Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence (Offence)

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Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence
s. 85 of the Crim. Code
Election / Plea
Crown Election Indictment
Jurisdiction Prov. Court

Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
Sup. Court w/ Judge-alone (*)

* Must be indictable. Preliminary inquiry also available.
Types of Release Judicial Release Only
Indictable Dispositions
Avail. Disp. Discharge (730)

Suspended Sentence (731(1)(a))*
Fine (734)*
Fine + Probation (731(1)(b))*
Jail (718.3, 787)
Jail + Probation (731(1)(b))
Jail + Fine (734)
Conditional Sentence (742.1)

(* varies)
Minimum 1, 3 years incarceration
Maximum 14 years incarceration
Reference
Offence Elements
Sentence Digests

Overview

See also: Weapon Offences

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".

Pleadings

Offence
Section
Offence
Type
Crown Election Defence Election
s. 536(2)
s. 85 [use of firearm in commission of an offence] Indictable Offence(s) N/A Yes

Offences under s. 85 are straight indictable. There is a Defence election of Court under s. 536(2).

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.

Release

Offence(s) Attendance Notice
Without Arrest

s. 496
Summons
Without Arrest
s. 497
Release By
Arresting Officer
On Attendance Notice
s. 497
Release By
Officer-in-Charge
On a Promise to Appear
Undertaking or Recognizance
s. 498
Release By
a Judge or Justice
on a PTA, Undertaking or Recog.

s. 515
Direct to Attend
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act

s. 2 ID Crim. Act
s. 85 X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png

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.

Publication Bans
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.

Offence Designations
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.

Offence Wording

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.
Punishment
(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.

CCC

Proof of the Offence

Proving using a Firearm in Commission of an Offence under s. 85(1) should include:

  1. identity of accused as culprit
  2. date and time of incident
  3. jurisdiction (incl. region and province)
  4. the culprit used a firearm
  5. the prohibited act occurs while:
    1. "committing" an indictable offence except for the offences of:
      1. criminal negligence causing death (220),
      2. manslaughter (236),
      3. attempted murder (239),
      4. discharging firearm with intent (244),
      5. discharging firearm — recklessness (244.2),
      6. sexual assault with a weapon (272) or
      7. aggravated sexual assault (273),
      8. kidnapping (279(1)),
      9. hostage taking (279.1),
      10. robbery (344) or
      11. extortion (346)
    2. "attempting to commit an indictable offence"; or,
    3. "during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence".

Proving using an imitation firearm in commission of an offence under s. 85(2) should include:

  1. identity of accused as culprit
  2. date and time of incident
  3. jurisdiction (incl. region and province)
  4. the culprit "uses an imitation firearm"
  5. the prohibited act occurs while:
    1. committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence; or,
    2. "during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence".

Interpretation of the Offence

A firearm must not merely "proximate for future use”, but rather must be ready for present use during the offence.[1]

The phrase "in commission of an offence" requires that the underlying offence be proven.[2]

  1. R v Steele, 2007 SCC 36 (CanLII), [2007] 3 SCR 3
  2. R v Pringles, [1989] 1 SCR 1645, 1989 CanLII 65 (CanLII)

Misc Definitions

Participation of Third Parties

See also: Role of the Victim and Third Parties and Testimonial Aids for Young, Disabled or Vulnerable Witnesses

Testimonial Aids
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 also: Purpose and Principles of Sentencing, Sentencing Factors Relating to the Offender, and Sentencing Factors Relating to the Offence
See Weapons Offences (Sentencing) for general principles

Maximum Penalties

Offence(s) Crown
Election
Maximum Penalty
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.

Minimum Penalties
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.

Available Dispositions

Offence(s) Crown
Election
Discharge
s. 730
Suspended
Sentence

s. 731(1)(a)
Stand-alone
Fine

s. 731(1)(b)
Custody
s. 718.3, 787
Custody and
Probation
s. 731(1)(b)
Custody and
Fine
s. 734
Conditional
Sentence
(CSO)
s. 742.1
s. 85
No Priors
N/A X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png
s. 85
With Priors
N/A X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png OK Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png

Offences under s. 85 have mandatory minimums. There are no discharges, suspended sentences, stand-alone fines, or conditional sentences available.

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.

Subsequent Convictions
Where the prior conviction relates to an offence that occurred subsequent to the index offence, the increased penalties do not apply.[1]

Where the offender was convicted as a party in a previous offence. The increased penalty provision still applies.[2]

Consecutive Sentences
Under s. 85(4), all sentences under s. 85(1) or 85(2) must be served consecutively to any other penalty imposed.

s. 85
...
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.


CCC

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.

Principles

Increased Penalty
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.[3]

Constitutionality
The mandatory minimum of 1 year incarceration under s. 85 is constitutional.[4]

  1. R v Oswald, 1981 CanLII 326 (BC CA)
  2. R v Nicholson, [1981] 2 SCR 600, 1981 CanLII 216 (SCC)
  3. R v Nicholson, [1981] 2 SCR 600, 1981 CanLII 216 (SCC)
  4. R v Stewart, Stewart, 2010 BCCA 153 (CanLII)

Ranges

see also: Use of Firearm in Commission of an Offence (Sentencing Cases)

Ancillary Sentencing Orders

See also: Ancillary Orders

Offence-specific Orders

Order Conviction Description
DNA Orders s. 85
Weapons Prohibition Orders s. 85(1) or (2)
  • For offences under s. 85(1) or (2) that are enumerated under s. 109(b) or (c), the prohibition order is mandatory regardless of election. The order prohibits "the person from possessing any firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition and explosive"The order prohibits "the person from possessing any firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition and explosive".
      • Duration (first offence): The Order prohibiting to "firearms" (other than a prohibited firearm or restricted firearm) and "crossbow, restricted weapon, ammunition and explosive substance" is for not less than 10 years starting at release from custody or at sentencing where custody is not ordered. The Order prohibiting "prohibited firearm, restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device" is for life.
      • Duration (subsequent s. 109 offence): The duration must be life for all enumerated weapons and firearms. Notice of increased penalty under s. 727 required.
  • For offences under s. 85(1) or (2) where "the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance and, at the time of the offence, the person was prohibited" by court order, a mandatory weapons prohibition order under s. 109(1)(d) is required regardless of election.The order prohibits "the person from possessing any firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition and explosive".
      • Duration (first offence): The Order prohibiting to "firearms" (other than a prohibited firearm or restricted firearm) and "crossbow, restricted weapon, ammunition and explosive substance" is for not less than 10 years starting at release from custody or at sentencing where custody is not ordered. The Order prohibiting "prohibited firearm, restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device" is for life.
      • Duration (subsequent s. 109 offence): The duration must be life for all enumerated weapons and firearms. Notice of increased penalty under s. 727 required.
Delayed Parole Order s. 85(1) or (2)
  • Periods of imprisonment of 2 years or more for convictions under s. 85(1) or (2) are eligible for delayed parole order under s. 743.6(1) requiring the offender to serve at least "one half of the sentence or ten years, whichever is less", "where denunciation of the offence or the objective of specific or general deterrence so requires".

General Sentencing Orders

Order Conviction Description
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 Conviction Description
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.

History

See also: List of Criminal Code Amendments

See Also

References