Aggravated assault is the most serious of all assault charges.
Statistics Canada’s violent crime index suggests that the violent crime rate in Toronto is lower than in both Calgary and Edmonton. However, it is still rising each year. Aggravated assault cases, while much less common than simple assault, are also on the rise.
The Toronto Police Service reports that there were over 20,000 cases of assault reported in 2019, compared with over 14,000 in 2014. The worst-hit areas are in downtown Toronto, notably in the entertainment district.
The relevant section of the Criminal Code of Canada, states as follows:
- 268 (1) Every one commits an aggravated assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.
- (2) Every one who commits an aggravated assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
According to the Code, a person commits an assault when he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly, without their consent.
Assault is considered “aggravated” when it “wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.”
Investigation of Aggravated Assault Charges in Toronto
An investigation of an allegation of assault in Toronto is typically started by the alleged victim (or relative or witness). They contact the Toronto Police Service and report it. The police will request a written statement from the complainant or any other witnesses, and launch an investigation.
Because aggravated assault is such a serious offence, it requires a thorough police investigation. Police will typically interview all witnesses to the offence, review surveillance video, of any, seize any weapons involved, photograph the scene and/or injuries, and obtain medical documents to prove the type and extent of the alleged victim’s injuries.
There is no specialized police unit to deal with these types of charges but The Toronto Police Service is well equipped to conduct these investigations. It is one of the largest municipal forces in North America, with 5,500 officers serving the Toronto area.
Once the police have gathered their evidence, they will track you down and arrest you, if you are the alleged perpetrator. You will be taken to a Police District Office for questioning and processing. The police will then decide whether or not to press aggravated assault charges against you.
Even if a complainant makes an allegation of aggravated assault that they later withdraw, it’s still up to the Crown Prosecutor to decide whether to pursue the charges against you. The complainant can be subpoenaed to appear in court in aggravated assault cases, even against their wishes.
Bail Process and Conditions for Aggravated Assault Charges in Toronto
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for aggravated assault charges in Toronto?
Where bodily harm or endangerment to life has occurred, you will likely be kept in custody and require a formal bail hearing in order to secure your release.
In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be taken to the Toronto Police Service Division that is responsible for the alleged crime. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours. Note that the 24-hour period starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the Division.
The phone number for each division is 416-808-[Division Number – 00], so for example, the number for 52 Division is 416-808-5200. The addresses for each Division of the Toronto Police Service can be found here.
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 details 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 Police Service Division in Toronto 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; and
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release
At the time of your bail hearing, you will be transported to the courthouse associated with the particular police division, except for on weekends when Old City Hall holds weekend bail court.
Old City Hall is located at: 60 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2M3
When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider the following factors:
- 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?
Due to the serious nature of the charges, the Crown Prosecution is likely to request your detention until the charges are completed in the court system. This can result in the Court denying your release. Even if you are released, tight restrictions may be applied by the judge (see below).
However, 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.
Where can I pay for bail for aggravated assault charges in Toronto?
If you or a loved one is charged with aggravated assault in Toronto and granted bail, you can pay bail at any bail hearing office (courthouse) in Ontario. Even if you live in Ottawa, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Toronto.
Bail hearing offices in Toronto are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The simplest way to pay bail is usually to pay it at the courthouse where the bail hearing was held. For instance, at Old City Hall, you can pay the cash deposit at Room 7 on the ground floor. If you are held at the Toronto South Detention Centre, bail can also be paid there.
In Ontario, because of the prevalence of Justices of the Peace and Judges requiring a surety, various bail programs provide an alternative to a surety. The contact number for the Toronto Bail Program is 416-314-3765.
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after you appear in front of the arrest processing unit, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for aggravated assault charges in Toronto?
Release on bail with aggravated assault charges will almost always mean either a surety, cash, or a no-cash deposit.
Beyond that, you can expect tight restrictions, including refraining from:
- Interaction with the alleged victim
- Attending the alleged victim’s home or place of work
- Staying out beyond a certain time (a curfew)
- Breaking any laws
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Possessing weapons
- Visiting certain places
The judge can also impose some additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved
- Reporting to probation
- Attending counselling
- 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
- The nature of the alleged assault
- The likelihood that you will flee
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage
- whether you have stable employment
- whether you have stable living arrangements
- whether you have ties to the community
In order for your lawyer 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. This may be difficult in an aggravated assault case, but not impossible.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge to let our clients out. Moreover, we will work to secure your release on conditions that are no more than necessary. 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 though a Bail Review. Such reviews are conducted at the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault Charges in Toronto
Typically, if you are found guilty of aggravated assault, you can expect much harsher penalties than with a lesser assault. A conviction nearly always results in jail time (no Conditional Sentence Orders – aka “house arrest”).
You can expect:
- Up to 14 years in jail;
- Up to three years of probation;
- A lifetime ban from owning or possessing any weapons or firearms; and
- An order that you give a DNA sample to the national DNA databank.
Defending Aggravated Assault Charges in Toronto
What are the best defences to aggravated assault charges in Toronto?
With such serious penalties, you need a serious defence. In many cases, the best defences challenge the element of acting “intentionally,” “recklessly,” or “knowingly.”
There are other defense strategies that focus on the technical steps taken by the police during the investigation and evidence-collection process.
Typically, the best defences for an aggravated assault charge are:
- Factual innocence: this is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, causing the assault, or other basic elements of the case.
- Violation of constitutional rights: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If they were not followed to the letter by the police, it will aid your defence.
- Self-defence: reasonable force can be used to defend yourself against an unlawful assault, provided you did not intend to cause death or grievous bodily harm. No reasonable person would accuse you of aggravated assault if your actions were taken to protect yourself and were not deemed to be disproportionate or “reckless”.
- Defending someone else: reasonable force or the threat of force can also be used to defend someone else against an unlawful attack, provided there was no intent to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
- Defending property: reasonable force or the threat of force can also be used to defend property, though this may be a weaker defence in many situations.
- Accident: an accidental assault should not lead to a criminal conviction if it was unforeseeable (which you have to prove).
The Crown may not have to prove that you intended to wound, maim or disfigure someone. If the injury caused was foreseeable and you took the actions despite being aware of the potential consequences, you can be convicted of the crime.
However, the burden of proof remains high for the prosecution. This means that there are many successful defence strategies that our experienced defence lawyers can take, including those outlined above.
Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a good defense can greatly reduce the severity of the consequences (for instance, aggravated assault may be reduced to a simple assault conviction).
Our lawyers will conduct a thorough examination of the police actions and the evidence against you, and call upon medical evidence and witnesses in your defence if required.
How can I help defend aggravated assault charges in Toronto?
If you have been charged with aggravated assault in Toronto, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Making a statement about what happened
- Collecting and maintaining all documents and records about the event
- Gathering any photographic evidence that you may have
- Logging any relevant texts, emails or phone calls
As soon as you are released on bail, start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer.
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against aggravated assault charges in Toronto?
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.
Some of these include:
- Assembling documents, photos, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your version of events
- Gathering evidence that questions the complainant’s credibility (e.g., they have lied before, or have a motive to fabricate events)
- Gathering evidence that questions the complainant’s or witness’s reliability (e.g., they were drunk or unable to see or recall events)
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as with “Jordan delay”, non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.
As discussed, aggravated assault cases are very complex and fact-specific.
We have tried our best to provide 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 criminal defence lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defense.
Aggravated Assault FAQs
- What is aggravated assault?
- The victim of the assault changed their mind and does not want to press charges. Can they have the charges dropped?
- What are the best defences to an assault charge?
- How can I get my assault charges dropped?