Canadian Criminal Law/Defences/Automatism

General Principles


The defence of "non-insane automatism" is a defence available at common law.

Automatism is the "involuntary behaviour, the state of a person who, though capable of action is not conscious of what he is doing. It means an unconscious involuntary act where the mind does not go with what is being done." [1] It is a state of consciousness where the persons is capable of action, but has not voluntary control over the action.[2]

The burden is on the accused to prove involuntariness on a balance of probabilities.[3]

  1. R. v. Rabey (1977) 37 C.C.C. 2d 461 at 155
  2. Rabey at 156
  3. R v Stone at 179 (“The foregoing leads me to the conclusion that the legal burden in cases involving claims of automatism must be on the defence to prove involuntariness on a balance of probabilities to the trier of fact.”)