What are the rules of evidence when it comes to prior criminal convictions and their use in civil proceedings? Have you ever wondered if your prior criminal convictions can affect your Ottawa personal injury case is to mark this issue is extremely important for all persons involved in litigation who seek to tender this type of evidence in court. From a legal standpoint, the legal basis by which to admit evidence of a prior criminal convictions in a subsequent civil proceeding is set out in Ontario statute called the Ontario Evidence Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.23. Under this statute, a person involved in a civil proceeding may tender evidence of a prior criminal conviction by way of producing a certificate of conviction or otherwise as proof that the convicted person committed the offense outlined in a certificate. It’s important to ensure that there is no appeal in process when tendering a certificate of conviction. It’s also important to ensure that a discharge has not been obtained in relation to the conviction.
How is the use of a prior criminal conviction useful in subsequent civil proceedings? There are two main ways in which tendering a certificate of conviction may assist in a civil proceeding. The first is that just get of conviction is very persuasive on proving liability because the standard of proof required to establish guilt in a criminal proceeding is much higher than in a civil proceeding. In a civil proceeding the standard of proof is on a balance of probabilities whereas in a criminal proceeding the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a much harder standard to prove. In addition, evidence of a prior criminal convictions is often used in a subsequent civil proceeding to show on a prima facie (basic) basis that the commission of the offense upon which the conviction was obtained occurred. Of course, the person with the criminal conviction can provide further evidence to challenge the conviction in the civil proceeding.
In a Supreme Court of Canada decision of Toronto (City) v. CUPE, Local 79, the court identifies four common legal doctrines that the courts commonly used to balance the prejudice of introducing criminal conviction certificates in a civil proceeding: They are issue estoppel, collateral attack, res judicata and abuse of process.
The use of prior criminal convictions in civil proceedings is particularly helpful when the tort claim being advanced by the victim includes a criminal act by the defendant. Proving that the defendant was found guilty of the act can greatly assist in proving the elements of the civil action. However, there are numerous pitfalls in terms of evidentiary principles to be followed when introducing prior criminal convictions.
If you have been injured by a criminal act of another, in a car accident, slip and fall, trip and fall or dog bite case or some how way, our lawyers can provide you with a free consultation and accept your case on a no fee until you win basis. Call us today at 613-315-4878.
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