Counterfeiting (s.449, s.450, and s.452) Charges in Canada: Offences, Defences, Punishments

By Last Updated: December 30, 2022

What is counterfeiting?

Counterfeiting Charges in CanadaCounterfeiting is covered under s.448, s.449, s.450, and s.452 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Counterfeiting is defined extensively in these sections and refers to the making, possession, or uttering of counterfeit money.  Uttering of counterfeit money includes selling, paying, tendering, and putting off a counterfeit.

Counterfeiting is a straight indictable offence in Canada.  This means that the Crown can only proceed by indictment.

Examples

Common examples of counterfeiting include the following:

  • attempting to make an identical replica of genuine money;
  • possessing an identical replica of genuine money;
  • using counterfeit money to purchase an item from a store; and
  • using false cheques to obtain cash.

Defences

The defences available to a charge of counterfeiting are entirely dependent on the facts of the case.

However, some common defences to counterfeiting include the following: 

  • Lack of knowledge that the items were counterfeit;
  • The Crown did not sufficiently prove the character of the counterfeit money
  • A breach of Charter rights

Punishment

Counterfeiting is a straight indictable offence with a maximum term of imprisonment of fourteen years.

As such, the possible sentences available include a suspended sentence, fine, fine and probation, jail and probation, or jail and fine.  Further, due to the possible maximum sentence, neither a discharge nor conditional sentence order is available as sentences.

Have you been charged with counterfeiting?

Our experienced team of criminal defence lawyers is standing by to help you fight the charge. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the specifics of your case and craft a formidable defence.

Call Now 1-866-939-5940

Overview of the Offence

The relevant terms and definitions for the offence of “counterfeiting” are outlined in s.448 of the Criminal Code:

448 In this Part, 

counterfeit money includes

(a) a false coin or false paper money that resembles or is apparently intended to resemble or pass for a current coin or current paper money,

(b) a forged bank-note or forged blank bank-note, whether complete or incomplete,

(c) a genuine coin or genuine paper money that is prepared or altered to resemble or pass for a current coin or current paper money of a higher denomination,

(d) a current coin from which the milling is removed by filing or cutting the edges and on which new milling is made to restore its appearance,

(e) a coin cased with gold, silver or nickel, as the case may be, that is intended to resemble or pass for a current gold, silver or nickel coin, and

(f) a coin or a piece of metal or mixed metals that is washed or coloured by any means with a wash or material capable of producing the appearance of gold, silver or nickel and that is intended to resemble or pass for a current gold, silver or nickel coin; (monnaie contrefaite)

counterfeit token of value means a counterfeit excise stamp, postage stamp or other evidence of value, by whatever technical, trivial or deceptive designation it may be described, and includes genuine coin or paper money that has no value as money; (symbole de valeur contrefait)

current means lawfully current in Canada or elsewhere by virtue of a law, proclamation or regulation in force in Canada or elsewhere as the case may be; (courant)

utter includes sell, pay, tender and put off. (mettre en circulation)

The Crown must prove the actus reus (the “guilty act”) and the mens rea (the “guilty mind”) of a counterfeit money charge beyond a reasonable doubt to ground a conviction.

The actus reus of the offence will depend on whether the offender is charged with “making”, being in “possession”, or “uttering” counterfeit money.

The offence of “making” counterfeit money is defined and punished under s.449 of the Criminal Code.  Accordingly, the actus reus of “making” counterfeit money is established when the offender either “makes” or “begins to make” counterfeit.  As such, the counterfeit money need not actually be made for the offence to be established.

The offence of “possession” of counterfeit money is defined under s.450 of the Criminal Code.  Accordingly, the actus reus is established when the offender, without lawful justification or excuse:

(a) buys, receives or offers to buy or receive counterfeit money;

(b) has in their custody or possession counterfeit money; or

(c) introduces counterfeit money into Canada.

The offence of “uttering” counterfeit money is defined and punished under s.452 of the Criminal Code.  Accordingly, the actus reus is established when the offender, without lawful excuse or justification:

(a) utters or offers to utter counterfeit money or uses counterfeit money as if it were genuine, or

(b) exports, sends or takes counterfeit money out of Canada.

As defined in s.448, utters in this context include selling, pay, tender, and put off.

The mens rea for s.449 simply requires that the offender had the intent to make counterfeit money.

