "reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution for their losses and damages".
Under s. 722(2), the judge must inquire "[a]s soon as feasible" before sentencing with the Crown "if reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victim with an opportunity to prepare" a victim impact statement. This will include any person "who has suffered, or is alleged to have suffered, physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss" as a result of the offence. Individuals representing a community impacted by the crime may file a statement under s. 722.2.
Sentencing Principles and Ranges
- See Weapons Offences (Sentencing) for general principles
|s. 85 [use of firearm in commission of an offence]||N/A||14 years custody|
Offences under s. 85(1) and (2) are straight indictable. The maximum penalty is 14 years incarceration.
For offences under s. 85(1) and (2), where the aggravating factors listed under ? are established, the minimum penalty is 1 year incarceration with no prior convictions under s. 85. Where no aggravating factors are present the minimum penalty is 3 years incarceration with one or more priors.
s. 718.3, 787
| Custody and
| Custody and
| Conditional |
If convicted under s. 85 a discharge is not available under s. 730(1) as it is "an offence for which a minimum punishment is prescribed by law or an offence punishable by imprisonment for fourteen years or for life".
Offences under s. 85 are ineligible for a conditional sentence order under s. 742.1(b) as there are mandatory minimum periods of incarceration.
Where the prior conviction relates to an offence that occurred subsequent to the index offence, the increased penalties do not apply.
Where the offender was convicted as a party in a previous offence. The increased penalty provision still applies.
Under s. 85(4), all sentences under s. 85(1) or 85(2) must be served consecutively to any other penalty imposed.
Sentences to be served consecutively
(4) A sentence imposed on a person for an offence under subsection (1) or (2) shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events and to any other sentence to which the person is subject at the time the sentence is imposed on the person for an offence under subsection (1) or (2).
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 85; 1995, c. 39, s. 139; 2003, c. 8, s. 3; 2008, c. 6, s. 3; 2009, c. 22, s. 3.
Notice to Rely on Prior Conviction
Where a prior record is alleged notice must be given under s. 727 to reply upon the mandatory minimum.
The increased penalty does not require that the previous offence to involve actual possession. It includes offences where the offender was previously a party to the possession.
The mandatory minimum of 1 year incarceration under s. 85 is constitutional.
Ancillary Sentencing Orders
|DNA Orders||s. 85||
|Weapons Prohibition Orders||s. 85(1) or (2)||
|Delayed Parole Order||s. 85(1) or (2)||
General Sentencing Orders
|Non-communication order while offender in custody (s. 743.21)||any||The judge has discretion to order that the offender be prohibited "from communicating...with any victim, witness or other person" while in custody except where the judge "considers [it] necessary" to communicate with them.|
|Restitution Orders (s. 738)||any||A discretionary Order is available for things such as the replacement value of the property; the pecuniary damages incurred from harm, expenses fleeing a domestic partner; or certain expenses arising from the commission of an offence under s.402.2 or 403.|
|Victim Fine Surcharge (s. 737)||any||A mandatory surcharge under s. 737 of 30% of any fine order imposed, $100 per summary conviction or $200 per indictable conviction. If offence occurs on or after October 23, 2013, the order is discretionary based on ability to pay and the minimum amounts are smaller (15%, $50, or $100).|
General Forfeiture Orders
|Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime (s. 462.37(1) or (2.01))||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence under the Code or the CDSA in which property is "proceeds of crime" and offence was "committed in relation to that property", the property shall be forfeited to Her Majesty the Queen on application of the Crown.|
|Fine in Lieu of Forfeiture (s. 462.37(3))||any||Where a Court is satisfied an order for the forfeiture of proceeds of crime under s. 462.37(!) or (2.01) can be made, but that property cannot be "made subject to an order", then the Court "may" order a fine in "an amount equal to the value of the property". Failure to pay the fine will result in a default judgement imposing a period of incarceration.|
|Forfeiture of Weapons or Firearms (s. 491)||any||Where there is finding of guilt for an offence where a "weapon, an imitation firearm, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance was used in the commission of [the] offence and that thing has been seized and detained", or "that a person has committed an offence that involves, or the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance has been seized and detained, that the item be an enumerated weapon or related item be connected to the offence", then there will be a mandatory forfeiture order. However, under s. 491(2), if the lawful owner "was not a party to the offence" and the judge has "no reasonable grounds to believe that the thing would or might be used in the commission of an offence", then it should be returned to the lawful owner.|
|Forfeiture of Offence-related Property (s. 490.1)||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence, "any property is offence-related property" where (a) by means or in respect of which an indictable offence under this Act or the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act is committed, (b) that is used in any manner in connection with the commission of such an offence, or (c) that is intended to be used for committing such an offence". Such property is to be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province.|