What does being guilty of a criminal offence mean?

In Canada, being guilty of a crime means a judge or jury decided that:

  • you did something against the law, and
  • you had a guilty state of mind when you broke the law.

Doing something against the law is a guilty act. The legal term for this is . This is the action that you took when you committed the crime. But, it is only half of what is required to be guilty of a criminal .

You must also have had a guilty state of mind when you broke the law. The legal term for this is . This is what you were thinking when you committed the crime. Usually, you must have intended the actus reus.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

To be found guilty of a crime, the Crown has to prove both the guilty act and the guilty state of mind .

For example, to be found guilty of , both of these things must have happened:

  • You must have touched someone without their permission. This is the act.
  • You must have touched that person on purpose. This is the guilty state of mind.

If you accidentally bump into someone, it is not assault. This is because you didn't have a guilty state of mind when you touched that person.

Not criminally responsible

If you or are found guilty after a and you had a specific mental disorder at the time of the act, you may be found not criminally responsible. The mental disorder must have caused you to be unable to understand what you were doing and why it was wrong.

Your mental disorder and its impact must be proven on a . If a judge finds you not criminally responsible, you will not be of the crime. But, you will have to appear before the Ontario Review Board. The Board decides how your mental disorder should be managed as part of your .

Legal help

Talk to a lawyer or for help understanding whether you could be found guilty. They can:

  • help you decide if you did something against the law and had a guilty state of mind
  • give you advice on the Crown's case against you, including the strength of the against you
  • tell you the type of sentence you could get
  • tell you how long you might be in jail  
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