Recognizing Organized Crime Activity in Canada from Your Criminal Lawyer in Edmonton

Modern culture has fostered a sensationalized perception of organized crime that is actually quite different than the legal definition. The mafia, dons, images associated with “The Godfather”, and international terrorist groups may come to mind with organized crime; the perception is one of monopolistic, formally structured, ethnically homogenous organizations undertaking illegal activities with an economic motive. Yet, organized crime is defined under section 467.1 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada (the Criminal Code) as a group that consists of three or more individuals in or outside Canada who has as one of its main activities or purposes of committing or facilitating a serious offence likely to result in financial benefit. As such, many illicit activities can be deemed to be organized crime as long as there are a minimum of three individuals involved in an effort to obtain money illegally. Identity theft, fraud, human trafficking, sex crimes, selling illegal narcotics, and counterfeit can all be considered instances of organized crime.

Defining Organized Crime under the Criminal Code

There are three specific offences under the Criminal Code that regulate criminal organizations, which your criminal lawyer will be able to identify for you:

  • 1. Participation in the activities of a criminal organization, found in s. 467.11 of the Criminal Code. This offence is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years. It may include individuals who launder money for a criminal organization, facilitating the concealment of the illegal proceeds of criminal organizations.
  • 2. Commission of an offence for a criminal organization, contained in s. 467.12 of the Criminal Code. This offence is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years. It usually applies to those who commit various criminal offences such as drug importation, drug exportation, extortion, arson, kidnapping, violence, gaming, and money-laundering from which the organization derives a benefit.
  • 3. Instructing the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, contained in s. 467.13 of the Criminal Code. This is the most serious of the three offences, and is punishable by imprisonment for life.

Any other Criminal Code sentences levied against a member of a criminal organization must be served consecutively with the above mentioned convictions. Further, there are Criminal Code provisions which can be applied in combination with the provisions that define the three criminal organization offences. Examples include conspiracy (section 465), forming an intention in common to carry out an unlawful purpose (section 21), aiding and abetting (section 21) and counselling (section 22) a person to commit a crime.

In order to secure a Criminal Code conviction for any offence related to organized crime the Crown must prove, as a preliminary matter, the existence of a "criminal organization", as defined in s. 467.1, and membership in it. In order to establish this initial step and allow for the organized crime provisions to apply, the Crown must establish that the criminal organization has some form of structure and degree of continuity. As such, the courts have given a wide interpretation to what constitutes ‘organized’. If the scope of the legislation was limited to the stereotypical model of organized crime, there would be great difficulty in applying these provisions and securing convictions. In the Supreme Court of Canada decision, R. v. Venneri [2012] 2 S.C.R. 211, the fact that the defendant was not an actual member of the criminal organization in question did not preclude a finding that the defendant operated "in association with" the organization when he acted as its client and its supplier contrary to s. 467.12 of the Criminal Code. The court found that phrase "in association with" captures offences that advance, at least to some degree, the interests of a criminal organization.

Further considerations that the courts have taken in determining whether an individual participates in or actively contributes to any activity of a criminal organization include whether they use a name, word, symbol, or other representation that identifies, or is associated with, that criminal organization; whether they frequently associate with any of the persons who constitute the criminal organization; whether they receive any type of benefit from the criminal organization; and whether they engage in activities at the instruction of any of the persons who constitute the criminal organization.

The Supreme Court of Canada has also interpreted the organized crime provisions of the criminal code to determine that a group, rather than individuals, can be considered a criminal organization. In R. v. Lindsay 2005 CarswellOnt 2911, an Ontario court found that the Hells Angels were a “criminal organization” as that term is defined in the Criminal Code. However, the courts have also shown some restraint with regards interpreting the proper seizure and forfeiture of ‘offence related property’ as it pertains to organized crime. In a case once again involving the Hells Angels, R. v. Myles 2012 ONSC 6772, the court found that club owned property with the Hells Angels insignia did not constitute offence-related property. This was despite the fact that the crown argued that the symbols were used to intimate, and thus used in furtherance of their organized crime offences.

How Defence Lawyers in Edmonton Identify Common Organized Crime Offences

The most common offences committed by organized crime groups in Canada involve the sale, production and trafficking of drugs. The Criminal Code deals with unlawful “possession” of controlled or illegal substances and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act deals with ownership of substances, according to five categories of drugs listed in schedules. The potential or probable sentence depends on the type of controlled substance according to the schedule, the quantity and whether the Crown prosecution proceeds by way of summary conviction or indictment.

Organized crime offences can also involve breaking and entering. This charge entails breaking into and entering a private property to commit with the intent of committing an indictable offence, most typically theft or to assault or threaten a person with violence. If committed in relation to a dwelling house, the offence can result in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; for a non-dwelling house such as a business, a ten year sentence is the maximum time frame that can be awarded. These charges are often known as home invasions.

Theft can also be deemed an organized activity where there are three or more individuals seeking to profit, including theft of an automobile. Theft is categorized according to whether the property stolen had a total value of $5,000 or less and was above $5,000, with the former treated either as a summary conviction offence (where liability is imprisonment up to two years) or an indictable offence, while the latter is an indictable offence (where liability is imprisonment of up to ten years). The actual sentence for each case varies depending in part on the level of offence and whether there is a prior related criminal record.

Assault charges crimes that can occur in organized form by three or more people. Assault charges are categorized by three types. Level 1 or simple assaults are offences causing little or no physical harm (e.g., slapping, pushing, shoving, punching or threatening to harm) and carry a maximum sentence of five years. Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm is an indictable offence or a summary conviction offence. Aggravated assault is an indictable offence only, and it entails endangering, wounding, maiming or disfiguring a person.

Legislation Targeting Organized Crime

Statutory measures have been put in place over the years to deal with criminal gang activity. If you’re seeking legal counsel in Edmonton, your defense lawyer will be able to identify these measures for you. Bill C-95, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, was passed in 1997 to add a definition of “criminal organization” and “criminal organization offence” to the Code. It made organized crime an indictable offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail, a recognizance to be used for members of criminal organizations to prevent them from engaging in criminal activities, restrictions on judicial interim release, longer wait times before parole eligibility, an provisions related to dealing with forfeiture of property used to commit an offence among other amendments, including categorizing murder committed with the use of explosives as a first-degree murder charge.

In 2001, Bill C-24, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, was passed to simplify the definition of organized crime, reduced the minimum number of people connected with a group from five to three, and it no longer required the criminal activities to have occurred in the previous five years in order for the group to be considered a criminal organization. The bill also provided more flexibility to undercover officers, and it made the use of intimidation and recruitment administration of justice offences.

In 2001, in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in the U.S., the Anti-Terrorism Act was also established, which extended the powers of the Canadian government and institutions to respond to the threat of terrorism. The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act was also amended in 2001 to become the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and Terrorist Financing Act in an effort to prevent the financing of terrorist activities.

Rod Gregory – A Highly Skilled Criminal Defence Lawyer in Edmonton, Fort McMurray and surrounding Alberta areas

Charges related to organized crime require a highly skilled criminal lawyer to handle successfully. Rod Gregory is the defence lawyer who can represent your case. He has worked on criminal defence cases in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie and the rest of the Western Canada.