During his trial for shoplifting, Tom was pretty annoyed to learn that his “little lies” and “little lapses of memory” had serious consequences. He was told that these were criminal offences! Tom did not think it was serious if, for example, he lied to a police officer or did not respect a promise to appear in court. After all, he told himself, other people accused of breaking the law do the same thing.
In this article, Éducaloi briefly explains offences against the administration of justice and the work of police officers.
What can be considered as obstructing the work of police officers?
The fact that a police officer’s work is complicated by a person’s behaviour could be interpreted by the courts as obstructing the work of police officers.
For example, at the time of his arrest, Tom panicked. Having left his wallet at home, he decided under a moment’s impulse to give a false name – Marcel – to the police officer. This was not a good idea, since giving a false name obstructs the work of a police officer.
Other situations that could be considered as obstructing the work of a police officer include preventing a police officer from arresting a person, refusing to move along after a police officer asks you to do so, or resisting an arrest.
The maximum sentence for obstructing the work of police officers is two years of imprisonment.
What are the legal consequences of lying under oath?
A person who makes a false statement after taking an oath (by swearing or by solemnly affirming to tell the truth) commits the offence of perjury. In order to be considered as an offence, a false statement must have been made, particularly, while giving evidence or in an affidavit (statement written under oath).
During a trial, Michael tried to exonerate himself by claiming that his brother Will stole money from him, knowing very well that this wasn’t true. A regular at the courthouse, Michael had also once falsely stated in an affidavit, during his divorce proceedings, that his ex-spouse, Leslie, had cheated on him. In both cases, Michael committed the offence of perjury.
The maximum sentence for perjury is 14 years of imprisonment.
What does “contradictory evidence” mean?
Evidence is considered to be contradictory when a person testifies to something during a legal proceeding (for example, during a trial) and later on, during another proceeding, testifies to the opposite effect. In order to declare a person guilty of giving “contradictory evidence”, the judge must be convinced that the accused person intended to deceive.
For example, during Mr. Brutus’ trial, Paul gives evidence to the effect that Mr. Brutus threatened to kill him. As a result, Mr. Brutus is found guilty of the offence of having uttered threats. But, a few weeks later, during another trial, Paul gives evidence to the effect that Mr. Brutus never threatened to kill him. As such, Paul gave “contradictory evidence”.
The maximum sentence for giving “contradictory evidence” is 14 years of imprisonment.
What is obstructing justice?
A person obstructs justice, when he attempts to pervert, defeat, or obstruct the course of justice. For example, when he:
- dissuades (or at least tries to dissuade) someone from giving evidence by threatening him or offering to bribe him with money, a benefit of some sort, a discount, a job, etc.
- accepts or obtains a bribe in return for not giving evidence
Judith is accused of physically assaulting Louis Cyr. The day before the trial, thinking that she can get herself out of this mess, Judith begs Louis not to give evidence at the trial, offering him a large sum of money in return. Judith’s behaviour constitutes obstructing justice, as would Louis Cyr’s behaviour if he accepted the money.
On the other hand, if Judith contacted Louis Cyr to convince him not to give evidence, but without threatening him or without trying to bribe him, her behaviour would not be considered as obstructing justice.
In these cases, the maximum sentence for obstructing justice is 10 years of imprisonment.
When does someone commit public mischief?
The offence of public mischief is committed when a person, with the intention of deceiving, gets a peace officer to start or continue an investigation, including:
- By making a false statement which accuses another person of having committed an offence;
- By doing something that makes another person suspected of an offence;
- By reporting an offence that was not committed.
For example, Tony goes to the police station and reports that his car was stolen. In reality though, his car was not stolen and he had sold it to his cousin. By lying to the police, Tony hoped to double the stake and file a claim with his insurance company, while keeping the money from the sale. Tony therefore commits public mischief by his complaint to the police…and fraud if he files a claim with his insurance company.
The maximum sentence for public mischief is five years of imprisonment.
I received an order to go to court. What happens if I don’t show up at court?
When a person receives a promise to appear, an appearance notice, or a summons telling him to show up at court and he fails to do so without a legitimate reason, he commits the offence of failure to appear. In such a case, the judge has the power to issue an arrest warrant for the absent person.
Following yet another arrest, Jacques is released and given a promise to appear at court. On the date indicated in this promise, Jacques does not show up at court and does not even get his lawyer to represent him there, preferring instead to play golf. He has committed the offence of failure to comply with a promise to appear.
If Jacques is very sick on the day of his appearance, to the point that he has to be urgently hospitalized, it is then possible to consider his hospitalization as a legitimate reason for not appearing.
The maximum sentence for this offence is two years of imprisonment.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.