Canadian Criminal Law/Defences/De Minimus

De Minimus Principle


The principle of de minimus non curat lex excludes certain acts from criminal sanctions due to their trivial nature. The principle is based on the premise that the law should not concern itself with trifling matters.

In general, the least touching of another person without their consent constitutes an assault.[1] The strength of the force is immaterial to consideration of guilt. [2]

The principle cannot be applied in the context of domestic violence.[3]

The defence can be invoked in relation to the possession of drugs where the amounts alleged are merely residual particles of a controlled substance. [4]

Non-consensual touching that amounts to an assault, or that was trivial, is subject to the legal maxim de minimus non curat lex.[5]

Light strikes can fall within the meaning of trifling.[6]

  1. see R. v. Dawydiuk (2010), 253 C.C.C. (3d) 493, 2010 BCCA 162
  2. see R. v. Palombi (2007), 222 C.C.C. (3d) 528 (Ont. C.A.)
  3. R. v. Downey, 2002 NSSC 226 at para. 38
  4. R. v. Marusiak, 2002 ABQB 774
  5. R. v. Juneja, 2009 ONCJ 572
    R v Hinchey (1996) 111 CCC 3d 353 (SCC) at P 380-81
  6. R. v. Merasty, 2002 SKPC 86, R. v. Wiebe, 2001 SKQB 389