Understanding Different Levels of Criminal Assault in Canada

August 25th, 2023
Understanding Different Levels of Criminal Assault in Canada

Being charged with assault in British Columbia or anywhere in Canada is serious. That said, there are several different types and levels of assault, and what type of assault one is charged with determines exactly how serious the charge is.

What Is Assault?

For the purposes of this article, we are going to paraphrase the definition of assault which can be found in the Criminal Code, section 265(1). Assault happens when a person either intentionally applies unwanted force onto someone else or threatens to apply force or attempts to apply force or in some way makes the other party believe that force is about to be applied. Whether or not force is actually applied and injury occurs or whether any attempts or threats actually happened are beside the point. A party having a real belief that he or she is under threat of assault is enough to bring assault charges.

The types of assault listed below do not include any of the crimes against children or between children which may be handled and charged differently.

There are many different types of assault in Canada including the following:

  • Simple Assault
  • Assault Causing Bodily Harm
  • Assault With a Weapon
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Sexual Assault With a Weapon Including the Threat of or Causing Bodily Harm
  • Assaulting a Police Officer


The definitions of some of these types of assault are not crystal clear. For example, a weapon does not have to be a gun. A weapon can be a frying pan or a rock or a hockey stick if it is used to assault or threaten to assault someone. It will be up to your defence lawyer to manage your case based on whatever the client is charged with.

If it is not obvious, some of these charges are much more serious than others. Sexual assault is more serious than simple assault. Assaulting a police officer is always a very serious offence. The seriousness of the charge will determine what type of trial you will have and whether the offence is indictable or not. The seriousness of the assault will also play a role in determining what penalties you will face. The more serious the assault, the more egregious are the penalties.

The key takeaway here is that if you are charged with any kind of assault, you need a defence lawyer immediately. We always advise not to make any statements to the police without first consulting your lawyer. You have that right. Do not discuss your case with anyone except your defence lawyer and be completely truthful with your lawyer.

Let your defence lawyer worry about what kind of charges you are facing, how they are classified, and how your case will unfold. Your defence lawyer will try to get your charges reduced, if possible, or even dismissed, and if you are found guilty, your defence lawyer will try to get you the lowest possible penalty.

If you have assaulted someone for whatever reason or been charged with any kind of assault, please contact Gagan Nahal for a free consultation in Vancouver at (604) 527-4769 as soon as possible. Mr. Nahal’s law practice focuses on criminal defence law, and he has extensive experience in this area of the law.


Gagan Nahal is a criminal defence lawyer based in Surrey, British Columbia, although he has represented clients across Canada. He works vigorously and tirelessly defending his clients. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk to Mr. Nahal, please call him directly at (604) 527-4769.