What Is The Difference Between Assault And Aggravated Assault In Canada?

January 28th, 2021
Assault vs Aggravated Assault In Canada

Though the two terms may appear similar, “assault” and “aggravated assault” are two vastly different charges in terms of severity and punishment. To further complicate matters, “assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm” is yet another type of assault defined in the Criminal Code of Canada. In truth, the differences are fairly straightforward—all that’s needed is to first get acquainted with a few legal terms.

●       Summary offences are less serious. The accused is often not arrested unless they are caught in the act. Unless specifically directed to do so by a judge, a person accused of a summary offence may choose not to appear in court, allowing a representative to speak on their behalf

●       Indictable offences are more serious. The accused will be arrested if there are reasonable grounds to believe they have committed an indictable offence, and they must be present on the court date.

●       Hybrid offences can be either a summary or an indictable offence. With these offences, the prosecutor will determine the type based on the severity of the crime.

There are four types of assault that are laid out in the Criminal Code of Canada, in order of increasing severity:

The definitions begin with Section 264: “uttering threats.” This is a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty not exceeding two years; it is defined as follows:

1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat

(a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;

(b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or

(c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.

Section 265-266 deals with “assault;” it is a hybrid offence punishable by a term not exceeding five years.

(1) A person commits an assault when

(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;

(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or

(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

Section 267 defines “assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.” This is a hybrid offence punishable by not more than ten years in prison.

(1) Every person is guilty … who, in committing an assault,

(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation thereof,

(b) causes bodily harm to the complainant, or

(c) chokes, suffocates or strangles the complainant.

Finally, Section 268 lays out the definition of “aggravated assault.” As the most severe type of assault, aggravated assault is always an indictable offence, and carries a sentence not to exceed fourteen years. In brief, it is defined as:

(1) Every one commits an aggravated assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

As can be seen, aggravated assault is a far more serious charge than the other forms of assault; this is meant to reflect the severity of the damage to the victim. While uttering threats, assault, and assault with a weapon can be summary offences, aggravated assault is always an indictable offence and it carries the stiffest penalty.

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.