Your Guide to Uttering Threats Charges by Violent Offence Lawyers in Edmonton
Table of Contents
- What is Uttering Threats?
- Investigation of Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
- Bail Process and Conditions for Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
- Penalties for Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
- Defending Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
- Further Reading
- What’s Next?
- Uttering Threats FAQs
What is Uttering Threats?
Uttering threats is considered an “offence against the person and reputation” in the Criminal Code of Canada (the “Code”). The provision captures threats offered directly, or indirectly via social media, email or text. This offence is frequently laid alongside allegations related to violent offences, including:
If your assault charge involves a past or present romantic partner or a family member, please see our domestic violence page for more information.
You may be charged with uttering threats if you threaten to:
- Kill or seriously injure a person;
- Destroy, damage or burn a person’s property; or
- Kill or hurt an animal that belongs to another person.
In Edmonton, according to statistics, incidents of uttering threats has remained relatively steady at approximately 2,100-2,400 incidents between 2016-2020. Although uttering threats is not a physically violent offence, it can lead to more serious offences and is therefore taken seriously by Edmonton Police Service.
The relevant provision for uttering threats in the Code is:
To be found guilty, you need not make these threats directly to the person targeted. If you tell person A that you want to kill person B, you can still be found guilty. Even if the person to whom the threat is made does not take the threat seriously, or does not believe you will follow through with it, you can still be found guilty.
Investigation of Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
An investigation of an uttering threats allegation in Edmonton is typically initiated by the alleged victim (or relative or witness). They contact the Edmonton Police Service or RCMP and report it. The police will request a statement from the complainant and any witnesses, then they will launch an investigation.
Because threats are often made without witnesses, a charge may rely solely on the statement of the complainant. In their investigation, however, police will also consult any available evidence such as text messages, emails or speak to close friends and family. This evidence will be used in the Crown’s case against you.
After the police have gathered their evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, the police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
Even if a complainant makes an allegation of uttering threats that they later withdraw, it is still up to the Crown Prosecutor to decide whether to pursue the charges against you. The complainant can be subpoenaed to appear in court, even against their wishes. In general, charges are only dropped if:
- There is insufficient evidence; or
- It would be contrary to the public interest to prosecute.
After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all of the evidence they have collected, known as the “disclosure package,” to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for uttering threats charges in Edmonton?
For most uttering threats incidents, it is not unusual for police to release with an Appearance Notice document outlining your charges, and any appearances you must make.
If the police feel that your circumstances require more onerous conditions they may require you to sign an Undertaking. This document will outline your charges and include any specific conditions you must follow, including being prohibited from:
- Leaving the province;
- Alcohol consumption; and/or
- Communication with specific individuals.
If this is your second or subsequent offence, or if the circumstances are more serious, a formal bail hearing may be necessary to secure your release. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the district office or courthouse.
In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be transferred from the district office to the Arrest Processing Unit in the basement of the Edmonton Police Headquarters.
Edmonton Police Service Headquarters is located downtown at:
Edmonton Police Service Headquarters
9620 103a Ave NW
Edmonton, AB T5H 0H7
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.
Because of these difficulties, while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, if that happens, stop questioning you.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail. We will immediately do the following:
- Call in to the Arrest Processing Unit in Edmonton and speak to you.
- Contact the prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the court about why you should be released on bail.
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
When you attend your bail hearing, the judge will consider:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
Although it is unlikely that you will be denied bail for failing to stop after an accident, tight restrictions may nevertheless be applied to your release.
Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit) possible.
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review. Such reviews are conducted at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
Where can I pay bail for uttering threats charges in Edmonton?
If you or a loved one are charged with uttering threats in Edmonton and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. The cash deposit can be paid at any courthouse in Alberta. Even if you live in Calgary, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Edmonton.
Bail hearing offices in Edmonton are open from 8 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week. The Edmonton Bail Hearing Office is located at:
10365 97 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T4J 3W7
You can also make a bail payment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at the Edmonton Remand Centre:
Edmonton Remand Centre
18415 127 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T6V 1B1
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for uttering threats charges in Edmonton?
