Criminal Negligence (Offence)
|s. 219, 220 and 221 of the Crim. Code|
|Election / Plea|
Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
|Minimum||4 years incarceration|
|Maximum||10 years incarceration or Life|
- 1 Overview
- 2 Offence Wording
- 3 Proof of the Offence
- 4 Interpretation of the Offence
- 5 Participation of Third Parties
- 6 Sentencing Principles and Ranges
- 7 Ancillary Sentencing Orders
- 8 Record Suspensions and Pardons
- 9 History
- 10 See Also
Offences relating to criminal negligence are found in Part VIII of the Criminal Code concerning "Offences Against the Person and Reputation".
Although criminal negligence is a broadly-defined offence, in practice, most charges of criminal negligence related to the accused's operation of a motor vehicle.
|Crown Election||Defence Election
|s. 220 [criminal negligence causing death]||Indictable Offence(s)||(life max)|
|s. 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm]||Indictable Offence(s)||(under 14 years max)|
Offences under s. 220 [criminal negligence causing death] are straight indictable. There is a Defence election of Court under s. 536(2) to trial to trial in provincial court, superior court with a judge-alone (with or without a preliminary inquiry) or superior court with judge-and-jury (with or without a preliminary inquiry).
Offences under s. 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm] are hybrid with a Crown election. If prosecuted by indictment, there is a Defence election of Court under s. 536(2) to trial by provincial court, superior court judge-alone or superior court judge-and-jury.
by Peace Officer
by Judge or Justice
s. 508(1), 512(1), or 788
s. 498, 499, and 501
a Judge or Justice
on a Release Order
s. 515 to 519
|Direct to Attend |
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act
s. 2 ID Crim. Act
|s. 220 [criminal negligence causing death]|
|s. 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm]|
When charged under s. 220 [criminal negligence causing death] , the accused can be given a judicial summons without arrest. If arrested, he can be released by the arresting officer under s. 498 or 499 on an undertaking with or without conditions. He can also be released by a justice under s. 515.
When charged under s. 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm] , the accused can be given an appearance notice without arrest under s. 497 or a summons. If arrested, he can be released by the arresting officer under s. 498 or 499 on an undertaking with or without conditions. He can also be released by a justice under s. 515.
- Reverse Onus Bail
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)).
- Fingerprints and Photos
A peace officer who charges a person under s. 220 and 221 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 Ban
For all criminal or regulatory prosecutions, 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
|AG Consent Required||Serious Criminality|
s. 36 IRPA
|s. 220 [criminal negligence causing death]|
|s. 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm]|
See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.
Draft Form of Charges
|"THAT [accused full name] stands charged that, between the <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR> and <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR>***, at or near <COMMUNITY/TOWN/CITY>, <PROVINCE>, he [or she]..." OR|
|"THAT [accused full name] stands charged that, on or about the <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR>, at or near <COMMUNITY/TOWN/CITY>, <PROVINCE>, he [or she]..." OR|
|"AND FURTHER at the same time and place aforesaid, he [or she]..."|
|Code Section||Subject of Offence||Draft Wording|
|221||"... contrary to section 221 of the Criminal Code."|
Proof of the Offence
Proving criminal negligence under s. 219 should include:
Proving criminal negligence causing death under s. 220 should include:
Proving criminal negligence causing bodily harm under s. 221 should include:
Interpretation of the Offence
A person who signals the start of a race by dropping a “flag” is a party to the race and can be found guilty of criminal negligence.
- "another person"
The meaning of "another person" does not include a foetus as it is not a "human being" within the meaning of s. 223.
For the purpose of s. 219, a "duty" refers to "a duty imposed by law."
Legal duties exist in common law and statute.
Under s. 215 every person has a duty:
There is further a common law duty "to take reasonable steps to protect his or her child from illegal violence used by the other parent or by a third person towards the child which the parent foresees or ought to foresee".
For more details see Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life (Offence).
Legal duties include the duty of foster parents to provide children in their car with the necessities of life.
Similar to s. 216 to 217.1, s. 45 also provides exemption for liability for surgical procedures. 
The protections of s. 216 are based on an objective standard of care expected of a member of the medical profession with reasonable knowledge, skill and care.
