Suppose you are at a party with friends. Everything is fine, then you mention a colleague and you say, without realizing it, that he is going to pay for what he has done. Two days later, the police arrive at your home. You are under arrest. You do not understand. What could have happened? This is when the best thing to do is to contact your attorney .
Another hypothetical situation: your neighbor is unbearable. He dumps his garbage on your property, he listens to television at the top of his voice day and night, he doesn’t maintain the front of his residence, etc. He poisons your existence and you can’t take it anymore. Exasperated and exhausted, you threaten to set fire to his house if you see him again on your property.
You have just committed a Criminal Code offence.
Whether you threatened a co-worker, friend, spouse, ex or family member, it is a criminal code offense and you could be arrested by the police. You could be subject to criminal prosecution under section 264.1 of the Criminal Code and be accused of having uttered threats, either to cause death or bodily harm, or to burn or damage movable or immovable property.
Definition of death threat
Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code prohibits transmitting a threat to another person by any means. However, this article only covers three types of threats: threats of death or of causing bodily harm, threats of destruction of property and finally, threats of injuring, poisoning or killing a domestic animal. Conversely, threatening a person with legal action is not punishable under the Criminal Code.
Jurisprudence has defined the notion of threat as being the “manifestation by which one marks someone with one’s anger, with the intention of making him fear the harm being prepared for him. »
We are talking here about words that will arouse fear or intimidate the victim. Uttering a death threat with the intention that it be taken seriously necessarily implies the intention to intimidate the victim or instil fear in him or her. The reverse is also true: the intention to intimidate the victim or instill fear in him by uttering a death threat necessarily implies the intention that it be taken seriously.
Followed by an act or not
A death threat does not have to be followed by an act to be considered. However, joking words cannot support such an accusation. In any case, the Crown will have to demonstrate this in court, for the accused to be found guilty of uttering threats against the victim.
One example is the fact that the courts have found that threatening a woman with sexual assault constitutes a threat to cause serious bodily harm. Because a sexual assault always leaves significant psychological sequelae in the victim, in addition to the possible physical sequelae.
Persons targeted by the threat
For a charge of uttering threats to be laid, it is not necessary that the accused himself uttered the threats to the victim. Indeed, the Criminal Code provides that this threat can be made through a third party. It is not necessary that the victim of the threat has received the message or that he fears for his safety, for the accusation to be made. As soon as the threat is spoken or written, it is likely to lead to an arrest.
Moreover, it is not necessary that the threat made is aimed at a specific individual. It can even target a group of people, insofar as this group is identifiable.
The applicable test for determining whether a threat has indeed been made within the meaning of the Criminal Code was developed in the Supreme Court’s decision in McCraw.
The nature of the threat must be assessed objectively. Thus, the terms used by the accused must be viewed through the eyes of a reasonable person placed in that position. Obviously, the terms used must be analyzed throughout the conversation. There can be no question of isolating the sentences from the context in which they were pronounced. It is also necessary to take into account the particular situation in which the victim finds himself.
To find an offense of uttering threats, the following question must be asked: « Considered objectively, in the context of all the words written or spoken and having regard to the person to whom they are directed, the terms constitute a threat (…) to a reasonable person”?
This test ensures that the interpretation of the threats made is not based solely on the personal interpretation of the victim, which may be colored by their particular character traits.
The Crown must show that the accused had the intention to threaten the victim in order to frighten or intimidate him. The accused may thus attempt to raise doubts about the evidence provided by the Crown and testify by denying having uttered such words.
Remember this: the fact that the accused did not want to carry out his threat will never constitute a defence. On this subject, it is necessary to read the article relating to the jurisprudence which concerns the threat of death.
With respect to threats of death or causing bodily harm, if the accused is prosecuted for a summary offense, he is liable to a maximum of 18 months in prison. On the other hand, if he is accused under an indictable offence, he will then be liable to a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.
With respect to threats to destroy property and to injure, poison or kill an animal, if the accused is prosecuted for a summary offense, he is liable to a maximum of 6 months in prison and/or a maximum fine of $2,000. On the other hand, if he has been charged with an indictable offence, he will then be liable to a maximum prison sentence of 2 years.
If you are in such a situation, do not panic. Several means of defense are available to you. We can cite as an example the joke. If you were joking, you will have to show that it was said in a frivolous way and that you did not intend to cause real fear. Sometimes victims don’t report the right words. It may be a matter of interpretation.
The courts must try each defendant within a reasonable time. That said, a delay of 6 to 12 months is to be expected before obtaining a trial. Time frames will depend on where the arrested individual is charged.
It is very easy to say words that you do not really mean, without first thinking about the unfortunate consequences that can follow. It is often said that you should turn your tongue seven times in your mouth before speaking, and it is good advice to follow.
If you are in this situation, consult a criminal lawyer who will guide you through the charge before it is too late. Remember that this text is intended to be informative and can in no way replace the opinion and advice of a professional.