A criminal organization is defined in s. 467.1 of the Criminal Code as a group of three or more people where one of its main purposes is to facilitate the commission of one or more serious criminal offences. Serious criminal offences include any offence for which a sentence of 5 years or more is required on conviction.

The purpose of the group does not have to be primarily or exclusively criminal. A criminal organization does not include a group of persons that forms randomly for the immediate commission of a single offence. 

Individuals charged with criminal organization offences are typically alleged to have enhanced an existing criminal organization, committed an offence for the benefit of a criminal organization, or instructed the commission of an offence for a criminal organization. 

Prosecutions of criminal organization offences are highly complex. Typically, the offences relating to criminal organizations include murder, fraud, money laundering, drug and firearms trafficking. In addition, some criminal offences are also modified by the existence of a criminal organization. These include: conspiracies, counseling to commit a criminal offence, accessory after the fact, possessing explosives for a criminal organization, and intimidating the justice system and journalists. 

Police powers to obtain wiretaps are expanded when targeting criminal organizations. For example, investigative necessity is not required to obtain a wiretap in relation to a criminal organization. In certain circumstances, the Crown is allowed to rely on what is ordinarily inadmissible bad character evidence to establish that a criminal organization exists. 

At trial, the Crown is required to prove the group is a criminal organization. Some factors that a court may consider in deciding whether a group is a criminal organization may include: 

  • the existences of rules as between the members;

  • defined roles and structures;

  • communications between the members; and 

  • an organizational structure that promotes the commission of offences.

Criminal organization offences are not limited to stereotypical models of organized crime like the “Italian Mafia”, “Hell’s Angels”, “Russian Mafia”, and “Triads”. They can apply to small drug operations, conventional street gangs, and even business executives involved in insider trading or money laundering. 

A conviction for a criminal organization offence has very serious life altering consequences. The sentences for these offences are high and run consecutively. 

Yoav has extensive experience representing clients charged with criminal organization and related offences ranging from small drug operations, street gangs, and international criminal organizations.



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