Is Verbal Assault a Crime in Canada?

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Understanding Canada’s Criminal Code and How It Deals With Verbal Assault

We’re taught from a young age to keep our hands to ourselves to avoid consequences, but your words can get you in almost as much trouble. Everyone says things they don’t mean from time to time, but if an argument ends up escalating to the point of threats, it can lead to serious legal implications. Find out how verbal assault is handled and what you need to know if you’re accused of threatening someone.

What Is Assault?

When you hear the word “assault,” you probably think of something being hurt, getting into a fight, or being attacked. However, you can also be charged with assault if you physically hurt or attack someone, but you can also be charged with assault as a result of some verbal altercations as well.

Canada’s Criminal Code states that assault can include when someone “(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly; (b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or (c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.”

What Constitutes Verbal Assault?

Saying that someone committed verbal assault is a fancy way of saying that they threatened someone or otherwise caused them to fear for their safety or the safety of their property, including pets. Criminal Code of Canada section 264.1 states, “Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat (a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person; (b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or (c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.”

It’s not unusual for arguments to get heated and for people to say things they don’t mean, but this is a prime example of how verbal assault charges can come about. For instance, if you were to threaten that you were going to burn someone’s clothes, break a window, or physically attack them, these are all situations that could result in verbal assault charges. It’s important to note here that it is not your intention that is important here as much as whether the verbal altercation constituted a threat and whether the person felt that they could be harmed.

What Evidence Is Used in Verbal Assault Cases?

Verbal assault cases are a bit different from physical assault cases when it comes to the evidence used. In physical assault cases, there is usually some physical evidence, such as bruising, broken bones, cuts, or other injuries. Instead, verbal assault cases rely heavily on witness testimony and other evidence, such as phone recordings or footage from security cameras. Investigators will speak to everyone who was present at the scene and witnessed the verbal altercation to try to get a better understanding of what happened. In some cases, these situations end up with one person’s word against the other, which can make it harder to prosecute.

What Happens If I’m Convicted?

The penalties you could face if you are convicted of verbal assault depend on what threats you allegedly made. If you threatened to kill or harm someone, it is punishable on summary conviction and you can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. If you are convicted of threatening to damage someone’s property or hurt their animal, you can face up to 2 years in prison. In some cases, this can be increased. For example, if you threatened to hurt someone with a deadly weapon, such as a firearm or knife, you could be charged with assault with a weapon, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison if you’re convicted.

While it’s not pleasant to think about the potential sentence you could be facing or even being convicted, it’s important to be aware of what the law says so that you can prepare an adequate defence. Assault charges, even for verbal assault, are very serious and should be treated as such. If you have questions about what kind of penalties you could be facing or what a conviction might mean for your future, talk to a criminal defence lawyer.

How Can a Defence Lawyer Help Me?

A defence lawyer should be your first call when you’ve been arrested or are under investigation for any type of criminal charge. Your lawyer can talk with you about your options, which could include arguing that there was no threat actually made, that you had no intention to threaten the other party, or that the alleged threats were simply a joke and there was no indication that they should be taken seriously. Each of these options can be a valid defence strategy, but which one is right for your situation depends on the circumstances surrounding the allegations and what your lawyer believes to be the best course of action for your case.

Being accused of verbal assault is a serious offence, and you shouldn’t brush these charges off just because nothing physical happened. If you’ve been charged with assault, contact AR Law Barrister & Solicitor to talk about your defence options. Our team can walk you through your charges and what the legal process is from this point so that you’re prepared to aid in your defence. Call our office today to find out more about our services and how we can help.

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