Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Is Matlock still practicing?

I readily confess that my understanding of criminal law comes primarily from Jack McCoy, so I am requesting the input of a Canadian lawyer-type:

Isn't there double jeopardy in Canada? I ask because the headline of this CBC story is "Acquittal overturned for 2 cleared in TV piracy case".
MONTREAL - The Quebec Superior Court has reversed the acquittal of two men who imported U.S. cable signals with a grey-market satellite dish.

Justice Wilbrod Claude Decarie found Drummondville, Que., resident Jacques D'Argy and his brother-in-law Richard Thériault guilty of three counts each of appropriating foreign signals.

Judge Danielle Côté cleared the two men in June. She ruled that the federal law that criminalized their actions was unconstitutional because it violated the right to free expression.

I have always understood that acquittal of a criminal charge is permanent and non-reversible. The story does use both "acquittal" and "cleared", which should probably not be used interchangeably, but even if Judge Côté merely dismissed the charges against them, I would still expect that considering the grounds involved the word unconstitutional, the dismissal would be "with prejudice", or whatever the Canadian equivalent is. And, if an appeal court reverses this finding, it would only apply to future prosecutions for the same offense.

Anyone? If I am acquitted of murder, can an appeal court come back and find me guilty? And if so, under what presumably unusual circumstances?


At 12:49 p.m., Blogger Sacamano said...

My legally inclined wife says that we do, indeed, have Double Jeopardy in Canada.

But your terminology is what may be throwing you off. If you are acquitted of murder and that ruling is not appealed or over-turned, then you can never again be charged with the same crime.

However, a ruling of innocence in a lower court can always be appealled by the Crown to a higher court for all kinds of reasons.

This is, apparently, what happend in the case you site. D'Argy and Theriault were acquitted in a lower court, which was then appealed to the Quebec Superior Court where the ruling was over-turned. This is not the same thing as Double Jeopardy.

At 9:04 p.m., Blogger Paul said...

Gotta love Google. I had the same question about substituting a verdict of Guilty on appeal for a finding of Acquittal at trial. I managed to find this page, from Ontario. Quebec, of course, operates under different legal principles although I would assume a similar provision applies there.

Presumably, the Appeals Court is free to apply this section at their discretion (as long as they meet the few restrictions given).

Scroll down to "What kind of decisions can be made by an appeal court?"



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