Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced legislation that would amend the Penal Code to ensure that people who voluntarily get excessively drunk can be held legally responsible for their actions while in that state.
The legislation was introduced in response to a Canadian Supreme Court decision in May that said self-induced extreme intoxication can be used as a defense in cases where someone is accused of an act of violence.
“By nullifying this section of the Penal Code, the court’s decision left a loophole in the law. Bill C-28 fills that gap,” Lametti said Friday. “He does it in a way that is both constitutional and fair.
“It modifies the Penal Code so that a person is responsible for the violence that he commits in a state of extreme intoxication if he ended up in that state due to his own criminal negligence.”
CLOCK | Lametti analyzes Bill C-28:
The Department of Justice defines extreme intoxication as a rare state that is nearly impossible to obtain through alcohol use alone, one that leaves a person without voluntary control or awareness of their actions.
To use this defense successfully, attorneys have to prove through evidence and expert testimony that an individual was in this state of extreme intoxication when they committed the acts charged.
In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that extreme intoxication can be used as a legal defense. A year later, Parliament amended the Penal Code by introducing section 33.1 to prevent a defendant from using extreme intoxication as a defense to violent offences. The Supreme Court threw out section 33.1 last month, saying it violated the Bill of Rights.
Bill C-28 is not limited to restoring section 33.1. It seeks to invalidate self-induced extreme intoxication as a legal defense by bringing it into the area of criminal negligence, in the same way that failing to meet the necessities of a child’s life is criminal negligence.
A Justice Department official speaking in the background said that if the legislation becomes law, the courts will have to decide whether a reasonable person should be expected to know that using drugs and alcohol in certain amounts could make them unaware. of their actions.
Under the law, if attorneys can convince a court that a reasonable person should know the effects of consuming intoxicants in certain amounts, they can prove criminal negligence and the defendant can be convicted of the charges he faces.
The recent Supreme Court ruling prompted the measure
The Supreme Court rulings in May of this year are what prompted Lametti to draft the legislation. One of the rulings involved the case of former Mount Royal University student Matthew Brown, who was charged with burglary and aggravated assault in connection with a 2018 incident.
After consuming approximately 2.5 grams of magic mushrooms and drinking about 12 to 14 ounces of vodka and some beer, a naked Brown broke into Janet Hamnett’s home and assaulted her with a broomstick, breaking several bones in her chest. hands.
Brown used the self-induced extreme intoxication defense and was acquitted. The Alberta Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and found Brown guilty of aggravated assault. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court.
In its 104-page ruling on Brown, the Supreme Court overturned the Alberta Court of Appeals decision and urged Parliament to enact legislation to protect victims of violent crimes committed by extremely intoxicated individuals.
The court said “protecting victims of violent crime, particularly in light of the interests of equality and dignity of women and children who are vulnerable to intoxicated sexual and domestic acts, is a compelling and substantial social purpose.”
The other two cases the Supreme Court ruled on at the same time were unanimous decisions in the cases of David Sullivan and Thomas Chan, two Ontario cases argued in conjunction with similar circumstances. The SCC upheld Sullivan’s acquittal and ordered a new trial for Chan.
Lametti said that while this defense can only be used in a few cases, it is important to close the loophole in the law because of misinformation that began to circulate after the Supreme Court ruling.
“Being drunk or high is not a defense to committing criminal acts like sexual assault,” he said. “That was the law before the Supreme Court decision and it’s still the law today. And all Canadians need to clearly understand that.”
Protection of vulnerable groups
Minister for Women, Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien said the government needed to address comments widely circulated on social media platforms that suggested rape and other sexual crimes are legal in Canada as long as the perpetrator was intoxicated.
“The extreme intoxication that we are talking about is not about being drunk, it is not about being high. The Supreme Court has clearly said that drunkenness is not a defense to crimes of violence and sexual assault,” he said.
Ien said women and minorities are already disproportionately vulnerable to acts of violence and sexual violence and allowing the self-induced extreme intoxication defense to stand could threaten their equality and safety.
“We see that indigenous women and girls, people of color and LGBTQ2+ people experience gender-based violence more than any other segment of our society,” she said.
“This is exactly why we make sure that people who choose to use drugs or alcohol in a criminally negligent manner are held criminally responsible.”