Assault and Threats

What You Need to Know about Assult

Assaults are at the heart of the criminal justice system and represent the most basic of crimes, the infliction of force on one person from another. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, assault covers a wide range of incidents, from something as minor as a bar fight or road rage, to more serious outcomes of severe injuries and intent to cause harm. At either end of the spectrum, the legal principles are largely the same and the strategies our criminal assault lawyers employ in your defence are relatively similar.

Recently Federal legislation has increased the severity of assault charges by eliminating the possibility of house arrest (often called ‘conditional sentences’) for all assault crimes that result in ‘serious bodily injury’. As a result, assault charges that were previously often resolved by way of house arrest, now instead are much more likely to go to trial.

Legal Terms and Definitions

Our criminal lawyers are all experienced in dealing with assault and threat matters under the Criminal Code of Canada such as:

Simple Assault: any unwanted physical contact of another person that does not result in serious bodily injury. The lowest level of assault. A threatening gesture can also be defined as an assault.

Assault Causing Bodily Harm: an assault on another person which results in bodily harm that is neither ‘trifling or transitory”. An example might be broken nose or cracked orbital bone.  House arrest is not available for assault causing bodily harm.

Aggravated Assault: a very serious assault which results in very serious injuries defined as; “wounding or maiming”. A stab wound, brain damage, loss of eyesight or hearing, internal injuries are examples of aggravated assault. House arrest is not available for aggravated assault. 

Assault with a Weapon: utilizing a weapon in the course of assaulting someone. The weapon may be something actually designed as a weapon such as a knife or gun, or something which was not designed as a weapon but simply used as one, such as a piece of lumber or a crowbar. You need not actually injure the person - simply brandishing the weapon in the course of an assault is sufficient to establish the charge. 

Assault of Police Officer/Resisting arrest: these charges arise in the course of dealing with police officers, often in the course of an arrest. Even in cases where you are wrongfully accused and arrested and you subsequently resist, you can still be charged. Unlike other types of assaults, they are often near impossible to convince a Crown to drop, as police officers put tremendous pressure on the Crown to vigorously prosecute these charges. 

Choking: special provisions are set out in the Criminal Code of Canada to deal with allegations of choking.  Choking can often be seen to be a ‘watered down’ version of attempted murder, and as a result is a very serious charge often resulting in significant periods of incarceration. 

Threats: threatening someone by implying death or serious bodily harm is a criminal offence. Uttering threats either directly or via a third person is illegal - in fact, a threat need not even be heard or make it back to the intended victim for it to be criminal.  A threat can in certain circumstances also qualify as a ‘serious bodily injury offence’ and thus make it ineligible for house arrest.  A threat to public safety, such as a public shooting or explosion is a very serious matter and result in significant jail time. (Patrick Deegan file).  

Extortion: also referred to as blackmail, extortion is making a threat in order to obtain something. In Canada extortion charges will apply even if you are legally entitled to what you are attempting to obtain, as you cannot utilize threats to obtain it. Threats in this context can be virtually anything and extend far beyond simple verbal threats to cause bodily harm.  For example ‘pay me my money or I’ll bash your head in’ is clearly extortion. Threatening to ‘call the police if you don’t pay me back’ can also be extortion in certain circumstances. The fine line between what is and what is not extortion can be tricky and complex to navigate in certain circumstances. (Little Italy Lending company file).


A criminal conviction for assault and/or threats can have significant consequences. In addition to the high probability of jail, you may have restrictions put on your travel, you may have restraining or no contact orders imposed preventing you from seeing family or loved ones, you may be prohibited from possessing firearms, or you maybe required to provide a sample of your DNA for a national data bank. A conviction for assaulting a police officer or resisting arrest can have a huge impact as your record will broadcast on police information systems and can, for the rest of your life, change the way in which the police deal with you. The list goes on.


