Criminal Harassment Lawyers2024-05-27T10:36:24+00:00

Criminal Harassment

While criminal harassment may not seem like a severe charge on its face, it can be. It carries the possibility of a very lengthy prison sentence. Hiring a lawyer can help you avoid this prison sentence altogether.

What is criminal harassment?

Criminal harassment, under section 264(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, is knowingly and without authority, engaging in conduct that makes someone either fear for their own life or safety or fear for the life or safety of someone known to them. These behaviours tend to be obsessive and repeated over and over again. These behaviours must also be unwanted by the complainant.

The Crown will need to prove a few things:

  • That you were repeatedly following or communicating with the victim OR were watching their home or place of work OR engaged in threatening conduct;
  • That the complainant must also have felt harassed and made fearful by the conduct, and the fear was reasonable; and
  • That you knew that your conduct would make the complainant feel harassed or were, at the very least, reckless as to whether your conduct made the complainant feel harassed.

Examples of criminal harassment:

  • Stalking or repeatedly following the complainant;
  • Attempting to communicate with the complainant against their wishes;
  • Watching the complainant’s home or workplace; and/or
  • Engaging in threatening conduct against the complainant’s family member(s).

What Does Criminal Harassment Mean?

Harassment does not mean that you actually caused the complainant any injury or bodily harm. It also does not mean that you actually threatened the complainant. Instead, you must have tormented, troubled, worried, or badgered the complainant with your actions and behaviours. It is more than merely annoying the complainant and less than actually threatening them. The behaviour also needs to be repeated and ongoing.

Criminal Harassment Charges

With criminal harassment on the rise in Canada for several years in a row, the police, prosecution and courts view it as a serious offence. This approach is echoed by the Criminal Code of Canada, setting a higher penalty for criminal harassment than for direct assault.

Criminal harassment charges involve stalking, spying and other forms of threatening and intimidating behaviour, making the victim continually worried. For criminal harassment charges to take place, it is not necessary for the conduct to contain threats or violence. In fact, the offence of criminal harassment can take place even without spoken words at all.

When criminal harassment is directed at an offender’s intimate partner or a family member, the charges will be classified as domestic. Considering that the Canadian Criminal Code views domestic violence as an aggravating factor, the court will impose higher penalties for domestic harassment.

Experienced Toronto defence lawyers can fight your criminal harassment charges. Call 647-977-5852 or reach out online for a free review.

Sentence for Harassment in Ontario

Since criminal harassment is a hybrid offence, the Crown can proceed with the charges either by indictment or summarily. For the indictment process, the maximum sentence is 10 years in prison. If the criminal harassment charges are tried summarily, the maximum penalty can be two years less a day and/or a $5,000 fine.

When imposing sentences for criminal harassment, judges need to consider aggravating factors, which include:

  • breaching the conditions of a prohibition order or a peace bond that existed at the time of committing harassment,
  • contravening any other “order, recognizance or undertaking” at the time of the offence,
  • evidence that the offender abused an intimate partner or member of the family,
  • any other aggravating circumstances related to the offence or the offender.

Retaining experienced harassment lawyers can help increase the chances of obtaining a more favourable outcome in your criminal case. A skillful lawyer can help secure more lenient sentencing, such as a suspended sentence, a discharge order, a monetary fine or a shorter prison term, or even have the charges dropped or dismissed.

Defence Strategy for Harassment Charges in Toronto and the GTA

Although all criminal harassment charges are fact-specific, there are common defence strategies that can be applied depending on the circumstances. The list of the common defences to criminal harassment charges in Ontario includes:

  • factual innocence defence based on reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case,
  • unreasonable fear defence showing that alleged actions could not reasonably induce fear,
  • lack of intent to harass the complainant and absence of willful blindness regarding the alleged actions causing the victim to be harassed,
  • having lawful authority to contact the victim, for example, to enforce child access and visitation orders.

An experienced criminal harassment lawyer in Toronto can further adapt these defences to your case and significantly increase your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome.

Arrest and Bail

If you are arrested for criminal harassment, the police can release you or detain you in custody until a bail hearing. If you are detained, the police must bring you for the bail hearing in court within 24 hours after arrest or as soon as possible.

After arrest, you have a constitutional right to remain silent and retain a criminal harassment lawyer. It is in your best interests to exercise these rights and, avoid answering any questions or making any statements, and seek Toronto harassment lawyers near you to retain them as soon as possible.

