Harassment - Criminal Defence Lawyer Toronto

I’ve been charged with Criminal Harassment but all I did was call my ex-girlfriend a few times. How is that harassment?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


If, without the other person wanting it, someone repeatedly communicates with a person (by phone, in person, email, online, etc…) or someone known to them, that can be considered criminal harassment. Following someone from one place to another can also be considered harassment. Watching the house where that person lives, or his/her work can be considered criminal harassment.


The definition of harassment can be found in Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada. To be convicted of criminal harassment, you must have known, or been reckless in failing to know, that the person is being harassed by the conduct. The person alleging the harassment must also reasonably, in all the circumstances, have cause to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of someone else, due to the other person’s conduct. Therefore, simply calling someone to see how they are doing is not normally harassment. The circumstances surrounding the call will often be looked at to determine if it could be seen as harassing.  


Potential Penalty:


i) If the Crown proceeds by way of Indictment, the maximum jail sentence allowed is 5 years.


ii) If the Crown proceeds by way of a summary conviction, the maximum jail sentence is 6 months.


What if I just called her but didn’t say anything that could cause her to fear for her safety?


Safety can also include freedom from actual or anticipated psychological harm. The state of mind of the person alleging harassment is a relevant factor.  If it is determined that the he or she did have what he or she considered to be a reasonable fear, the next step for a judge to take is to determine how a “reasonable person” would have felt in similar circumstances. The gender of the person alleging the assault and the history and circumstances of the case are to be taken into account in making this objective determination. 


What does it mean when I am charged with Uttering a Threat?


If someone makes a threat in any manner (in person, on the phone, via email, facebook, MSN Messenger, through someone else, etc…), provided that it was knowingly made and that it was a threat to cause death or serious bodily harm to a person, he or she can be charged with Uttering a Threat.


What this means is that mere words can give rise to a criminal charge of threatening bodily harm. You do not have to intend to actually carry through with the threat. You also do not even have to be physically able to act on the threat. If you threaten someone intentionally, then you can be charged with a criminal offence. The definition of Uttering a Threat can be found in Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada.


Potential Penalty:


i) If the Crown proceeds by way of Indictment and you are charged with uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm to another person, the maximum jail sentence allowed is 5 years.


ii) If the Crown proceeds by way of a summary conviction and you are charged with uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm to another person, the maximum jail sentence is 18 months.


Potential Penalty:


i) If the Crown proceeds by way of Indictment and you are charged with uttering a threat to burn, destroy, or damage property OR to kill, poison, or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person, the maximum jail sentence allowed is 2 years.


ii) If the Crown proceeds by way of a summary conviction and you are charged with uttering a threat to burn, destroy, or damage property OR to kill, poison, or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person, the maximum jail sentence is 6 months.


What if the threat was told to the alleged victim through someone else. Is that still a threat?


Yes. A threat can be made through a third party. It does not matter if you never intended for the person you were threatening to hear the threat. In some cases, you may still be charged if the intended victim never even knows about the threat. All that is necessary are the words being said that may be seen as threatening to cause the death or injury to a person, or to burn, destroy, or damage property, or even threatening to injure or kill an animal or bird.


If you have been charged with uttering a threat or criminal harassment, you should consult a lawyer to discuss your case as every case is fact-specific and you may have a defence even if you don’t think you do. Click HERE to contact Jeff Hershberg for a free consultation.