Absolute Liability Offences

Absolute liability offences are ones where you are liable whether or not you were at fault. How do you know whether your offence is an absolute liability offence? It's not carved in stone. Any violation can be interpreted to be a certain type of liability. You would have to examine the intent of the legislation, the harshness of the penalty, an explicit requirement that determining guilt only requires proof of the illegal act, or there is a clear exclusion of the reasonable care defence. In those situations, then yes, your offence is an absolute liability offence.

Some effective defences against absolute liability offences are:

Defence of Involuntariness: you did not have voluntary control. For example, you were discretely and involuntarily given a substance that affected your judgement or ability to control your actions or a vehicle. Alcohol or the date rape drug Rohypnol are examples. Or perhaps your passenger grabbed the steering wheel and you lost control of the vehicle.

Defence of causation: the prosecutor must prove that you caused the illegal act. Your defence is that your contribution to the illegal act was minimal. For example, in a multi-car pileup you may have been hit first which caused you to hit other vehicles.

Defence of necessity: there must be an imminent risk or peril that you are avoiding which causes you to commit the illegal act. The harm inflicted must be less than the harm avoided. There must be no reasonable legal alternative to what you did. The emergency must not be reasonably anticipated. For example, a person with a suspended licence drives an injured person to the hospital. Key to this defence is that an ambulance would not be able to respond in time.

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