What are the different types of assault charges in Canada?
There are various forms of assault in Canada each with their own distinguishing factors. These offences range in severity and the factors in determining when one type applies can be very specific. This blog will focus on the legal interpretation of assault, some common types of criminal assault and the potential penalties faced by those found guilty.
What is assault?
When you hear the word assault, you probably picture a physical attack. While it’s true that assault often involves physical violence, it can also be committed without one person laying a finger upon someone else.
Under Section 265(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, a person commits an assault when,
(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.
Assault doesn’t always have to involve physical force. It can apply when someone threatens physical force against someone or brandishes a weapon. The victim must have reasonable grounds that the perpetrator will follow through with their intent to apply physical force. There doesn’t have to be evidence of physical force, such as an injury or bruising for an assault to be committed. There simply has to be an intent.
If the assault involves a weapon or an imitation of one, the perpetrator must accost, impede another person or beg for the charge to stand. More on this later.
Another key requirement for the offence of assault is that it must be applied without the other person’s consent. So in order to achieve a conviction, the prosecution has to prove that an accused applied force to the victim and that the victim did not consent.
While these definitions apply to assault in general, some forms of assault come with their own set of requirements and some are treated more seriously than others.
A basic assault charge is among the most common offences laid in Canada. It can range from something as simple as a small shove to something more severe such as a brawl.
It can be prosecuted as a summary charge for less serious offences which would normally result in a slap on the wrist for a first time offender. In more serious cases, it can be tried as an indictable offence, meaning the offender could be liable to up to five years in prison,\.
Assault with a weapon
The offence of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm occurs when a person:
(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation thereof, or
(b) causes bodily harm to someone
A weapon can be something like a gun or a knife, however, depending on how it is used, almost anything can be a weapon – a pen, a bottle, even a frying pan if a person uses it, or threatens to use it, to cause bodily harm.
This offence can be prosecuted as either a summary offence, with a maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment or as an indictable offence with up to 10 years in prison.
Assault causing bodily harm
Unlike simple assault, assault causing bodily harm only applies when physical force has been used and as a result, someone has been hurt.
Bodily harm can be anything from a few scratches to broken bones.
This offence is punishable with up to 18 months in prison for a summary conviction or up to 10 years in prison for an indictable offence.
Aggravated assault is its own branch of assault defined in the Code. It involves severe, often permanent injuries.
This is a more serious type of assault, usually resulting in serious, potentially life-changing injuries, or the possibility of death for the victim.
This an indictable-only offence, with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Sexual assault is a very serious offence which can be viewed independently of the assault itself. It occurs when sexual contact is made with another person without their consent sometimes as a result of a threat or act of violence.
Sexual assault can take many forms, but the most widely known include rape, groping, or sexual abuse.
A summary conviction for sexual assault can result in up to 18 months in prison, or if the victim is under the age of 16, the punishment ranges frmo a minimum of six months in prison up to two years less a day in prison.
An indictable offence can result in up to 10 years in prison or, if the complainant is under the age of 16, between one and 14 years in prison.
Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm
If a sexual assault involves a weapon it becomes a more serious offence. In order for this to happen, a perpetrator has to carry use or threaten to use a weapon to cause bodily harm to a person.
If the threat or bodily harm is made against someone other than the victim of the sexual assault, this is still an offence. If the person committing the sexual assault is not the one holding the weapon, they are also still guilty of this offence.
This is an indictable-only offence, with punishment ranging from a minimum of five years to a maximum of life in prison, if the victim is below the age of 16.
Aggravated sexual assault
Aggravated sexual assault is any sexual assault where the victim is wounded, maimed, disfigured or put at risk of death.
Similar to sexual assault with a weapon, this is an indictable-only offence, with punishment ranging from five years to life in prison.
Assaulting a police officer
Assaulting a peace officer, assaulting a police officer with a weapon and aggravated assault of a police officer are three separate types of assault that reflect the role of police in society. Officers are expected to be able to conduct their duties without coming to harm so these offences are designed to protect them.
Depending on circumstances assault charges against an officer can result in a summary conviction or up to 14 years in prison in the most serious cases.
What to do if you have an assault charge
There are many different types of assault and deciding when and if each one applies can be very complex. If you have been charged with assault, it is important you do not face the charges on your own. It is highly recommended that you contact a lawyer. AAssault is one of the more serious violations a Canadian can commit, and if convicted, it can result in a criminal record and a potential prison sentence.
Kaitlyn Perrin and Michelle Parhar of YYC Criminal Defence have experience in dealing with a wide variety of assault charges. They know these offences inside out and can tailor a defence your personal circumstances.
Contact YYC Criminal Defence today to start your defence.