Defending Against Uttering Threats Charges

Farid Zamani
Farid Zamani
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The offence of uttering threats is taken very seriously in the Canadian criminal justice system. If you are facing an uttering threats charge under Canada’s laws, it is crucial that you prepare a solid defence in cooperation with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. In the paragraphs below, you will learn how uttering threats is defined under Canadian law, what the most successful defences are, and how a criminal defence lawyer can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

What is an Uttering Threats Charge in Canada?

Uttering threats is defined in section 264.1(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • 1(1) 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.

This crime has several essential elements, which the Crown must prove to secure a conviction:

  • Intent: The accused has to have intended to convey a threat to another person. If you say something out of anger or frustration but without the intent to intimidate or cause harm, it may not meet the requirements for a conviction on the charge of uttering threats.
  • The nature of the threat: The threat has to involve the potential for death, bodily harm, or property damage. The threat does not have to be immediate; even if it implies a future event, it will still be considered an offence.
  • Communication: The threat must be communicated to the alleged victim, but it can be communicated directly or indirectly. The mode of communication can include face-to-face interactions, telephone calls, social media messages, emails, or any other means of conveying a message.

It is important to note that an uttering threats charge in Canada does not only apply to verbal utterances. Here are some examples of non-verbal expressions that could be considered uttering a threat:

  • Gestures: If you are in a dispute with someone and you point at the person while making a slashing gesture across your throat, that could be interpreted as uttering a threat.
  • Cryptic messages: We have all seen what might be termed “thinly veiled threats” on social media. Even though the messages may not explicitly state the intended harm if the context suggests a genuine threat, coded messages could be considered uttering threats.
  • Artworks: In some cases, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, writings, or even performance pieces may be deemed as threats if they depict violence, harm, or death directed toward specific individuals. In these cases, a court would ask whether a reasonable person would interpret the artwork as a genuine threat, taking into account the context, the creator’s intent, and the potential impact on the individuals involved.
  • Manipulated Media: With the advancement of technology, especially artificial intelligence, manipulated audio or video recordings can be created to make it appear as though someone is making threats or expressing harmful intentions. Creating or sharing such manipulated media with the intent to cause fear, distress, or harm to another person could be considered uttering threats.

What Are the Consequences of Uttering Threats?

Uttering threats is a hybrid offence in Canada, meaning that the Crown can prosecute the crime in one of two ways: via summary conviction or by way of indictment.

If the crown proceeds by way of summary conviction, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for up to two years less a day, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. If they proceed by way of indictment, the maximum penalty is more severe and includes imprisonment for up to five years.

In addition to these formal penalties, you will also have a criminal record if you are convicted, which can have consequences for your career, your standing in the community, and your personal relationships.

How Do You Defend an Uttering Threats Charge in Canada?

The most important aspect of mounting a successful defence is to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer who is familiar with the criminal justice system in your jurisdiction.

Your lawyer will examine and analyze the evidence against you, beginning by questioning the way the evidence was collected. If any of your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated, your lawyer will move to have the uttering threats charge dropped.

As discussed above, the Crown must prove the essential elements of intent, communication, and the existence of a threat. Your lawyer will address as many of these as possible, given the evidence against you, the context of what occurred, and any mitigating circumstances. Here are the most common successful defences:

  • Mistaken identity:

If there are doubts as to whether it was you who issued the threats, your lawyer will raise this with the Crown prosecutor. They may do this directly or by calling the credibility of the victim or any witnesses into question. If the alleged threat was delivered indirectly, there will be places for your lawyer to insert doubt into the deliberations.

  • Lack of intent:

You may have uttered the threat in jest or in the heat of an argument without any real intent to frighten the victim. Note that the Crown does not have to prove that you intended to carry out the threat: even if the threat is an improbable act such as “I’ll drop your cat off the Eiffel Tower,” the Crown only needs to show that it caused the victim to be distressed or afraid and that it was your intent to make them feel this way. Therefore, your lawyer will argue that you did not have this intent

  • Freedom of Expression:

Depending on the details, your lawyer may argue that the alleged threat is protected as freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They may contend that the statement in question was an expression of an opinion, political commentary, or artistic expression rather than a genuine threat.

If you receive an uttering threats charge in Canada, your first call should be to a qualified criminal defence lawyer, who can help you secure a dismissal or a reduced penalty. The team at Zamani Law is highly experienced at defending clients against criminal charges such as this. We will ensure your rights are respected and thoroughly examine the evidence to identify flaws in the Crown’s case against you. Remember the first rule of being charged with a crime: call a lawyer. Make that lawyer Zamani Law. Contact us today for a free consultation about your charges and how we can defend you.

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