Offence Act Prosecutions
Local governments may enforce their bylaws by using a long form information under the Offence Act, which is a process through the provincial courts used for major bylaw contraventions.
The Offence Act provides a default if a local government has not established penalties by bylaw or if the local government has no specific enforcement scheme such as the municipal ticket information system. Offence Act prosecutions can be used even if specific enforcement schemes are in place and is the appropriate method of enforcing major bylaw contraventions.
A bylaw may establish the minimum or maximum fine that the local government can seek. However, if no penalty is specified, those under the Offence Act apply. Unless otherwise specifically provided in an enactment, a person who is convicted of an offence is liable to a fine up to $2,000, to imprisonment up to six months, or to both. The actual fine imposed in a specific case is determined by the provincial court judge.
Major Bylaw Contraventions
Due to the serious nature of major bylaw infractions, the court process under the Offence Act is far more formalized than the process for minor to medium ticketing contraventions under the Community Charter Bylaw Enforcement Ticket Regulation; both processes are more formalized than the administrative (non-court) process for minor contraventions through a bylaw notice enforcement system.
Local governments may set larger penalties (up to $10,000 in fines and six months imprisonment) for major infractions prosecuted under the Offence Act. In addition to the monetary and imprisonment penalties, the court may also impose additional orders upon a person convicted of a bylaw contravention. The court, based on the nature and circumstances of the contravention, may prohibit the convicted person from engaging in any activity that may result in the repetition of the offence; and, may direct the convicted person to remedy the harm that resulted from the offence.
Prosecutions under the Offence Act are intended for serious bylaw contraventions - the maximum possible penalty for municipal bylaw contraventions is $10,000 and 6 months imprisonment.
Prosecution under the Offence Act begins with the police or bylaw enforcement officer swearing a long-form information in front of a provincial court justice, who then issues a summons for the person alleged to have contravened the bylaw to appear at court. There is no opportunity to simply pay a fine to end the proceeding - the justice must hear the case and make a decision in the matter..
Due to the greater seriousness of matters prosecuted under a long-form Information, the proceedings are more formal, and all parties are typically represented by lawyers.
Certain matters, such as an offence related to the discharge of a firearm, may only be initiated by long-form Information. Such matters are sufficiently serious that it is in the public interest for the person alleged to have contravened the bylaw to be heard by or admit guilt in front of the court.