What is criminal harassment?

>>>What is criminal harassment?

In Canada, criminal harassment is a charge that will be laid when you knowingly engage in prohibited conduct that causes another person to reasonably fear for their safety, or that causes them to fear for the safety of someone known to them. More commonly referred to as stalking, criminal harassment charges typically follow repeated, but unwanted attempts to communicate with a complainant. Often, criminal harassment charges are laid against individuals who might be trying to pursue an unwanted relationship with a complainant. They might do so by persistently sending the complainant messages or phone calls that are unsolicited and unwanted, which ultimately leads to a charge for criminal harassment being laid. Other examples of criminal harassment would be repeatedly following a complainant, or watching the complainant in their place of work or where they live.

In order for you to be convicted of criminal harassment, the Crown Prosecutor will need to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The complainant felt harassed;
  • You knew that your conduct would make the complainant feel harassed, or you were reckless or wilfully blind as to whether it would make the complainant feel harassed;
  • Your conduct caused the complainant to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of anyone known to him or her;
  • The complainant’s fear was reasonable in the circumstances; and,
  • You engaged in some form of the prohibited conduct outlined in the Criminal Code. Prohibited conduct includes:
  • Repeatedly following the complainant from place to place;
  • Repeatedly communicating with the complainant or anyone known to the complainant either directly or indirectly;
  • Watching the place where the complainant works or lives; and
  • Engaging in threatening behavior that is directed either at the complainant or at members of their family.

While the word harassed is not defined in the criminal code, our courts have generally interpreted it to mean that the complainant felt worried, troubled, or badgered by the conduct of the accused. Further, while the conduct must be repeated, our courts have also found that persistent harassment throughout the course of a single, prolonged interaction is sufficient to meet the ‘repeated’ element of this offence. For example, if you followed a complainant for several hours, and your conduct met all other requirements of the offence, it would be enough to charge and potentially convict you of this offence.

The Penalty for Criminal Harassment in Canada:

If you are found guilty of criminal harassment, you can face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison if the Crown proceeds by way of indictment. If it proceeds by way of summary conviction, you can face up to 18 months in prison and a $5000.00 fine.

In addition to potentially spending time in jail, you may also have to contend with restrictive ancillary orders. For example, you may be given a firearms and weapons prohibition which will preclude you from owning or being in possession of any firearms or weapons for the duration of the order. If a firearms or weapons prohibition is attached to your sentence, you will also have to forfeit any guns or weapons you currently own to the Crown. Furthermore, in very serious cases, the Crown can make an application for a DNA order to submit samples of your DNA to a national databank,  or they can make an application to have you become a registered sex offender.

Given the high stakes you face if charged with criminal harassment, it is in your best interest to call one of our criminal defence lawyers immediately. We will be able to start working on your case right away and will canvass all possible resolutions with the Crown, or begin mounting you an excellent defence for trial if needed.

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All our 30-60 minute free consultations are conducted with one of our Criminal Defence Lawyers and include the following steps:

  1. Gathering of some personal information about you, such as your level of education, occupation, and citizenship status. This information can be crucial for building your defence and seeking a resolution with the Crown Prosecutor;
  2. Careful review of all documents you received from the police. We will explain what each document is, and what you can expect from and need to do for all upcoming appearances;
  3. Critical review of your recollection of events, and any supporting materials you choose to bring with you. This step helps us identify possible defences and avenues for further investigation; and
  4. Discussion of the court process, our fee structure, and what we can do to help.

Beyond these steps, we would be happy to tell you more about us, and answer any questions you may have. If you chose to retain us to help you, we will immediately provide an overview of what steps we plan to take next, and suggestions as to what you should do to improve your chances of a successful outcome.

For the free initial consultation to be as productive as possible, you should bring (or email in advance) the following materials:

  • A written statement (preferably typed) outlining your version of events;
  • All documents that you have been given by the court or by the police;
  • Any disclosure you have received;
  • Photo ID; and
  • Any supporting documents, such as photographs, emails, texts, phone records, medical records, receipts, etc.

Ideally, you will have prepared a copy of these materials for us to keep, but if not, we can always photocopy them during the consultation.

We offer flexible payment options and structures designed to meet our clients’ individual needs. Our lawyers accept all major credit cards, bank drafts, money orders, email money transfers (e-transfers) and, of course, cash.

If you decide to retain us after the free initial consultation, all we need is a retainer (down payment) to get started. The rest of the fee payments for the case can be spaced out over time. We can set you up on a monthly or bi-monthly payment plan, and process payments over the telephone or by email to make it easy for you.

The cost of a criminal defence lawyer will depend on several factors, including:

  1. how complex your case is,
  2. how serious the charges are, and
  3. how experienced the Criminal Defence lawyer is.

The fees of a competent Criminal Defence Lawyer will typically range into the thousands of dollars. The good news is that only a fraction of that amount is due initially. We offer flexible payment schedules so thefees can be paid in monthly installments.

Additionally, we offer flat rate fees, with no hidden costs. It is our standard practice to review all the costs during the free initial consultation. This means you will know exactly what our services cost at the outset and can make an informed decision about how to proceed.