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Toronto Mischief Charges Lawyer

Public Mischief Charges under Section 140 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada

Public Mischief is a distinct form of mischief that involves falsely reporting crimes to the police resulting in unnecessary investigations, wasted public resources, and sometimes criminal charges being laid against innocent third parties.

Generally speaking, public mischief charges are considered more serious and attract greater punishments for first time offenders than most regular mischief charges. Toronto area Crown Attorneys often seek jail for first time offenders charged with Public Mischief.

The offence of Public Mischief is codified in Section 140 (1) of the Criminal Code which reads:

140 (1) Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by

  • (a) making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;
  • (b) doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;
  • (c) reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or
  • (d) reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.

While public mischief charges can arise from numerous fact scenarios most involve false or misleading 911 calls requiring police/fire/ambulance assistance and individuals lying to the police of giving false statements in an attempt to criminalize a third party.

If someone calls 911 to report a crime, the police and other emergency first responders must attend the scene to investigate and tend to victims. When the call turns out to be untrue or misleading, this causes a tremendous waste of public resources. Innocent individuals may also end up being arrested and charged for crimes they did not commit.

This not only puts the liberty of innocent third parties in jeopardy, it also can waste tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in public taxpayer money. The manpower and time that is wasted to respond to the false call could have been used to assist people who were actually in need (or assist them faster and more thoroughly). Furthermore, private business, residences, and other dwellings may need to be evacuated resulting in additional losses.

Given large amount of disruption and harm, Public Mischief is considered a very serious offence for which the Crown Attorney will often seek a jail sentence, criminal record, and probation for even a first time offender with no prior record.

What are the most common aggravating factors in Public Mischief cases?

While each case is unique, the two most common aggravating factors are when the false allegation causes:

  1. an innocent person (or persons) to end up being arrested and charged with a offence (the more serious the offence, the more aggravating);

  2. the police, fire department, EMT, etc. to expend a large amount of time, money, and resources in response.

A response from one police officer attending a scene and quickly discovering the report was false without any innocent party being arrested is not nearly as aggravating as multiple police, fire, and EMS workers responding, abandoning an office building, and arresting, charging, and holding multiple people in custody who later turn out to be innocent.

The seriousness of the crime for which the innocent person is being accused of is also relevant. It is worse to provide a false statement accusing someone of child sexual interference than of being a common nuisance. Cases that fall under s. 140 (1)(b) are also inherently aggravating especially if the accused it alleged to have fabricated a story to incriminate an innocent third party to escape personal prosecution for a crime.

The Crown Attorney will look at what actually transpired as a result of the false statement given to the police or 911, along with the content/seriousness of the false allegation when evaluating the case. Like any case, the accused’s background and prior history with the police is also relevant. Those who have a history of public mischief charges in their past will be treated far more harshly.

Most people who commit Public Mischief are motivated by revenge, anger, and desperation.

Sometimes when a person believes they've been wronged, they can become overwhelmed with feelings of anger, the need for revenge, or feel desperate to recover their losses. All of these feelings can lead them to provide false statements to the police or to a 911 operator. Other factors such as the influence of alcohol also often play a role.

Nightclub / Alcohol related incidents

A common form of Public Mischief occurs when an individual gets into a dispute or feels as though they have been mistreated at an event, nightclub, restaurant, bar, etc. and calls 911 to report a fabricated crime involving the bouncers, owners, or fellow patrons they are angry with. These incidents are normally alcohol related.

Often the false allegation is that they were assaulted, threatened, or had property stolen from them. Lost or misplaced property (often a cell phone) may be reported as stolen. Those thrown out of nightclubs while their jacket remains inside the coat check area may call 911 and report they were the victim of a “robbery” or “theft”. Regardless of the false allegation, Police will respond, speak to club security, and often end up charging the drunken patron with Public Mischief.

Prostitution related public mischief

Prostitutes, and/or their pimps, frequently get into disputes with clients. These disputes usually involve payment, services rendered, and misleading advertisements online. A certain percentage of unsatisfied clients (johns) will foolishly call the police and falsely report that the prostitute (and/or their pimp) robbed, assaulted, stole from or threatened them.