The mens rea for s.450 and s.452 requires that the offender had the intent to commit the offence and that the offender, at the time of the offence, knew of the “character” of the counterfeit money.

The Guilty Act (Actus Reus)

The actus reus for counterfeiting requires that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

Section 449 – “making”

  1. The offender “makes” or “begins to make” counterfeit money.

Section 450 – “possession”

  1. The offender buys, receives or offers to buy or receive counterfeit money;
  2. The offender has in their custody or possession counterfeit money; or
  3. The offender introduces counterfeit money into Canada.

Section 452 – “uttering”

  1. The offender utters or offers to utter counterfeit money or uses counterfeit money as if it were genuine, or
  2. The offender exports, sends or takes counterfeit money out of Canada.

The Guilty Mind (Mens Rea)

The mens rea for counterfeiting requires that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

Section 449 – “making”

  1. The offender intended to make or begin to make counterfeit money.

Section 450 – “possession”

  1. The offender had the intent to commit the offence; and
  2. The offender knew the “character” of the counterfeit money.

Section 452 – “uttering”

  1. The offender had the intent to commit the offence; and
  2. The offender knew the “character” of the counterfeit money.

Are you being investigated by the police for a criminal offence?

Learn about precharge legal advice and how it can help you to avoid being charged with a criminal offence in the first place.

Watch Video

Counterfeiting Defences

How to beat a Counterfeiting Charge

The presence or absence of a defence to defamatory libel will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.  However, the following are some common defences that may be used when fighting a counterfeiting charge.

Lack of knowledge

Sections 450 and 452 of the Criminal Code require that the Crown prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the offender had actual knowledge of the character of the counterfeit money.  It is no longer the law that the Crown simply proves that the offender possessed or uttered the counterfeit money: R v Freng, 1993 CanLII 913 (BCCA).

The Crown did not sufficiently prove the character of the counterfeit money

Section 461 of the Criminal Code outlines several prerequisites the Crown is required to follow when proving the “nature” of the counterfeit money.  This includes tendering a certificate of the examiner and a notice of the Crown’s intention to produce the certificate at trial. A failure to follow these requirements may result in the Crown failing to prove the nature of the money as counterfeit.

Breach of Charter rights

The Crown must prove the elements of counterfeiting beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Crown will likely attempt to prove these elements using evidence obtained by police during their investigation.  However, this evidence must be obtained by police in a manner that complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”).

The Charter affords every person a number of legal rights, such as the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, the right to be informed of the reasons of their detention or arrest, and the right to counsel without counsel.

If the police obtain any evidence in violation of your Charter rights, then a court may exclude this evidence from being used by the Crown at the trial depending on the severity of the Charter violation.

Counterfeiting Punishments

According s.498 of the Criminal Code:

Every one who makes or begins to make counterfeit money is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

According to s.450 of the Criminal Code:

Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years who, without lawful justification or excuse,

(a) buys, receives or offers to buy or receive counterfeit money;

(b) has in their custody or possession counterfeit money; or

(c) introduces counterfeit money into Canada.

According to s.452 of the Criminal Code:

Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years who, without lawful justification or excuse,

(a) utters or offers to utter counterfeit money or uses counterfeit money as if it were genuine, or

(b) exports, sends or takes counterfeit money out of Canada.

The sentence you receive for either ss.449, 450, or 452 will depend heavily on the circumstances of your case.  Further, ss.449, 450, and 452 are “straight indictable” offences.  This means that the Crown cannot proceed by way of summary conviction and the offender must be punished by indictment.

As such, an offender punished under ss.449, 450, or 452 will have the following options available to them upon sentence:  suspended sentence, fine, fine and probation, jail and probation, or jail and fine.

A maximum sentence of fourteen years of jail time is possible for offenders convicted under ss.449, 450, or 452.  As such, neither a  discharge nor conditional sentence order is available upon a conviction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of counterfeiting?

A common example of counterfeiting includes “a person attempting to pass as genuine a near-perfect replica of current Canadian bill”:  R v Hartle, 2018 SKPC 62.

Is counterfeiting a serious crime?

Yes, counterfeiting is a serious criminal offence and is a straight indictable criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.  Frequently, those found guilty of a counterfeiting offence are given custodial sentences due to the serious nature of the offence.

A counterfeiting conviction may also have severe employment and reputation consequences.  A lifelong criminal record following a counterfeiting conviction will show current and future employers that you committed a property or financial offence.

