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Criminal Harassment Lawyer Toronto

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What Is Criminal Harassment?

The criminal harassment charge was introduced to deter stalking and other forms of harassment. It’s one of Ontario’s most sternly investigated and prosecuted allegations and carries severe penalties upon finding guilt.

It encompasses actions directed to causing fear and annoyance through harassment and other behaviours that portray obsession and unwanted conduct towards a person. Acts that constitute criminal harassment do not have elements of threatening to cause bodily harm or any physically abusive behaviour. However, criminal harassment charges can be laid alongside such criminal offences.

For more details, let’s look at a part of the relevant provisions provided by section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada:

264(1) No person shall, without any lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

What Are the Grounds for A Harassment Charge?

For the police to charge you with criminal harassment, your alleged conduct must give the complainant enough reason to fear for their safety or that of someone close to them. In most cases, the charge is laid after the complainant explicitly warns the accused to stop the behaviour, but they fail to do so. However, in some circumstances, the charge can be placed after only one incident without requiring a pattern of behaviour. Remember that this type of offence does not require an outcome to be considered a crime.

The prohibited conduct that constitutes criminal harassment and lays the ground for criminal charges is provided in section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The Act sets out that:

264(2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of:

  • repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
  • repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
  • besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business, or happens to be; or
  • engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.

If you’re charged with criminal harassment for allegedly perpetrating one of the mentioned acts, it’s advisable to retain a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. They’ll protect your interests and develop a defence plan based on the particulars of your case.

How Do You Prove Criminal Harassment?

For a successful criminal harassment conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The accused continuously engaged in prohibited conduct as stipulated by section 264 of the criminal code, including following the complainant, watching the place they frequent, continually communicating with them, or employing threatening conduct to them or their loved ones. In some cases, one incident of prohibited behaviour constitutes criminal harassment.
  • The complainant was being or felt harassed by the accused party. Being harassed means that they felt continually troubled, tormented, and worried.
  • The accused knew that their conduct made the complainant feel harassed or was reckless or willfully blind to how the complainant perceived their behaviour.
  • The complainant genuinely feared for their safety and that of their family due to the accused’s conduct.
  • As per the circumstances, the complainant’s fear was

If the prosecution fails to establish any of the above statements, or the defence raises a whim of reasonable doubt, the charges won’t hold.

At Zamani Law, we utilize our criminal law and trial expertise to create valid defences that may raise reasonable doubt depending on the facts of the case against you.

What Is the Sentence for Criminal Harassment?

Criminal harassment is a hybrid offence. This means that the prosecution gets to elect to proceed by way of indictment or summarily. How the prosecution proceeds determines the severity of the penalties you’ll face upon conviction.

Subsection 264(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada provides the sentence for criminal harassment as follows:

  • Up to 10 years in prison for indictable offences
  • Up to 2 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine for a summary offence

Although the Criminal Code doesn’t give any mandatory sentences, a judge can impose a harsher sentence even for a first offence when aggravating factors, such as being in a peace bond when the alleged offence occurred, are present. Other factors that play a role during sentencing include the personal circumstances of the offender and the nature of the alleged crime.

Note that apart from possible jail time, a criminal harassment conviction leads to a criminal record, affecting your life.

At Zamani Law, we strive to ensure that our clients don’t end up with a criminal record or jail sentence. Where possible, we negotiate with the prosecution to withdraw or reduce the charges against you and fight for other forms of punishment, such as a community-based sentence.

If you’re charged with criminal harassment, don’t plead guilty! The potential consequences are severe and long-term. Contact Zamani Law, and our experienced criminal defence lawyers will be there to protect you and fight the charges against you.

How Can You Fight Harassment Charges?

Every criminal harassment case is unique, and at Zamani Law, we handle it as so. We analyze every detail of the case against you and devise feasible defence strategies with the best possible outcomes. One of the most common and preferred strategies is attacking the elements the prosecution requires to prove the allegations against you. These elements include the alleged act, identity, the accused’s intentions, and whether the complainant had reasonable fear.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal harassment charges, call us at (647) 931-9335 to schedule a free review of your case.

Contact Zamani Law for Your Free Consultation

Criminal harassment charges have the potential to ruin your life and reputation. Don’t take chances by trying to take responsibility for an alleged offence, even if you believe or know that you have done nothing legally or morally wrong. Therefore, if you’re charged with criminal harassment, contact a Toronto criminal harassment lawyer to protect your rights and freedoms.

FAQs

Is criminal harassment an indictable offence?

In Canada, criminal harassment is classified as a hybrid offence, meaning it can be prosecuted as either a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence, depending on the severity of the case. The classification allows for flexibility in charging and sentencing, considering the specific circumstances and potential harm caused by the harassment.

How long does it take to resolve a criminal harassment case?

The duration to resolve a criminal harassment case can vary depending on various factors, such as the case’s complexity, the court’s caseload, the availability of evidence, the number of witnesses, and the legal processes involved. Generally, criminal harassment cases can take several months to a couple of years to reach a resolution.

What factors can affect the timeline of a criminal harassment case?

Investigation – The police will investigate the allegations of criminal harassment. The investigation length can vary based on evidence availability, witnesses’ cooperation, and the case’s complexity.

Pre-Trial Phase – This phase involves the disclosure of evidence, pre-trial motions, and potential negotiations between the prosecution and defence. The length of this phase can depend on various factors, including the complexity of the case and the court’s scheduling.

Trial – The trial phase involves presenting evidence, examining witnesses, cross-examining, legal arguments, and determining guilt or innocence. The trial length can vary widely, from days to weeks or even longer for complex cases.

Sentencing and Appeals – If the accused is found guilty, the sentencing phase follows. This phase can involve additional court hearings to determine an appropriate sentence. Appeals can further prolong the process.

Can a restraining order be obtained in cases of criminal harassment?

Yes, in cases of criminal harassment, it is possible to obtain a restraining order in Canada. To get a restraining order, the victim needs to apply to the court and provide evidence or documentation demonstrating that they have reasonable grounds to fear for their safety due to the actions of the harasser. The court will evaluate the evidence and consider the circumstances of the case before deciding whether to grant the restraining order.

Can someone be charged with criminal harassment for online or digital harassment?

Yes, someone can be charged with criminal harassment for engaging in online or digital harassment in Canada. The Canadian Criminal Code recognizes that harassment can occur through various forms of communication, including online platforms, social media, emails, text messages, or any other electronic means. If a person engages in online or digital harassment that meets the legal criteria for criminal harassment, they can be charged and prosecuted under the Criminal Code.

Can a minor be charged with criminal harassment?

Yes, a minor can be charged with criminal harassment in Canada. The Canadian legal system recognizes that individuals under 18 can commit criminal offences, including criminal harassment. The application of the law may vary slightly for minors due to the principles of youth justice and the focus on rehabilitation.

How does a criminal harassment charge affect future career prospects?

A criminal harassment charge can have negative ramifications for future career prospects. Many employers conduct background checks as part of their hiring process. A criminal harassment charge will likely appear on a criminal record check, potentially affecting the candidate’s chances of securing employment, particularly in competitive fields or positions requiring high trust. Certain professions or industries may have specific regulations or standards restricting or prohibiting individuals with certain criminal convictions from employment. For example, positions that work with vulnerable populations or handle sensitive information may have stricter background check requirements.

 

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