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What is Public Mischief and How Serious Is a Public Mischief Charge?

Public mischief is a criminal offence under the Canadian Criminal Code. 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.

Public mischief is a hybrid offence, which means that the crime can be prosecuted either summarily (less serious) or by indictment (more serious). The penalty for the offence of public mischief will depend on how the case is prosecuted. One possible sentencing outcome is jail if the matter is dealt with by indictment. On the other hand, if the case is dealt with summarily, then the sentence can range anywhere from and not limited to a fine to probation or community service.

It is important that you retain the services of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defence lawyer, who can try to have your case resolved outside the formal court process.

Section 140 of the Criminal Code defines public mischief as follows:

Public mischief

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.


(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.

A Word on Penalties for Public Mischief

If the Crown chooses to proceed by summary conviction, the maximum punishment is 6 months in a provincial jail and/or a $5,000.00 fine. If the Crown chooses to proceed by indictable conviction, the maximum punishment is five years imprisonment. Additional fines and probation may also be imposed. Restitution is also a possibility to compensate taxpayers. These amounts can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What the Crown has to Prove

In order for a conviction to occur, the Crown has to prove a number of elements to support the offence of public mischief. The Crown must show:

  • the accused reported an offence;
  • the accused’s actions or words were false;
  • the accused intended to mislead; and,
  • the accused’s actions or words caused a peace officer to start or continue an investigation.

Examples of Public Mischief

Here are a few examples of what acts may constitute the criminal offence of public mischief:

  • False 911 calls
  • False request for ambulance
  • False request for fire-fighters
  • False accusations
  • False allegations of domestic abuse
  • False allegations of assault
  • False missing persons report
  • False robbery report

Contact Our Office for Assistance

If you are facing a public mischief charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact the Aitken Robertson office and speak with one of our proficient criminal defence lawyers. We offer free 30-minute consultations and look forward to helping you resolve your matter.

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