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How to Beat an Assault Charge in Alberta

How to Beat an Assault Charge in Alberta

Recent statistics show that while many types of crimes are declining in Alberta, there appears to be a significant rise in assault crimes in Calgary and other cities in Alberta. That means Calgary Crown Prosecutors are vigorously prosecuting assault charges. Across Canada, assault is defined as the intention to apply direct or indirect force to someone without their consent. Even if there was no bodily contact, it can still be considered assault. The perception of intimidation or a threat of harm is enough to charge someone with assault. No physical contact or injury is required.

It is tough to get assault charges dropped. If you are arrested for assault, your life can change dramatically. Whether you are guilty or not, there may always be a permanent record of your arrest. You may lose job opportunities, and your arrest can permanently stain your reputation and that of your family members. If you are ever accused of assault, contact an experienced assault lawyer immediately.

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What is assault?

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, assault is the intent to apply force to another person (directly or indirectly) without that person’s consent. Consent is a critical concept for all assault cases. Consent implies voluntary agreement to engage in the activity. Here are scenarios where consent is implied and where a person is incapable of consenting:

  • Implied consent. In hockey, a block or check may involve violence, but consent is implied because all parties understand the risk of roughness or injury. However, consent is still limited, even in hockey, boxing, and other sports.
  • Legally unable to consent due to the severity of injuries. The Supreme Court of Canada said that a person cannot consent to having severe bodily harm done to themselves.
  • Legally unable to consent due to age. When someone under 16 years old is involved in a sexual act with someone who is 22 or older, there can be no consent. By law, someone under 16 cannot consent to sexual activity with someone five or more years older. A person under 14 cannot consent to sexual activity with someone two or more years older.

Rules around consent can be easily violated. Canadian courts have become very strict about enforcing criminal charges for violations of legal consent in assault cases. Even if you think you obtained consent, you may need help understanding the nuances of the law. If you have been charged with assault, it is essential that you not speak to anyone until you have contacted and consulted with a criminal defence lawyer who has experience in defending against assault charges.

What are the categories of assault?

The Criminal Code lists several types of assault. Any of these can result in a variety of penalties and/or prison time. The differences in the assault categories relate to the severity of the harm done to the victim. The list below summarizes the types of assault and their penalties:

  • Uttering threats. This may include threats of:
    • Causing death or bodily harm to anyone
    • Destroying or damaging property
    • Killing or injuring an animal is considered personal property

Uttering threats can be an indictable offence or an offence punishable by summary conviction, punishable by up to five years of imprisonment.

  • Assault is committed when someone intentionally (without consent):
    • Applies force directly (push, hit, slap, kick, etc.) or indirectly (uses an object to strike, push, etc.).
    • Attempts or threatens to cause harm to another person
    • Accosts someone while carrying a weapon
  • Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm is when someone:
    • Carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon
    • Causes bodily harm
    • Chokes suffocates or strangles someone else

Assault and assault with a weapon are hybrid offences chargeable as either a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence, depending on the assault’s severity. A summary conviction offence may have a fine of about $5,000 and/or six months in prison. An indictable offence could result in up to 10 years in prison.

  • Aggravated Assault This is charged when very serious injuries result from an assault. An aggravated assault wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers someone’s life. This indictable offence can result in imprisonment for up to 14 years. Aggravated assault of a peace officer or public transit operator and disarming a peace officer carry similar penalties.
  • Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault are crimes that involve unwanted sexual contact ranging from sexual touching to rape or (according to the Supreme Court of Canada) any type of contact that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. Aggravated sexual assault is when the victim’s life is threatened or when the victim is wounded, maimed or disfigured during a sexual assault. Aggravated sexual assault can result in a punishment of imprisonment from four years up to life.

Though “uttering threats” may seem less direct or less serious of on offence, it’s still a very serious matter to be accused of any type of assault. In Canada, a conviction for any assault type is likely to incur serious penalties along with a criminal record that can have a permanent, life-altering impact. If you have been charged with assault, it is critical that you remain silent until you speak with a skilled, experienced criminal defence lawyer.

