The offence of Public Mischief is found at s. 140 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Simply put the offence of Public Mischief involves any misleading statement or action that causes a police officer to enter or continue an investigation. In most cases the Crown will proceed by summary conviction which lessens the potential penalty if convicted.
What the criminal code says about "Public Mischief" - Section 140 (1)
140(1)Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by
- (a)making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;
- (b)doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;
- (c)reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or
- (d)reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.
(2) Every one who commits public mischief
- (a)is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
- (b)is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
We have successfully negotiated
In many cases, we have successfully negotiated a withdrawal of the charge with upfront community service and a letter of apology to the Police officer involved.
These cases often involve the giving of false identity when being pulled over by the police for a traffic violation. There is a section under the Highway Traffic Act that also deals with providing a false statement or inaccurate information. We have often been able to have the charge of Public Mischief reduced to a plea to the offence under the Highway Traffic Act for a small fine. As a result our clients avoid a criminal record.
Section 9 of the HTA deals with false statements or providing inaccurate information
(1) Every person who makes a false statement or includes inaccurate information in a written or electronic application, declaration, affidavit or other document required by this Act, the regulations or the Ministry is guilty of an offence and on conviction, in addition to any other penalty or punishment to which the person may be liable, is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 30 days, or to both, and in addition the person’s driver’s licence or vehicle permit may be suspended for a period of not more than six months. 2005, c. 26, Sched. A, s. 2.
Penalty for false statement, inaccurate information
(1) Every person who submits a false or inaccurate document, makes a false statement or includes inaccurate information in or with a written or electronic application, declaration, affidavit or other document required by the Ministry or under this Act is guilty of an offence and on conviction, in addition to any other penalty or punishment to which the person may be liable, is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 30 days, or to both, and in addition the person’s driver’s licence or vehicle permit may be suspended for a period of not more than six months. 2008, c. 17, s. 32 (1).
The other closely related charge that often accompanies a public mischief charge is the offence of obstruct justice. This is found at section 139 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
- 139(1)Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice in a judicial proceeding,
- (a)by indemnifying or agreeing to indemnify a surety, in any way and either in whole or in part, or
- (b)where he is a surety, by accepting or agreeing to accept a fee or any form of indemnity whether in whole or in part from or in respect of a person who is released or is to be released from custody,
is guilty of
- (c)an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or
- (d)an offence punishable on summary conviction.
(2) Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner other than a manner described in subsection (1) to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
(3) Without restricting the generality of subsection (2), every one shall be deemed wilfully to attempt to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice who in a judicial proceeding, existing or proposed,
- (a)dissuades or attempts to dissuade a person by threats, bribes or other corrupt means from giving evidence;
- (b)influences or attempts to influence by threats, bribes or other corrupt means a person in his conduct as a juror; or
- (c)accepts or obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain a bribe or other corrupt consideration to abstain from giving evidence, or to do or to refrain from doing anything as a juror.
It is important to note that s. 139(2) and s. 139(3) require the Crown to proceed by indictment. The charge of public mischief under the Criminal Code gives the Crown a discretion to proceed by way of summary conviction or by indictment. Proceeding by way of summary conviction is considered less serious and is important in the overall scheme of things. Firstly, the sentence for a summary matter is likely to be less. In addition if convicted of an indictable offence, an individual is not allowed to apply for a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon) until 10 years after the expiration of the sentence. For summary conviction matters, the period of wait time is 5 years.
The consequence and solution
The potential consequences include:
- Criminal Record
- Problems going to US and other countries
It is obviously of significant importance that representations be made to persuade the Crown to proceed summarily rather than by indictment.
Our criminal lawyers have experienced handling Public Mischief charges and can help you.
These offences are often committed instantaneously without planning. The decision to provide misleading information was simply a knee jerk reaction and should not result in a criminal prosecution. Again negotiations with the Crown are required. We often present a complete picture of our clients – resume, letters of reference, letter of apology, up front community service or a charitable donation – in order to negotiate the proper result for our clients.