- Dangerous Driving
The mens rea for criminal negligence relating to dangerous driving requires evidence of the accused's subjective state of mind or by showing that the prohibited conduct "constituted a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person".
- Causing Death
Where death occurred as a result of the act or omission, the fault element is made out where the accused "shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons". This is measured on a "modified objective standard of fault" from the perspective of a "reasonable person... in the circumstances". The question is whether the accused's conduct "departed from that of a reasonable person in the circumstances". where the charges criminal negligence causing death, the Crown must prove that there was a "marked and substantial" departure from the standard of care. The difference between "marked departure" and "marked and substantial departure" remains unsettled.
The terms "wanton" and "reckless" are defined in common law.
R v Kerr, 2013 BCCA 506 (CanLII), per Neilson JA, at para 25
Javanmardi, infra, at para 21
R v JF, 2008 SCC 60 (CanLII) ,  3 S.C.R. 215, per Fish J, at para 10
R v Beatty, 2008 SCC 5  1 SCR 49, per Charron J, at para 33
R v Roy, 2012 SCC 26 (CanLII) ,  2 SCR 60, per Cromwell J, at para 30
R v L(J), 2006 CanLII 805 (ON CA) , 204 C.C.C. (3d) 324 (Ont. C.A.), per Weiler JA, at para 15
R v Al-Kassem, 2015 ONCA 320 (CanLII) , 78 M.V.R. (6th) 183, per curiam, at para 6
- R v Javanmardi, 2019 SCC 54, per Abella J, at para 20
- Javanmardi, ibid., at paras 20 to 21
- Javanmardi, ibid., at para 21
- Javanmardi, ibid., at para 21 ("In the context of criminal negligence causing death, however, the requisite degree of departure has been described as an elevated one — marked and substantial")
- Javanmardi, ibid., at para 23
- Javanmardi, ibid., at para 20
Participation of Third Parties
- 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
s. 606(4.1), (4.2)
|Victim Notice |
of Impact Statement
|s. 220, 221|
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
- Maximum Penalties
|s. 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm]||N/A||10 years incarceration|
|s. 220(a) [criminal negligence causing death (with firearm)] or (b) [criminal negligence causing death (no firearm)]||N/A||life in custody|
Offences under s. 220(a) or (b), 221 are straight indictable. The maximum penalty is 10 years incarceration under s. 221 or life incarceration under s. 220(a), (b).
- Minimum Penalties
For offences under s. 220(a) there is a mandatory minimum penalty of 4 years incarceration .
These offences have no mandatory minimum penalties.
- Available Dispositions
s. 718.3, 787
For offences under s. 221, all dispositions are available. The judge may order a discharge (s. 730), suspended sentence (s. 731(1)(a)), fine (s. 731(1)(b)), custody (s. 718.3, 787), custody with probation (s. 731(1)(b)), custody with a fine (s. 734), or a conditional sentence (s. 742.1).
If convicted under s. 220(b) 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. 220(b) are ineligible for a conditional sentence order under s. 742.1(c), when prosecuted by indictment, as the maximum period of incarceration is 14 years or life.
- Consecutive Sentences
There are no statutory requirements that the sentences be consecutive.
- see also: Criminal Negligence (Sentencing Cases)
Ancillary Sentencing Orders
- Offence-specific Orders
|DNA Orders||s. 220(a), (b) or 221||
|Delayed Parole Order||s. 220 or 221||
- General Sentencing Orders
|Non-communication order while offender in custody (s. 743.21)||any||The judge has the 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 discretionary surcharge under s. 737 of 30% of any fine order imposed, $100 per summary conviction or $200 per indictable conviction. If the offence occurs on or after October 23, 2013, the order has smaller minimum amounts (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(1) 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.|
Record Suspensions and Pardons
Convictions under s. 220 [criminal negligence causing death] or 221 [criminal negligence causing bodily harm] are eligible for record suspensions pursuant to s. 3 and 4 of the Criminal Records Act after 5 years after the expiration of sentence for summary conviction offences and 10 years after the expiration of sentence for all other offences. The offender may not have the record suspended where the offender was (1) convicted of 3 or more offences with a maximum penalty of life, and (2) for each 3 offences he "was sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more".