How Serious Is the Criminal Offence Uttering Threats?

Uttering threats is considered a serious criminal offence as defined by the Criminal Code of Canada in Section 264.1. According to the law, everyone commits an offence, if they knowingly convey, utter, or cause any person to receive a threat of bodily harm or death, or if they threaten to destroy, damage or burn real property, or if they poison, injure, harm, or kill an animal or bird that is considered the property of another person.

The Crown must prove the person intentionally made the threat and did so knowingly in order to convict a person of this criminal offence. To help the court evaluate whether there are grounds for filing charges, it will evaluate the threat objectively using the following criteria:

1. In what context and circumstances was the threat made?
2. In what manner were the words used?
3. Would the words convey a threat to a reasonable person in regards to the person they were originally used against?

In cases where the threat was made and heard by others than the intended recipient, the perceptions of those, who heard the threat, can be used, as well. Keep in mind the threat does not have to be made directly to the intended person. In addition, threats do not have to be made against a single person and could involve those made against a group of people. Further, the threat does not have to be verbally spoken. Text messages, emails, and other written content containing threatening language could result in being charged with this criminal & assault offence.

What Are the Penalties for Being Found Guilty?

The penalties for being found guilty of an uttering threats criminal offence depend upon how the case was prosecuted. The offence can be prosecuted either by indictment or summary conviction. If prosecuted as an indictment case, where the case goes to trial and the outcome is determined by a jury, the accused can be sentenced for up to five years in jail, if found guilty. In a summary conviction prosecution, where the case is heard in provincial court and the outcome is determined by a judge, the accused can be sentenced for up to eighteen months in jail, if the judge finds them guilty.

Are All Threats Considered a Criminal Offence?

There are certainly exceptions in specific situations, where uttering a threat is not considered a criminal offence law Toronto. If a threat is made by a person who is angry, upset, frustrated, or desperate, and considered an idle threat, where it is not taken seriously by the other person, it is not a criminal offence. However, if the person, to whom the threat was made, perceives it as a serious threat, then it could be considered a criminal offence. Another situation where a threat is not considered a criminal offence is when the threat is made as a joke or in jest, where the words uttered are not taken seriously and therefore, do not pose a threat. Additionally, there is the lawful excuse exception, where threats made against trespassers and in acts of self-defence are not considered a criminal offence.

For more information about uttering threats or if you have been charged with this criminal offence, contact Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg at 416-428-7360 for a free case evaluation.