Understanding Canadian Criminal Law

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The Advocates Society AIDWYC Criminal Lawyers Association Ontario Bar Association Toronto Lawyers Association Certified as a Specialist in Criminal Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada

Utter Threats Charge

death threat

The crime of uttering threats carries with it serious consequences, including the potential for imprisonment. Quite often, allegations of uttering threats to cause bodily harm or death will arise out of a domestic dispute.  In these types of cases, a special approach is required which takes into account the future needs of the parties and the public interest in preserving family harmony. For more information on domestic assault cases, read here. 

Daniel Brown is a certified criminal law specialist with extensive knowledge and experience defending against allegations of uttering threats. As such, he is often sought out by the media to comment on national and international stories on the subject. Daniel recently spoke with the Toronto Star about a high profile uttering threats case in the news.

Daniel has also been successful defending numerous charges of uttering threats and threatening death or bodily harm.

The following article briefly reviews the law surrounding uttering threats and threatening bodily harm charges in Toronto, Ontario and the surrounding regions. Those looking for specific advice on an utter threats charge should immediately consult with Daniel Brown at (416) 297-7200 to discuss your case.

Frequently asked questions about utter threats:

What is the definition of a threat?

The definition of uttering threats is found in the Criminal Code at section 264.1. Generally anyone can be charged with uttering a threat if they utter, convey or cause 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

What if the threat isn’t said directly to the intended target, but to a third person?

The accused need not utter the threat directly to the intended victim to be found guilty. Furthermore, when the accused does not utter the threat directly but rather threatens to harm the intended victim to a third person, it is not a valid defence to argue that the accused did not intend that third person to communicate the threat to the intended victim for the crime to be established. Indeed, it is not even necessary for the intended victim to be aware of the threat in order to be found guilty of the offence.

What is required to establish a threat in law?

The prosecutor must prove that the accused knowingly made the threat and that he/she intended the threat to be taken seriously so as to produce a reaction of alarm or fear in the mind of the recipient.

What if the recipient of the threat did not take the threat seriously?

In law, all that is required is that the person making the threat intended the threat to be taken seriously. The fact that the person receiving the threat was not intimidated or scared does not constitute a defense to the charge of uttering threats.

What if the threat was impossible to carry out?

Even in a situation where the accused makes a threat he could not carry out i.e.: ” I will drop you from the top of the C.N. Tower”, he may still be found guilty of the offence. The central focus for the judge in deciding whether or not a threat was made will be on the maker’s intention when the words were uttered (was it meant to be taken seriously so as to produce a reaction of alarm or fear in the mind of the recipient) – not on the present ability to carry out the threat.

What are the consequences of an utter threats conviction?

The consequences of an uttering threats conviction can include:

  • job loss
  • fines, probation, and possible of imprisonment
  • problems with immigration, permanent residence, and citizenship applications
  • being deemed ineligible for certain professions, jobs, and opportunities
  • being denied entry into the United States or other countries
  • living with the social stigma of a criminal record
  • risk of the conviction being reported publicly in the media
  • obtaining a criminal record that will be stored and accessible in the national CPIC database

For individuals without criminal histories, the effect of a threatening bodily harm conviction on their livelihood, freedom, and future opportunities in life can be tremendous.

It is important to remember that every allegation of uttering threats is a fact specific inquiry. Consulting a lawyer will assist you with identifying potential defences to this type of allegation. Call Daniel Brown at (416) 297-7200 to arrange a consultation about your case.

One thought on “Utter Threats Charge”

  1. What about a situation where a victim of severe abuse (and suffering PTSD) says something like: “I want to kill the person who did this to me.”? What if this is said in the grip of PTSD-triggered anger? Would be interested to know how the law provides for such situations.

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