Assault Lawyer Toronto

How To Defend Assault Charges

It is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer to defend assault charges. Our lawyers have defended assault charges in all corners of the province and often appear in courts across the GTA in addition to the Toronto courthouses including Newmarket, Oshawa, Brampton, and Milton.

Daniel Brown is certified as a specialist in criminal law and has achieved top results for his clients facing assault charges in Toronto (and elsewhere in Ontario) by employing a number of strategies which often result in his client’s charges being withdrawn by the prosecutor or dismissed in court by the judge.

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Daniel Brown Law is recognized by Canadian Lawyer Magazine as one of Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s Top 10 Criminal Law Boutique Firms for 2022-23.

For those facing domestic assault charges, specific considerations apply. Please read our article on defending domestic assault charges to learn more about defending these types of cases. To learn more about assault, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and aggravated assault charges please continue reading the frequently asked questions below.

Frequently asked questions about assault:

This article contains legal information about assault, assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon charges in Toronto, Ontario. Those looking for advice on criminal assault charges should consult a criminal lawyer.

What is an assault?

The definition of assault is found in the Criminal Code at section 265. Generally, an assault occurs when a person intentionally applies direct or indirect force to another person without the other person’s consent.

An assault can also occur where a person attempts or threatens to intentionally apply direct or indirect force to another.

A person can also be convicted of assault if they accost or impede another person or begs while openly wearing or carrying a real or imitation weapon.

Is harm an element of an assault charge?

A person need not harm someone for an assault to occur. An person may commit an assault although he exerts no degree of strength or power when touching the victim. The force however must be offensive or an affront to an individual’s dignity. A push or pinch in some cases may be sufficient to establish an criminal assault.

How much force is required to commit an assault?

Any amount intentional touching may constitute an intentional application of “force”.

“Force” in the sense of a violent or forceful contact is not required to ground a conviction for assault. Some cases are dismissed because the amount of forced used is minimal.  Examples of past assault charges dismissed for using minimal force include pushing the complainant in order to exit his office, where there was a minor contact in the course of a heated domestic squabble, or incidental physical contact occurring during a disagreement with a parking control officer.

What if I accidentally hit someone?

The application of force must be intentional. Accidentally hitting someone during the course of an epileptic seizure, for example, would not constitute an assault. Likewise, The touching that occurs due to the normal jostling that takes place in a crowded bus is an example of the unintentional or accidental application of force that will not lead to an assault conviction.

A reflex action does not constitute an assault

However accidentally hitting one person in an attempt to hit another is not a defence to assault. It does not matter who the intended victim is, as long the offender intended to apply force to any individual, it is still an assault.

What is the difference between an assault, an assault with a weapon, an assault causing bodily harm and an aggravated assault?

The difference between an assault and an assault with a weapon is the vehicle used to deliver the force. Generally an assault or “simple assault” is caused by the application of force from a person’s extremities such as hands, legs or feet. An assault with a weapon generally involves the application of force with an inanimate object such as a stick, bat, knife or object thrown and can even be delivered by something other than an inanimate object including a dog ordered to attack a person.

The difference between assault, assault causing bodily harm and aggravated assault is the harm suffered as a result of the application of force.

Assault Causing Bodily Harm: An assault that causes any hurt or injury that is not transient or trifling in nature and interferes with the complainant’s health or comfort will meet the definition of bodily harm.

Aggravated Assault: In order for an assault to meet the definition of an aggravated assault, the injury must be much more substantial. Any sort of injury that wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of another meets the definition of an aggravated assault.

The degree of harm caused by an assault will likely dictate the type of sentence imposed by the judge if the accused is found guilty. While some “simple assault” charges may not result in any jail time, an aggravated assault charge may result in a sentence amounting to several years in jail depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted on the complainant.

What are some defences to assault?

An experienced criminal lawyer can identify a number of valid defences to an assault allegation. The following is a non-exhaustive list of potential defences to an assault charge.


For an assault to have occurred, the Crown must prove that the application of force by the accused person was done without the consent of the party to whom the force was applied.

Consent may be expressly given or implied. In many instances, consent is implied and this may be determined from the circumstances surrounding the offence.

Social circumstances may give rise to an “implied consent” to a touching. There is a degree of implied consent in normal social interactions, for example, between domestic partners in a longstanding relationship or to physical contact during a sporting events. The implied consent doctrine does not apply to a police officer investigating an offence and any intentional touching of the officer constitutes an assault.

Generally there is an implied consent to pat a co-worker on the back or shake hands with a relative stranger. However, fraudulently-obtained or forcefully-extracted consent is no consent at all.

In addition, no one may consent to being killed or seriously injured. Consenting to fight does not normally imply permission to inflict significant bodily harm. Thus where the offender intends, or actually causes, significant harm or death, consent is not a valid defence to assault.

Mistaken Belief in Consent:

Even if the Crown proves that consent did not actually exist, it is still available to the defendant to argue that they honestly believed the aggrieved party had consented to the application of force. An honest but mistaken belief in consent will afford a defence to an assault charge.


The law recognizes that a person is justified in using force or threatening force in certain circumstances to protect either themselves, close family members or their property. The basic rule permits the use of force if the force is reasonable in the circumstances. Whether the use of force is reasonable is entirely fact specific and can depend on a number of different factors. Follow this link for more information on self-defence and the recent changes to self-defence laws in Canada.

What are the penalties for an assault?

The consequences of being found guilty of an assault charge are significant. Upon a finding of guilt, one may receive a criminal record and be sentenced to a period of incarceration in jail.

The maximum jail sentence for assault is either two years less one day where the Crown prosecutes the case by summary conviction or five years’ imprisonment where the Crown proceeds on indictment. The maximum penalty for assault causing bodily harm is 10 years in jail. The maximum jail sentence for aggravated assault is 14 years.

Usually, the greater the harm suffered, the harsher the penalty. Alternatively, the court may impose a lesser sentence including probation with counselling or a fine without jail for less serious assault allegations. It is also possible to be found guilty of an assault and receive no criminal record.

A person found guilty of assault, assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault may also face challenges securing employment, travelling abroad or becoming a citizen. In some instances, serious assault charges may lead to deportation for non-citizens.

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

The Top 10 Criminal Law Boutique award is not intended to suggest or imply a qualitative superiority to other lawyers that are not recognized by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Additionally, our lawyers’ past successes or results are not necessarily indicative of future results and outcomes will vary according to the facts and merits of each individual case.