Andrew Captan is a Toronto criminal lawyer with significant experience in representing individuals charged with Assault related offences, including common Assault.
What is an Assault?
Common Assault is the lowest level Assault offence in the Criminal Code of Canada. It is a commonly laid charge, given the broadness of the definition of Assault.
The term “assault” is defined in s. 265(1) of the Code:
“A person commits a 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.”
In short, there are three separate ways in which the offence of common Assault can be committed. The first two (under paragraphs (a) and (b)) are the most common in practice. Under paragraph (a), the offence is committed where an individual intentionally applies force to another individual, without the other individual’s consent.
The Other Person Was Not Injured. Why Am I Being Charged With Assault?
The Code does not specify the level of force required in order for physical contact to amount to an assault. Courts across Canada have found that even minimal levels of force, such as the squeezing of a wrist, can constitute an assault. Moreover, an “injury” to the complainant is not a prerequisite for someone to be charged with Assault. The prohibited conduct is the act of intentionally making contact with another person, whether directly or indirectly, rather than the outcome of that contact. That said, if an individual is injured, that is treated as an “aggravating” feature of the offence, which tends to increase the severity of the punishment.
Note that, under paragraph (b) (above), someone can be found guilty of an assault without making any physical contact with the complainant. A common lay person misconception of the offence is that physical force is required to be charged and found guilty of Assault.
Potential Defences to Assault
There are several legal defences that are commonly advanced to the offence of Assault:
- Self Defence: Otherwise unlawful force can be justified if one is acting in self defence. The framework of the defence is set out under s. 34(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. The defence arises where someone uses force to respond to actual or threatened force against them, whereby the responding level of force used is both reasonable in the circumstances, and was used solely for the purpose of defending oneself;
- Defence of Property: Section 35 of the Criminal Code of Canada also provides a defence to one’s property (personal or real property), with similar parameters to those listed above, which relate to Self Defence
- Corrective Force: Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada creates a legal defence for parents, teachers or someone acting in the position of a parent who use a reasonable amount of force on a child for the purpose of correcting their behaviour. The Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General) set out a wide variety of restrictions surrounding the applicability of the defence. Three of the main parameters of the defence are that: (1) the force must have been intended for corrective purposes; (2) the child must have been capable from benefiting from the correction and (3) the force used must be objectively reasonable in the circumstances. The Court ruled that children under 2 are not capable of benefiting from correction, and so the defence would likely not apply to an Assault charge on a very young child
- Non-intentional Physical Conduct: Since one of the legal elements of an Assault is that the conduct must be intentional in nature, a defence that is commonly argued is that the physical act was non-intentional, or accidental.
Call Andrew Captan – Criminal Lawyer today at (647) 878-6355 to speak to a Toronto criminal lawyer who has significant experience in defending individuals charged with Assault, whether it stems from a Bar Fight, Road-Rage Incident, Domestic Assault, Parent-Child Assault, and more.