These calls are often a knee jerk reaction to a bad experience or feeling as though they had been mistreated or ripped off. Revenge, anger, and trying to “get even” are the typical emotions behind them. The police will respond, conduct interviews, and sometimes make arrests. If their investigation reveals the 911 caller was untruthful the client/john will be charged with Public Mischief.

Revenge for property believed to be stolen or damaged by a third party

Police reports are sometimes filed by victims of theft or vandalism (mischief) who believe they know who is responsible but may have little evidence (eye witnesses, CCTV, admissions of guilt, etc.) to support their claim. These cases can involve neighbours, relatives, coworkers, former friends, ex partners, spouses, or sometimes total strangers. The stolen or damaged property may be incredibly important to the complainant such as a computer or cell phone which may contain data that is not replaceable or highly personal/sensitive. Other times, the property is expensive/valuable or sentimental to the person who is at a loss.

Such circumstances can be extremely frustrating for the property owner who feels certain they know who the culprit is. Motivated by anger, revenge, or an overwhelming feeling of desperation to recover their important lost property they may lie, embellish, exaggerate, or make up evidence they provide to 911 or directly to the police in a statement (which may or may not be recorded) thinking it is justified or required to rectify their loss.

The person they believe stole or damaged their property may be arrested, held for bail, charged, and required to attend court (for theft, break and enter, robbery, mischief etc.) while the police continue to investigate. If the police determine that the statement provided by the property owner was false or misleading they will be charged with public mischief and possibly also obstruction of justice. Not only has the false report caused an expensive, time consuming investigation, it also may have resulted in a third party being falsely arrested and criminally charged, held for bail, and deprived of their liberty. The criminal justice system takes these sorts of fact scenarios extremely seriously and often harsh punishments and permanent criminal records are sought.

Domestic dispute false reports

In domestic assault, utter threats, and mischief cases often the police press charges solely based on a report or statement made by one partner/spouse. Domestic charges will virtually always leads to a lengthy ban on contact/communication between the two parties and potential punishments of jail, probation, and a criminal record. When the spouse that made the original incriminating statement soon realizes the seriousness of the situation they sometimes go back to the police and say they lied in their original statement in a desperate attempt to help their spouse. While the police will vigorously, and often under oath, warn the individual that providing a false statement is a crime, some will proceed anyway and find themselves charged for public mischief, obstruction of justice, or even perjury in some cases.

Mental health disorders motivating Public Mischief

Although far less common, some people who are suffering from depression, bi-polar, Schizophrenia, or another psychological illness, will falsely report crimes in order to observe the police and sometimes the media respond. These individuals are committing public mischief for a thrill which for them is a form of relief from their personal mental anguish. While this behaviour is often linked to mental health problems this does not negate the consequences.

As the recidivism rate is high for these offenders the justice system often punishes them harshly to denounce their behaviour and try to prevent them from reoffending when released back into the community. Those with existing prior criminal records for similar behaviour will often be sentenced to lengthy jail terms if no mental health related alternatives are available for them.

Punishments and consequences for Public Mischief charges

As mentioned above public mischief, even in the most minor of circumstances, is considered a serious criminal offence. The Crown Attorney’s Office will almost always prosecute this crime heavily. Jail and a criminal record is often sought for first time offenders charged with public mischief even if they have never been arrested before in their life.

The potential punishments are detailed in Section 140 (2) of the Criminal Code which reads:

140 (2) Every one who commits public mischief

  • (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
  • (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The legislation means that Public Mischief is a Crown Elect indictable offence. If the Crown elects to proceed by summary conviction this means the maximum punishment is 6 months in a provincial jail; otherwise the maximum is five years by indictment. Additional fines and probation may also be imposed. Restitution may also be sought to cover the cost of the offence to taxpayers. There is no limit to how much restitution may be ordered against a defendant but these amounts can easily range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Like any other criminal offence, those charged also many find themselves being denied entry when attempting to travel to the United States and other countries, have problems with their immigration applications to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and find themselves with a criminal record which may cause them to lose their job and be denied employment opportunities in the future. A criminal record may also bar the accused from participation/membership for most regulated professions such as teaching, nursing, engineering, real estate, pharmacy, policing, law, medicine, auto sales, financial sector jobs, etc.

Call us today

You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with mischief in the Toronto area.

Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on mischief charges protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record and conviction.

    call us: 647-228-5969


  call us: 647-228-5969


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  We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
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  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
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  • Experienced, focused counsel