How We Can Help

Our criminal defence lawyers are qualified to handle assault cases in several ways:

Alternative Measures Program: If you are charged with a simple assault, and there are no injuries on the complainant, it may be possible to divert your matter through the Alternative Measures Program. This is a program that allows you to complete community service in exchange for the charges being dropped. In order to take advantage of the Alternative Measures Program you must be referred to it by a Crown Prosecutor. Our lawyers can help negotiate this outcome for you and help guide you through the process of completing the program.

Peace Bond:  Where the Alternative Measures Program is unavailable, our assault lawyers may be able to negotiate a peace bond on your behalf.  A peace bond is really an agreement, typically lasting one year, that you enter with the Court and promise to ‘keep the peace and be of good behavior’. In addition there maybe additional conditions attached such as counselling or restraining orders/no contact provisions. If you are approved for a peace bond the criminal charge will be dropped once you enter into the agreement, and you will not receive a criminal record.

Trial: Taking your matter to trial means having the Crown Prosecutor prove beyond a reasonable doubt your guilt. Assault and threat cases are almost never cut and dry. More often than not there will be evidentiary and legal issues at trial that will give rise to a defence. The assault charges against you can be challenged in a number of ways:

Challenging the facts: Assault cases are largely a credibility contest of ‘He said vs. she said’.  Coming out with a not guilty verdict in such a case rests heavily with your lawyer’s ability to effectively cross examine the complainant and any independent witnesses who might seek to implicate you. Not every cross-examination is an effective – our criminal lawyers have years of courtroom experience to be effective advocates for your credibility.  

Interpreting the law in your favour: We argue the assault laws and precedent cases in a way which will be most favorable to your specific case and fact scenario. This is achieved through careful and diligent legal research and application, which comes with our years of legal experience and understanding of assault in the eyes of the Criminal Code and the courts.
Violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Talking to the police, giving statements, providing any kind of self-incriminatory evidence can be detrimental to the outcome of your case. (When faced with the option of speaking to police or remaining silent, remain silent!) However after the fact, our assault lawyers can apply to have this initial evidence excluded by way of an application made under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We understand the typical violations to your Charter Rights. For example, police may search your car without permission, or not give you the option to call a lawyer. These violations are arguable in the courts in your defence.

Sentence: In some cases, the best course of legal action may be to reduce the damage that may be done to you. Not all assault cases are defensible or result in acquittals. In these circumstances our lawyers can help keep your sentence as lenient as possible. This could include any number of possibilities:

Avoiding a Criminal Record: In less serious assault cases it may be possible to argue for an absolute or conditional discharge if you are convicted. This means that it may be possible to avoid the imposition of a conviction on your criminal record despite the fact that you were found guilty.

Avoiding jail time: Where jail is a possibility, our lawyers will paint the best picture possible of your personal circumstances in an effort to avoid the possibility of incarceration. Often this will mean you will receive a fine or a period of probation.

Reducing jail time:  In those circumstances where jail is unavoidable the goal will be to keep any potential jail sentence as low as possible to ensure that your freedoms is effected as minimally as possible.

Call us. We can help.

If you’re facing an assault, threat or extortion charge, give us a call. Our criminal law team in Calgary has the expertise and dedication to represent you for the best possible outcome. 

Latest News Of Assault and Threats

July 2015
BY BRYAN PASSIFIUME , BILL KAUFMANN, CALGARY SUN FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, JULY 23, 2015 The Calgary criminal lawyer for a man who verbally and physically attacked a city cabbie two years ago said his client offered an apology and paid compensation. And he claims that charges were laid by police for the videotaped assault but later dropped due to lack of evidence. While declining to confirm the identity of the man seen on the video berating cabbie Sardar Qayyum in a... more
July 2015
Thu, Jul 23: The Calgary taxi driver who was subjected to a vicious racist abuse by a passenger has received a flood of messages of support. But the passenger, who was named identified by Global News, was fired from his job. Nancy Hixt reports.
July 2015
Thu, Jul 23 : The man caught on camera slinging racial slurs at a Calgary cab driver has now been fired, at the same time the RCMP has expanded its investigation. Global’s Nancy Hixt reports.