Increases in Car Thefts / Jackings in Toronto – A Criminal Law PerspectiveAndrew Captan
THE RISE IN CAR JACKINGS
You have probably come across countless news articles about the rise of car thefts in Toronto and the GTA in general in recent months. The car jackings make headlines, due to not only the frequency with which they are occurring, but also their violent nature.
A recent arrest of a 17 and 19 year old for over 10 car jackings was made, leading to over 100 charges being laid against the pair. From January to May, 2022, there were 69 reported car jackings in Toronto, whereas in 2021, a total of 64 were reported the entire year!
WHAT’S BEHIND THE SURGE?
There are probably a combination of a variety of factors at play surrounding the spike in car thefts in the GTA. One of these is likely the COVID-19 driven shortage of semi-conductor microchips required for new vehicles, which has created a supply issue and, resultantly, a significant increase in the demand and value of used vehicles.
Often, but not always, luxury vehicles are being targeted during these car jackings, and even being shipped abroad in shipping containers
TYPES OF CRIMINAL OFFENCES THAT INDIVIDUALS CAN BE CHARGED WITH IF CAUGHT
There are a wide variety of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada that the police can charge perpetrators with. A non-exhaustive list of offences surrounding the mere taking of a vehicle from another person includes:
- Theft Over $5,000 – s 334(a)
- Motor Vehicle Theft – s 333.1(1)
- Possession of Property Obtained by Crime – s 354(1)
- Robbery – s 343(1)
- Break and Enter – s 348(1)
There are also a variety of other offences that the police can lay depending on the way in which the car was stolen. In many of the incidents that have made the news, weapons and violence (or threats of violence) were involved and, in some cases, injuries were sustained by the victims. In this situation, the following are charges that could be laid:
- Assault – s 266
- Assault with weapon – s 267(a)
- Assault causing bodily harm – s 267(b)
- Utter threats – s 264.1(1)
TYPES OF PUNISHMENTS THAT COULD BE IMPOSED IF A PERPRETATOR IS FOUND GUILTY
Generally speaking, there are no “set” punishments for the aforementioned offences, except for the offence of Robbery if a firearm was used in the commission of the offence. Lengthy minimum jail sentences are imposed in those circumstances. For the other offences, the Court would review a number of factors relating to the offence and the offender, such as:
- Whether the individual has a criminal record
- Whether violence or threats of violence were used
- The degree of planning associated with the act
- Any physical or psychological injury suffered by the victim
- Whether the victim was in the car at the time of the car theft
- Whether there was evidence of bad driving after the theft (during the getaway)
- Whether the public’s safety was put in jeopardy during the getaway
Courts would be required to impose a sentence that would serve to deter others from committing a similar act (called General Deterrence), that would denounce the conduct in question (called Denunciation), that would send the message to the offender him/herself that this cannot happen again (called Specific Deterrence) and to separate really violent offenders from society (called Separation).
Lengthy jail sentences would be the “norm” in these cases, particularly given the increased prevalence in these offences, and the Court’s role to limit further behaviour of this nature from happening.