An answer on stack mentions that certain displays in Latvia are “a non-criminal offence.” What is such a thing?

3 Answers 3


The law in question is here, in §4(1). The law simply says that it is prohibited during a public event to display Nazi and Soviet symbols. A forbidden act is an offense, and displaying a Nazi or Soviet symbol is an offense, but not a criminal offense, which is one specifically deemed to be a "criminal offense". An act which is a criminal offense has a different (worse) status, imposing certain obligations on the organizer in case of a criminal offense and perhaps allowing imprisonment of the offender. There are other, lesser obligations on organizers w.r.t. excluding non-criminal offenders. Administrative consequences (fines) can be imposed by the police in the case of a non-criminal offense.

  • Sentencing guidelines differ the two
    – Trish
    Jan 1 at 23:20

I'm answering because the distinction between criminal offences and non-criminal offences is widely applicable, in places other than Latvia.

In Canada, one main distinction is the source of the legislative power to enact the offence. "True" criminal offences are those passed pursuant to the federal government's criminal law power.

Non-criminal offences are also known as "regulatory offences." Because of their different legislative source, they necessarily have a different focus and nature. See R. v. Sault Ste. Marie, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 1299:

In the present appeal the Court is concerned with offences variously referred to as “statutory,” “public welfare,” “regulatory,” “absolute liability,” or “strict responsibility,” which are not criminal in any real sense, but are prohibited in the public interest. Although enforced as penal laws through the utilization of the machinery of the criminal law, the offences are in substance of a civil nature and might well be regarded as a branch of administrative law to which traditional principles of criminal law have but limited application. They relate to such everyday matters as traffic infractions, sales of impure food, violations of liquor laws, and the like. In this appeal we are concerned with pollution.

And even the federal government, which can enact criminal law, has created a large number of regulatory offences, too.

While non-criminal, regulatory offences are generally less severe and carry less stigma than criminal offences, many regulatory offences do have the risk of imprisonment.


These are referred to as civil or administrative penalties

They are financial penalties leveled for infractions of statutes that are designated as such. Prosecution of the infraction uses the civil rather than a criminal pathway through the courts and may be determined in the first instance by an administrative tribunal rather than a judicial court (although appeals to the courts are usually available). The standard of proof is “balance of probabilities” rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”. Conviction of such an offence does not result in a criminal penalty.

Such offences include many traffic and parking offences, fishing or hunting without a licence or exceeding bag limits, tax evasion, illegal building etc.

While these are not punitive fines that can be imposed on a criminal, their monetary value can still be substantial. For example, the maximum penalty for an individual for tax evasion is the greater of three times the amount avoided or 5,000 penalty units which at the current rate is $1.565 million.

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