During the bail hearing, your lawyer will negotiate with the Crown and propose a bail plan for your release. In many cases, a bail plan involves individuals known as “sureties” who pledge a certain amount of money that is paid if you violate your bail terms.

When you face criminal harassment charges in Ontario, the bail conditions can be more restrictive, especially when the allegations involve an intimate partner or a family member. Your criminal harassment lawyers will negotiate with the Crown, address any concerns raised by the prosecution and demonstrate to the court why you should be granted bail on the less restrictive terms.

Awaiting trial for harassment charges

While you await the trial, your lawyer can start developing a defence strategy to minimize the charges. As a first step, the lawyer will request full disclosure of evidence from the prosecution. Since the Crown would disclose certain information only to legal counsel, retaining harassment lawyers comes with the advantage of accessing all information the Crown has against you and using it for a successful defence.

If you retain criminal harassment lawyers early, they will participate in pre-trial appearances on your behalf and negotiate with the prosecution and the court during Crown pre-trial (CPT) and Judicial pre-trial (JPT). If the prosecution decides to proceed by indictment, your lawyer will advise on choosing the mode of trial in provincial court or Superior Court, by judge alone or by jury, to have the best chances for a successful defence.

Consequences if found guilty of criminal harassment

If someone is convicted of criminal harassment in Canada, they can face a range of penalties. The potential consequences can include probation, fines, criminal record and a prison sentence of up to several years, with a maximum of 10-year jail time for the most severe cases.

When someone is convicted of criminal harassment, they may also expect a mandatory weapon prohibition order for not less than 10 years starting at release from custody. Also, while a DNA Order for criminal harassment charges is discretionary, the Crown regularly requests offenders’ DNA to be included in the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).

In cases where the accused receives a suspended sentence, discharge order, prison time of up to two years and/or a fine, a sentence may also include a probation order. When placed on probation, the accused will be ordered not to have any contact with the victim and may be obliged to take part in counselling sessions.

In addition, a conviction always results in a criminal record with far-reaching consequences for employment, housing, travel and social opportunities. When facing criminal harassment charges, you need the assistance of experienced lawyers to minimize the repercussions of the allegations.

Why Is It Important to Contact a Harassment Lawyer for Charges Dropped?

In light of the stance of the police, the Crown and the courts, retaining a skillful lawyer early in the process is crucial to challenge criminal harassment charges in Ontario. Involving an established Toronto criminal harassment lawyer is the best defence in these cases, significantly raising your prospects of having the charges dropped, dismissed or reduced.

An experienced lawyer for harassment cases can:

  • advise you on your legal options and help you navigate the Canadian justice system,
  • facilitate your release on bail and demonstrate to the judge why you should be released the less restrictive conditions,
  • obtain all evidence the Crown has against you, whether they plan to use it during the trial or not,
  • negotiate with the prosecution and the judge during pre-trial appearances and advocate for you inside and outside the courtroom,
  • devise a defence strategy that is best adapted to your individual circumstances,
  • challenge the evidence against you, raising a reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s case,
  • vigorously advocate for you during trial to obtain the best possible outcome in your circumstances.
Harassment lawyer Igor Vilkhov
Criminal harassment lawyer Joel Prajs
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What is a defence to harassment?2024-05-23T20:21:31+00:00

In most cases, your lawyer can raise a reasonable doubt about the prosecution case and question the elements of the offence and whether they constitute harassment. Criminal harassment lawyers may contest the presence of intent or wilful blindness, which led to harassment charges. In some cases, your lawyer can also demonstrate that you may have lawful reasons to contact the complainant and have your harassment charges dismissed.

How can you fight harassment charges?2024-05-23T20:20:44+00:00

There are several defences available to those charged with criminal harassment. Meanwhile, no two criminal cases are the same so you need to involve a skillful lawyer for harassment charges to devise a defence strategy adapted to your individual circumstances.

Is verbal harassment a crime in Canada?2024-05-23T20:20:05+00:00

Verbal harassment by phone calls, voice chats, direct interactions or texting is one of the forms of criminal harassment. When verbal communication continuously or chronically worries or troubles another person and makes them fear for their safety or the safety of others, it can give rise to criminal harassment charges.

What is an example of criminal harassment?2024-05-23T20:19:03+00:00

Criminal harassment involves repeated behaviour towards someone that a reasonable person would find threatening or intimidating. In this context, following or watching someone, making repeated unwanted phone calls or sending repeated unwanted messages, and showing up at someone’s place of work or living are only a few examples of conduct that can be viewed as beyond “merely annoying” and give rise to criminal harassment charges.

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