Defending assault charges

In Calgary, at the moment you think you may be charged with assault of any kind, you should reach out to a Calgary-based criminal defence lawyer experienced in defending people charged with assault. Do not ever attempt to defend yourself. You need a professional familiar with the local courts and their staff, the local police, and the local prosecutors, who understand the best tactics to deploy for your circumstances.

Basically, there are two ways to defend against an assault charge successfully. The charges may be dropped before your case comes to trial, or your lawyer may deploy one of these common defences for assault:

  • Reasonable doubt or insufficient evidence. The Crown prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many ways an experienced attorney can raise double about the circumstances, witness accounts, and severity of the charges to get an acquittal.
  • Lack of intent. The prosecutor must prove that you intended to do harm to the alleged victim. But what if your intent was misconstrued or something in the environment caused you to use unintentional force? The prosecutor must prove your actions were intentional and not caused by some other force.
  • Consent for use of force. Your lawyer can argue that the other party consented to the use of force. For example, in a bar fight, it can appear that both people instigated the flight because they both threw punches, thereby implying consent.
  • Self-defence or defence of others. It is possible that the alleged assault occurred because you were defending yourself (or another person) from an attack. To do this, you must show you believed you were being threatened, the assault was to protect you or another person, and your actions were reasonable in the circumstances due to the nature and history of the relationship or the nature of the threat.
  • Charter rights violations. If the prosecution or police committed a violation, such as an unreasonable search, they may have violated your Charter rights. A finding of a Charter violation can result in the exclusion of certain evidence or the outright dismissal of your case.
  • Plea bargain. In certain circumstances, your lawyer can negotiate a plea bargain to avoid a lengthy trial and reduce charges.

Protect your rights by creating a defence strategy with an experienced criminal defence law firm like Bulwark Law. Your lawyer will investigate your case, negotiate with prosecutors, and fight for your rights from the first court appearance all the way to your trial (if necessary). In addition, depending on the exact charges and circumstances, your lawyer may investigate the police, how evidence was secured, and challenge their methods. It is much too risky to do this without a lawyer.

Getting assault charges dropped

If you are accused of assault, a criminal defence attorney may be able to get the charges against you dropped before or during your trial. For a simple assault without any serious injuries, one way of doing this is to convince the Crown Prosecutor that it is not in anyone’s interest to proceed to trial due to any of the reasons stated above or other issues. Another option for getting charges dropped is to convince the police and/or prosecutor that a referral to the Alternate Measures Program would be appropriate.

The Alberta Alternative Measures Program’s goal is to help ensure that the criminal justice system’s response to a crime will be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. In a practical sense, this means that the police and prosecutors can each exercise their discretion to drop charges and directly refer you to the Alternative Measures Program. You can also be referred to the program even if charges have been filed against you.

Generally first-time offenders and second-time offenders who have had no charges in two years may be eligible if their crimes fit the requirements too. The program includes community service, fines, probation and/or other options. The main alternative service location is right in Calgary at the Crown Prosecution Office. The skilled lawyers at Bulwark Law can help you complete the requirements for taking advantage of this and other alternative programs available in Calgary.

Another alternative to prosecution is a Peace Bond. A Peace Bond results in the withdrawal of your charges in exchange for your agreeing to be bound by a court order for a given period of time. Learn more about Peace Bonds here.

When to consult with an assault lawyer

If you’ve been charged with any type of assault, call Bulwark Law now! Don’t attempt to defend yourself. These charges are too serious and require professionals to protect your rights. Any assault charge can result in a permanent criminal record that can follow you for the rest of your life. Let Bulwark Law provide the guidance and vigorous defence you need to avoid or minimize criminal charges. Our Calgary criminal defence law firm can create a strategy that matches your individual circumstances. Before you say anything to the police or prosecutor, call Bulwark Law for a free consultation at 403-678-7360 or contact us online.

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“Believe it or not, they managed to pull off a complete exoneration – all charges dropped, no fine, no hit on my insurance!  Thanks, Bulwark for a great job!!!  Five stars!”