How to Win an Assault Charge in Ontario

April 30, 2024

how to win an assault charge in ontarioWhat if you didn’t commit the crime you’re being accused of?  Assault is a very serious allegation, and a conviction could have wide-reaching consequences. These consequences go beyond being convicted and potentially facing prison time. A criminal record can severely impact your chances to keep or secure employment or travel, and we’re not even talking about the reputational damage. So, if you find yourself in this situation, the main question is: How can you beat an assault charge in Ontario? In this blog, we will examine assault, the different types of assault, and potential defences against assault charges.

What Is an Assault?

Section 265(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada defines the offence of assault as such:  (1) 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 gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe upon 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. It is important to note that you can be charged with assault even if you don’t touch the other person. Approaching someone threatening to apply force or with a weapon can constitute assault as well, and you can be charged for it.

The Different Types of Assault

Assault

Often referred to as simple assault, common assault is the most common assault charge in Ontario. It typically involves an altercation without a weapon and with no or minor injuries. A common assault could be a threat uttered or a fistfight. The maximum sentence for a simple assault is five years imprisonment. That being said, prison time is fairly rare with this type of assault.

Assault with a Weapon or Causing Bodily Harm

Assault causing bodily harm means that the other person has suffered physical harm that is more than transient, meaning that the injury lasts longer than a very short period and is more than a very minor degree. If a weapon is used during the assault, even as a threat, the charge may be upgraded to assault with a weapon. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is the most severe assault charge in Ontario and involves significant bodily harm to the victim. This harm includes serious injury, such as wounding and maiming, disfigurement and endangerment of life. Aggravated assault is a straight indictable offence and has a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Domestic Assault

Domestic assault is an umbrella term for a range of assaults that involve a partner or former partner. Due to the nature of the relationship, domestic assault cases are taken very seriously, and many Crown Attorney’s offices have dedicated prosecutors for this type of assault. Domestic assault is also the only type of assault where the Crown cannot withdraw charges solely based on the request of the alleged victim.

Sexual Assault

Another wide range of assaults is sexual assault. It covers assaults of a sexual nature, which can range from inappropriate touching to rape. Equally, penalties for sexual assault vary based on the type of sexual assault; for example, if it is aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault with a weapon, sentences can be as high as life imprisonment. Additionally, convicted individuals’ names are recorded in the public national sex offender database.

Defences Against Assault Charges in Ontario

A wide range of defences is available, depending on the type of assault and its severity. Assault charges are very fact-specific, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. All details must be taken into account to ensure the best possible defence strategy.

Unproven Identity

The identification of the accused person related to an assault charge is critical. The case may be dismissed if the Crown cannot conclusively prove that you were the accused. For example, witnesses may not be able to identify you properly, or potential security camera footage may be inconclusive. The identification can be even more challenging if the involved parties or bystanders are not known to each other, such as in a bar fight.

Raising of Reasonable Doubt

The Crown must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For this defence, an experienced assault lawyer will diligently review all the facts and raise a reasonable doubt defence by questioning the credibility and reliability of evidence or witnesses.

Lack of Intent

Another common argument is that the application of force was not intentional. This could be that an external or unintentional force caused an impact. A lack of intent defence aims at the intent requirement of an assault charge.

Self Defence

Section 34 of the Criminal Code states that a person is not guilty of an offence if:
  • There was reasonable grounds to believe force or threat of force was being used against them or another person.
  • The force used was committed with the purpose of defending themselves or another person
  • The amount of force used was reasonable in the circumstances. 
This requires the Court to consider whether the act committed was reasonable, including the imminence of the force, the nature and history of the relationship, the nature of the force or threat of force, whether any party used a weapon, the size, age, and gender of the parties, or the proportionality of the person’s response.

Charter Rights Violations

A violation of your Charter rights could be a very powerful defence strategy. If your defence counsel can establish that one or more of your Charter rights have been violated, for example, by an unreasonable and unwarranted search or seizure, the Court may exclude evidence obtained in this instance, which may lead to an acquittal.

Consent for the Use of Force

Section 267 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that force must be applied without the other party’s consent, which is a critical factor. If the accused can prove that there was consent, like in a mutual fistfight, no assault has been committed.

Plea Bargain for Reduced Charges

In some cases, the Crown’s case may have issues, which the assault lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor. Potential results could be reducing charges and avoiding a criminal record, thus resulting in a more favourable outcome. For example, a Peace Bond resolution can often be negotiated, which will result in any Crimina Code charges being withdrawn.

Talk to an Assault Lawyer

Have you or someone you know has been charged with assault? Contact Fedorowicz Law for legal advice. Richard Fedorowicz has over 20 years of experience in criminal defence and a proven track record of success. He will fully assess any elements of a criminal case that could help the most effective defence for each of his Greater Toronto Area clients. Call Fedorowicz Law today at 249-266-4222 or fill out our convenient online form to learn how we can help you with your assault defence in Toronto!