Notable Differences Between The Canadian & American Legal Systems

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Many clients wonder what the main differences are between the Canadian and American legal systems. How are court cases handled in each country? There are some unique differences that stand out in the way that each country navigates through a given court case. While there are advantages to each system, it’s important to note where they differ.

For a brief overview of how these two countries compare when it comes to their legal system, read this breakdown to learn the differences:

Criminal Law Jurisdiction

One of the most significant differences between Canadian and American law is the way that each country handles its criminal code. The entire country of Canada is under one federal Criminal Code, making it easier for everyone to know and understand what the law expects of them. The United States is different: They allow each state to determine its own criminal law instead of placing it under federal jurisdiction. 

Death Penalties

Canadian residents can rejoice in one of the most notable differences between the United States and Canada – there is no death penalty in Canada. It has been decades since the last death penalty was enacted here, but the United States continues this punishment in the majority of states across the country. 

Sentencing Structures

Sentences are handled in very different ways between these two countries. In the United States, criminal offences are granted punishments based on the severity of the crime. You will hear their crimes listed out as either first-, second-, or third-degree in each category. The rules for these punishments are set out and clearly defined, making sentencing easier on the judge if someone is found guilty.

Canada has a much different system when it comes to sentencing. Their laws lay out a defined minimum and maximum, but judges are given the freedom to create their own sentences to fit the crime at hand. Things are a lot more flexible when it comes to sentencing in this country, especially compared to the United States. 

Excused From Testifying

In United States courtrooms, it’s common to hear the expression “pleading the Fifth” in reference to the Fifth Amendment. This is designed to protect a person on trial from having to answer questions that may incriminate them. Canadian law is similar, allowing a person to refrain from incriminating themselves, but they are not excused from giving testimony in the same way that the United States allows.

Language Options

Because Canada has two national languages, its courts are bilingual as well. Anyone who is on trial can request to have their hearing in either English or French. On the other hand, American courts are only facilitated in English. 

Hiring the Right Defence Lawyer

If you find yourself fighting criminal charges in Canada, you need an experienced Winnipeg defence lawyer. Brodsky, Amy & Gould can help you face the charges for a more favourable outcome. Give us a call today to see how we can help you navigate through your court case!