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causing a disturbance

In Canada, the Crown has an election with respect to most Criminal Code offences.  Offences for which the Crown has a choice of procedure are called “hybrid” offences. A hybrid offence is a crime that can be prosecuted by summary conviction or indictment.

The Crown’s election concerns the manner in which an offence is to be prosecuted. Summary procedure is less serious, attracting lower penalties on conviction. By contrast, Indictable offences or offences prosecuted by Indictment attract higher penal consequences.

Some offences in the Criminal Code must always be prosecuted by indictment. For example, murder is always an Indictable offence. There are a small number of offences in the Criminal Code that are always prosecuted by way of summary procedure; one such example being “causing a disturbance”.

175 (1) Every one who

(a) not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place,

(i) by fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language,

(ii) by being drunk, or

(iii) by impeding or molesting other persons,

(b) openly exposes or exhibits an indecent exhibition in a public place,

(c) loiters in a public place and in any way obstructs persons who are in that place, or

(d) disturbs the peace and quiet of the occupants of a dwelling-house by discharging firearms or by other disorderly conduct in a public place or who, not being an occupant of a dwelling-house comprised in a particular building or structure, disturbs the peace and quiet of the occupants of a dwelling-house comprised in the building or structure by discharging firearms or by other disorderly conduct in any part of a building or structure to which, at the time of such conduct, the occupants of two or more dwelling-houses comprised in the building or structure have access as of right or by invitation, express or implied,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) In the absence of other evidence, or by way of corroboration of other evidence, a summary conviction court may infer from the evidence of a peace officer relating to the conduct of a person or persons, whether ascertained or not, that a disturbance described in paragraph (1)(a) or (d) or an obstruction described in paragraph (1)(c) was caused or occurred.

causing a disturbance explained

Causing a Disturbance is one of the less serious offences recognized in the Criminal Code of Canada. As the language suggests, a key element to the offence of “causing a disturbance” is that there must be a “disturbance”. The meaning of “disturbance”, however, was interpreted more narrowly by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Lohnes, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 167.  Specifically, to prove that a “disturbance” has been “caused” for the purpose of attracting criminal sanction, there must be evidence of an “externally manifested disturbance” in a “public place”. An externally manifested disturbance is one that interferes with the customary conduct in or near a public place.  Lohnes supra further holds that the accused must have reasonably foreseen that a disturbance would occur. Proof of the disturbance requires a person to be affected or disturbed and as such, merely observing the accused’s behaviour is not enough to sustain a conviction.

evaluating the crime: causing a disturbance

Evaluating whether the behaviour constitutes causing a disturbance for the purpose of our criminal law requires a close scrutiny of the facts.  David Chow has been defending person’s accused of causing a disturbance in Calgary since 1999. One of his first clients as a law student with Student Legal Assistance was a young adult charged with causing a disturbance near the Eau Claire mall in Calgary. Since 1999 David has defended some of the most serious criminal offences in our law, including multi-kilo level drug trafficking, home invasion and murder. David Chow is a Calgary criminal lawyer and Calgary impaired driving lawyer with nearly twenty-years of real litigation experience, running real trials in Calgary, throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

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