Toronto Assault Lawyers

What to do if you have been charged with assault

A conviction for assault has serious consequences. Simple assault carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail. Assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm can be punished by up to 10 years in jail, and for aggravated assault the potential punishment is up to 14 years.

Any charge of assault – no matter how serious or trivial – carries the real risk of a permanent criminal record, which can have life changing consequences. A criminal record can make it harder to enter certain professions, to get a job, or to travel to the United States.

Our firm has a lot of experience defending people charged with assault all across Ontario. We know how to craft a defence to these charges, to find and preserve the evidence needed to back it up, and to marshal that evidence in court to provide the best defence possible to the charge. We also use our experience in the court system to successfully negotiate withdrawals and other resolutions to many charges before they ever get to trial. Sometimes, trials can’t be avoided, and in that case having a lawyer with a proven track record in Court is the most important thing you can do to help your case. You need a lawyer who can persuasively tell your story and present your defence through cross-examination of the complainant, by preparing you to testify, and by using the law and the facts to persuasively argue your defence in closing submissions.

If you have been charged with an assault or believe that you might be, contact us using the form on this web page immediately for a free consultation about your case.

What is an assault?

Section 265 of the Criminal Code criminalizes assault. The Code says that whenever one person intentionally applies force to another person without the other person’s consent, it is an assault. It does not matter whether the other person was hurt, or how much force was used. Even threatening or attempting to assault someone (e.g. by throwing a punch at someone but missing) is technically an assault under the Criminal Code and can lead to an assault charge.

Types of assault

There are several types of assault in the Criminal Code:

  • Simple assault: This offence captures any intentional non-consensual application of force by one person on another
  • Assault with a weapon: This offence is set out in section 267 of the Criminal Code and it applies to anyone who commits an assault while carrying, using, or threatening to use a weapon
  • Assault causing bodily harm: If an assault causes “bodily harm” – like a bloody nose or black eye – someone can be charged with assault causing bodily harm. This is a more serious type of assault
  • Aggravated assault: Aggravated assault is the most serious type of assault charge. Section 268 of the Criminal Code says an aggravated assault happens when one person “wounds, mains, disfigures or endangers the life” of someone else through an assault
  • Domestic assault: A domestic assault refers to a situation where an assault happens between two people who are in or have been in some sort of relationship with each other (e.g. married, dating, or recently separated). There is no special offence in the Criminal Code for domestic assaults and they are all prosecuted as one of the types of assault listed above. However, the police, Crown, the Criminal Code, and judges all treat domestic assaults as a particularly serious type of assault, and the fact that there was a relationship between the parties at the time of the assault will be used as an aggravating factor at sentencing. For more specific information on domestic assault, visit our domestic assault page.

Frequently asked questions about assault charges

Can the complaintant drop the charges?

We often hear stories on the news or TV about assault charges that were dropped because the complainant or alleged victim decided not to “press charges”. It’s important to be clear that in Canada, the Crown prosecutes all criminal charges that are laid by police, and only the Crown has the power to “drop” or withdraw charges. A complainant in Canada has no power to drop charges that have been laid, or to stop the police from investigating a criminal offence.

What is the punishment for assault?

The Criminal Code creates a wide range of possible sentences for those who are convicted of assault, from up to 14 years in jail for the most serious offence (aggravated assault), to house arrest, probation, fines, or discharges. Our first goal is always to find a way to have someone’s charges withdrawn or dismissed, but in cases where a sentence will be imposed for assault, having a good defence lawyer to put together the strongest argument for a fair and lenient sentence is invaluable. Doing a good job at a sentencing hearing is a lot of work. It requires legal research, reference letters, and reports that are all designed to show the sentence you are asking for is in the public interest.

What do I do if the police are going to arrest me?

If you believe you might be arrested for an offence, you need to hire a lawyer immediately. We can help you arrange a time for you to go to the police station so that the police do not show up at your house or at your place of work. We will put together a plan to get you released on
bail as quickly as possible, and will work to ensure that you go to court from the police station quickly so that you do not end up stuck in jail overnight.

What are the defences to assault?

Assault charges are often “credibility cases” – meaning that whether someone is convicted of assault usually depends on whether the evidence of the accuser is believed. This is why it is so important to have a good criminal lawyer with a lot of experience in these types of cases. Cross-examining a witness to poke holes in their story or to reveal contradictions, lies, and inconsistencies takes skill and effort – and a cross-examination that isn’t well prepared will go nowhere and achieve nothing.

Aside from raising issues with the credibility of the accuser, there are some specific defences that often come up in assault cases. The first is consent. The Criminal Code only criminalizes an assault if the other person did not consent. In some cases, it may be the case that the alleged victim of the assault consented to the application of force that occurred (e.g. a consensual fist fight). However, this defence is complicated, and the Courts have held that no one can consent to serious or non-trivial bodily harm.

The second is self-defence. Section 34(1) of the Criminal Code provides a defence for someone who commits an assault if they believed that force or a threat of force is being used against them or another person, that their action is committed for the purpose of defending themselves or someone else, and that the act is reasonable in the circumstances. Self-defence cases will always turn on questions surrounding how a fight or disagreement started, who the aggressor was, and whether the defensive act was reasonable in the circumstances.

Our experience with assault charges

  • R. v. F.B. (Ontario Court of Justice, Hamilton): A student was charged with assault with a weapon for brandishing a knife in the parking lot. After successful negotiations, the Crown agreed to diversion and withdrew the charges.
  • R. v. T.A.S. (Ontario Court of Justice, North York): Charges involving assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm were withdrawn on the day of trial.
  • R. v. DS (Ontario Court of Justice, Etobicoke): A teacher was found guilty of assault for allegedly choking a student. After reference letters and other materials were filed as part of the arguments on sentencing, client was granted an absolute discharge.
  • R. v. A.M. (Superior Court of Justice, Brampton): Client was acquitted of assault bodily harm after a trial. The allegation involved a claim that the client had broken the arm of a six month old baby. The defence called competing expert evidence from a renowned orthopaedic surgeon showing the injuries may have been caused by an accidental fall.
  • R v S.B. (Ontario Court of Justice, Scarborough): A teacher was accused of assault causing bodily harm for kicking a desk into a student, fracturing the student’s arm. At trial, the defence was that the desk hitting the student’s arm was an accident. The teacher was acquitted.
  • R. v. B.O. (Ontario Court of Justice, St. Thomas): A teacher was accused of assaulting a student in the hallway. After cross-examination of the student, at trial, the Crown invited the Trial Judge to find the teacher not guilty.

Disclaimer: Every criminal case depends on its own unique set of facts and legal issues. Past success does not mean the same result can be obtained in future cases. We look at each case individually and base our approach on the specific challenges it presents.

Contact us about your case

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Telephone: 416-649-5061

116 Simcoe Street, Suite 100
Toronto, ON
M5H 4E2