Release on bail with uttering threats charges will almost always require a surety, cash, or no-cash deposit. Furthermore, you can expect tight restrictions, including conditions to refrain from:
- Contacting the alleged victim;
- Attending the alleged victims house, work, place of worship or school;
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest);
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew);
- Breaking any laws;
- Using drugs or alcohol;
- Possessing weapons;
- Possessing firearms;
- Visiting certain places; and/or
The judge may also impose additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved;
- Reporting to probation;
- Attending counselling; and/or
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:
- Your criminal history;
- Your physical and mental condition;
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage;
- The nature of the alleged offence;
- The likelihood that you will flee;
- Whether you have stable employment;
- Whether you have stable living arrangements; and
- Whether you have ties to the community.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
The following circumstances do not justify breaching the no-contact conditions of your release:
- The alleged victim is the one who initiates the contact;
- The victim consents to the contact;
- The victim does not want you charged for breaching; and/or
- The contact is innocent, pleasant, or for the victim’s benefit.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown Prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
Uttering threats is a hybrid offence, which means that the Crown can elect to proceed by way of indictment or summary conviction. This decision is made based on the circumstances of your case and will impact the severity of the punishment that you are handed. Indictment is the more severe of the two.
For a uttering threats, you can expect:
- Summary: Up to two years’ less a day imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine; or
- Indictment: Up to five years’ imprisonment.
In cases of uttering threats charges, the likelihood of going to jail if convicted is relatively low. The risk of jail time increases dramatically, however, where:
- The threat was made against a vulnerable person or public official;
- The threat was made in a domestic violence context;
- The threat was made in the presence of children;
- There is a history of uttering threats; and/or
- A weapon was present;
In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from an uttering threats conviction, it can also have negative impacts on your future. You may have trouble securing employment in the field of your choice. This is especially the case for roles that require interacting with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable sectors of society. The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can also hinder immigration and travel, and can raise child custody issues.
For these reasons, even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all possible penalties. Often, good representation can result in no criminal record. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences of a criminal conviction for uttering threats. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Uttering Threats Charges in Edmonton
What are the best defences to uttering threats charges in Edmonton?
With uttering threats charges, the defences that may be available to you depend on the facts of your case. In general, the best defences are:
- Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, applying force to the complainant, or other basic elements of the offence. One such example is:
Identity: In some circumstances where the threat was made by email or over Facebook, you may be able to raise an identity defence. For example, authorities could have made a mistake in identifying you as the perpetrator because your email or Facebook was hacked by someone else. In order to effectively raise this defence, you may need corroborative evidence, such as an alibi to show where you were at the time of the offence.
- No Mens Rea: If you can successfully challenge the mental elements of the offence, you cannot be convicted. For example, if you did not intend to intimidate or be taken seriously.
- You Did Not Make a Real Threat: If it can be shown that a reasonable person could not interpret your words, gesture or message as a threat, you cannot be convicted. This defence requires an in depth understanding of the exact circumstances of your case and can be tricky, though not impossible to use.
- Violation of Constitutional Rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence.
While the Crown must prove the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, you may bear the responsibility of raising certain defences at trial. The burden of proof remains high for this kind of prosecution. This means that there are many successful defence strategies that our experienced defence lawyers can employ, depending on the circumstances of your case.
The availability and strength of any defence depends on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of various potential defences in uttering threats cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the court at trial. Even if you believe that you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend uttering threats charges in Edmonton?
If you have been charged with uttering threats in Edmonton, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Take detailed notes about your version of events to provide to your lawyer;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. If you are uncertain about what information to collect, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
To be truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful for building an effective defence or convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges altogether.
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against uttering threats charges in Edmonton?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.
Our experienced defence lawyers will use the most effective defence against the charges according to the precise circumstances of your case. Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a dedicated lawyer can significantly reduce the severity of the consequences for you.
Below are a few notable cases dealing with various aspects of uttering threats charges:
In R v Jama, 2017 ONCJ 441 the accused was charged with uttering threats, specifically to cause death to the jury members assigned to her trial. The threats were made during her attendance at a courthouse whereby she was “ranting” and agitated. At issue was whether these threats, as part of this rant, satisfied the requirements to find her guilty of uttering threats. The court determined that although they believed she did threaten the jury; the context of the threat was in the midst of a rant whereby she was “letting off steam.” It was not her intention to intimidate anyone or for her words to be taken seriously. The accused was found not guilty.
In R v Mohammad, 2018 ABPC 174 the accused had been charged with 5 incidents of uttering threats. At issue was whether the accused had the required mens rea to commit the offences. At approximately 1:00 a.m on the night in question, the accused showed up to the complainant’s address and threatened to kill both the complainant, and his four other family members. The accused was severely intoxicated at the time of the offence. The court determined that although the accused was intoxicated, he was not so heavily intoxicated that he could not understand the consequence or significance of his actions. He intended his threats to be taken seriously. He was found guilty on all five charges.
Most of the information above relates to simple uttering threats cases, which can still be complex and fact-specific. We have provided a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of violent offence lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a strategy that targets your successful defence.
- What is uttering threat?
- What are the best defences to an uttering threats charge?
- How can I get my uttering threats charges dropped?