Can Companies Be Accused of Crimes?

In the News

People can commit crimes on behalf of companies, like fraud, criminal negligence or falsifying documents. But can companies be accused of crimes themselves? If yes, how are they punished? Who goes to prison?

Corporate Criminal Liability

In Canada, an organization like a company can be accused of a crime. Like a real person, companies can have a trial, defend themselves and be sentenced if they are found guilty.

Heavy Fines 

A company can’t go to prison. If a company is found guilty, it can be fined up to $100,000 for some types of crimes. For the most serious crimes, the amount can be much higher.

A court can also order a company to follow conditions during a period of time. For example, the company might have to tell the public that it committed a crime or adopt rules to reduce the risk of committing future crimes.

Important: People can also bring civil lawsuits against companies. If the court rules against a company, the company might have to pay money to make up for harm caused.

Real Life Cases 

Examples of companies that have had criminal trials:

  • A company producing concrete blocks was found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of a worker. The worker was crushed by an industrial machine without an activated safety system. The company admitted that it had failed to meet its workplace health and safety obligations and had to pay a $100,000 fine.
  • Two businesses specialized in the sale of hydroponic equipment were found guilty of helping people grow cannabis. Each business had to pay a $5,000 fine.
  • A construction company that created a system of fake invoices was found guilty of fraud. It had to pay a $190,256 fine.