R. v. Sullivan, R. v. Chan and R v. Brown.

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in R. v. Sullivan, R. v. Chan and R v. Brown. The Court concluded that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada which says self-induced intoxication cannot be used as a legal defence is unconstitutional. At the heart of the Supreme Court’s ruling is a concern that a legally innocent person could be found guilty of a crime they did not intend to commit while in an automatic state caused by extreme impairment from drugs or alcohol. 

These decisions do not open the floodgates to excuse serious or violent crimes committed while a person is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

This legal defence will only rarely succeed if a person can establish, with the aid of medical evidence, that their extreme intoxication caused them to commit a crime while they were acting in an automatic state without the ability to voluntary control their body or actions.

Canada’s criminal laws aim to punish people who intend their actions, rather than to criminalize behaviour or actions someone did not intend, nor could they control. Today’s Supreme Court of Canada rulings protects the legally innocent from being wrongfully convicted. 

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