A counterfeiting conviction could also have severe immigration consequences for non-citizens.  Under s. 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a person convicted of counterfeiting is inadmissible to Canada due to being convicted of a criminal offence meeting the requirements of serious criminality.

Can you go to jail for counterfeiting?

Yes, offenders convicted of counterfeiting often receive jail time sentences.  Further, an offender may receive up to fourteen years imprisonment upon conviction.

Published Decisions

R v Robinson, 1973 CanLII 22 (SCC), [1974] SCR 573

The offender had in his possession a number of unique coins resembling coins from the United States.  The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the Ontario Court of Appeal that the offender failed to demonstrate lawful justification or excuse that he was in possession of counterfeit coins and that holding onto or selling these coins for “numismatic” value does not negate the offence of possessing counterfeit money.

You can read the full decision here.

R v Freng, 1993 CanLII 913 (BCCA)

The offender went on a trip with his friend to Vernon, British Columbia, and made a purchase with what appeared to be lawful money from the United States.  The offender was unaware that his friend’s money was counterfeit.  The British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned his conviction and ruled that the Crown is required to knowledge that the offender had some knowledge of the character of the counterfeit money.

You can read the full decision here.

R v Duane, 1984 ABCA 115 (CanLII)

The offender held onto counterfeit money for a friend.  The offender decided to destroy the counterfeit money but the police arrived before the counterfeit could be destroyed. The Albert Court of Appeal ruled that possession of counterfeit money, even where the offender has no intention to use the counterfeit money, still establishes the offence.  The offender was then convicted of possession of counterfeit money.

You can read the full decision here.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Oykhman Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centered. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

Ask A Question

We endeavor to respond to questions within 24 hours. If your matter is urgent, please call our office or submit a request for a free consultation.

Client Reviews

Michael Oykhman is a very professional lawyer and the first time I spoke to him he asked about my situation and he gave me some very helpful advice and assistance and also told me his odds of winning this case. During the days I was in contact with micheal I could feel the level of professionalism of him and his team, he is able to respond back to you with any questions you have within 24 hours. In the end he was as successful in helping me win my case as he had initially promised me.If you are still struggling to find a lawyer, I highly recommend Michael Oykhman.

R.W.

Please give yourself a favour and contact Mr. Michael Oykhman if you need any legal advice or if you are in a terrible situation. Even-tough, the odds are not in your favour, still they will go extra miles to help you out in bad situation and get you favourable outcome. Moreover, They will work on your file even after the business hours. I don’t have words to say thanks to Mr. Michael oykhman and Kiran Cheema who had worked on my file and get me out of trouble. I’m very grateful for your assistance and exceptional service. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Y.

I am grateful that Ms. Moira McAvoy was my lawyer, and I remain thankful to her for everything. She made a successful resolution to my case possible. Ms. Moira McAvoy is a professional, trustworthy lawyer, and a compassionate person. She is an excellent listener and knowledgeable of the law. From the start, she was an excellent guide. I did not know anything about the legal system and court, and she outlined everything clearly in advance, so I could understand things. She never rushed me through anything. She spoke clearly, explained everything, considered what I said, and provided options and advice. She kept me up to date on new information, requirements, and deadlines. She was always positive and this helped so much.

C.S.

Ryan Patmore and his team are simply the best. I was bullied by CPS in 2020 and it landed me with three separate charges, assault, refusal to blow and DUI, which all went down as I was parked at a friends. After some research and a conversation with Michael, he directed me towards Ryan and at the time I didn’t know that would be a game changer in my favour! He is honest, transparent, helpful and a brilliant mind. He successfully appealed my license suspension with ATSB and then proceeded to get the crown to dismiss all my charges before trial. I never had to step foot inside a courtroom. If you are in need of a criminal defence lawyer, don’t think twice, get in touch with this firm and ask for Ryan Patmore! The guy is an absolute saviour.

A.P.

Joseph Beller, from the very beginning when I first contacted and then retained Joseph as my representative I felt I was in good hands. When I emailed him with a question. I got a prompt response. We communicated often on the phone as needed. Joseph kept me informed as to the process. He made sure I knew all the potential results so I knew and could plan for the different outcomes. I know this his his job. But appreciate his professionalism and also his ability to not make me feel any extra stress. Well done.

N.B.
READ OUR REVIEWS
GET A FREE CONSULTATION