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Should Rob Ford have a criminal record?

Headshot of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Amidst shocking new allegations of snorting cocaine, drinking and driving, consorting with a suspected prostitute and purchasing illegal drugs, it would not be out of line to suggest the possibility of pending criminal charges laid upon Rob Ford.

I’ve heard of rough days at the office, but this is getting ridiculous.

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Even the now infamous mayor himself made two “criminal-like” admissions within the last week:  first, that he had previously smoked crack cocaine, and then on Wednesday, matter-of-factly answering “Yes, I have” in answer to Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s question of whether Ford had purchased illegal drugs at any point within the last two years.

But according to David Weisz’ article on Global News, criminal defense lawyer Lawrence Ben-Eliezer says those admissions alone may not be enough for Toronto police to lay official charges.

At issue, at least from a criminal charges standpoint, is the lack of conciseness in Ford’s statements.  Simply saying that he purchased illegal drugs within the last two years does not specify the type of drug, how much of it, where it was purchased, or from whom it was purchased (although we might be willing to bet on the individual responsible for the latter).

It seems the mayor can’t even break the law correctly.

This is not the first time Ford has made eyebrow-raising admissions.  In the heat of the 2010 mayoral election race to replace incumbent David Miller, Ford referenced his 1999 charge in Florida for DUI – although he forgot to mention that Miami police also charged him with possession of marijuana (the charge was eventually withdrawn, but Ford plead guilty to the DUI).

At the time, Ford attempted to close the door on the issue, stating “I do not have a criminal record”.

In Canada, a criminal record is defined as a listing of an individual’s contact with the criminal justice system, starting with the police.  It includes not only convictions but also absolute or conditional discharges, outstanding charges, agreements made by the offender to follow certain rules or activities, and yes, even withdrawn charges.  These criminal records are stored on a nationwide database known as CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre), which is accessible by a number of federal and provincial law enforcement agencies, including the United States.

If Ford was actually convicted of a DUI or drug possession charge in Canada, the Criminal Records Act stipulates he’d be guilty of a summary offence.  After completing any punishment like jail time, fines and/or probation, he’d be eligible to apply for a Pardon (now known as a Record Suspension) after 5 years.

Of course, Ford’s 1999 charges wouldn’t show up on his Canadian criminal record, as the incident originated in the U.S. itself.

Bottom line – don’t expect the mayor to be in criminal court anytime soon, although that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a smooth ride in the coming days and weeks.  On Friday, Toronto City Council will meet in an attempt to amend the municipal code to start transferring certain mayoral powers to the deputy mayor, among other motions.

Second term, anyone?

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Chris Heringer is CEO of Pardon Applications of Canada, a nationwide application completion firm which serves Canadians in the process of acquiring a Canadian Pardon (Record Suspension) and U.S. Waiver.