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Uttering a Threat

The Charge

Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code sets out that everyone who knowingly utters a threat to another person to cause death or bodily harm, or to damage or destroy property, is guilty of an offence. The essence of the offence is that the prosecutor must prove that the accused intended their remarks to genuinely cause the complainant to intimidate or to be taken seriously. There is no requirement that the intended victim be aware of the threat; the offence is made out upon proof that the accused intended the words to cause fear or alarm. In determining whether or not the accused’s statements are a threat, the words must be viewed objectively in the context in which they were spoken. The words must have been uttered with an intent to intimidate or to be taken seriously.

Uttering a threat is a hybrid offence meaning that the Crown has the option of proceeding by indictment and to seek a sentence of up to five years in jail. Alternatively, the Crown can proceed summarily, in which case the maximum sentence is 18 months in jail. There are no mandatory minimum sentence requirements for uttering threats. Non-custodial sentences are available.

The Investigation

Unlike many other criminal investigations, in threatening charges, the substantive evidence usually comes not from the police, but from the complainant who says you threatened them. Upon receiving the complaint, police will seek out the suspect and attempt to obtain their side of the story.

When contacted by a suspect prior to their arrest, we can be of significant assistance. We will make enquiries to determine who the investigating officer is. Because of the laws concerning solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between our client and police. We can speak on our client’s behalf without risk of creating incriminating evidence against them. We will negotiate to have our client not charged, or if charged, to be released from custody quickly and on the least restrictive terms that are appropriate. Typical release conditions include no contact with the complainant, including face-to-face contact, or indirect contact by phone, text, email or through a third party. Other conditions may include no weapons, no alcohol or other similar protective conditions.

Recent Successes

R. vs. B.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown counsel to proceed on this charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid driver's licence. After hearing Mr. johnson's submissions, the court imposed a $500 fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. B.C. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charge. Our client entered into a Peace Bond for a period of 9 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. Z.H. - Port Coquitlam Youth Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether, given the history between our client and the complainant, it was reasonable for our client apply  the level of force he used.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to not approve any criminal charge but, rather, to resolve the matter through Restorative Justice. No criminal record.

Y.Y. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles - Review of Driving Prohibition

Charge: Notice of Intent to Prohibit.
Issue: Whether RoadSafety BC had appropriate reasons to prohibit our client from driving for 4 months.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Superintendent's adjudicator that the 4 month driving prohibition was not warranted. The driving prohibition was reduced to 2 months.

R. vs. R.H. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault (x2); Threatening; Breach of Undertaking (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Court to convict him.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown to proceed on only a single count of assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.  

R. vs. D.I. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm; Driving Without Due Care and Attention.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to charge our client under the Criminal Code or the Motor Vehicle Act in regard to an accident where our client's vehicle struck a cyclist from behind, causing serious injury.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown which resulted in Crown proceeding under the Motor Vehicle Act. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court sentenced our client to a $1000 fine and limited his ability to drive for 12 months. No criminal conviction. No loss of insurance coverage. No jail.

R. vs. C.G. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: s. 810 Peace Bond Application.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether the complainant continued to have fear of our client.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No conditions. No record.

R. vs. L.B. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Fraud Over $5000 (from employer).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had completed and given the compelling explanation of why the offence occurred, whether it was in the public interest for our client to recieve a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Crown to proceed summarily on the lesser offence of Fraud Under $5000, and after hearing Mr. Johnson's submission, the court granted our client an absolute discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.G. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was substantial likelihood of a conviction in this “road rage” assault case.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown that suggested our client was acting in self defence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.R. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Over $5000.
Issue: Given the steps taken by our client to repay a substantial amount of the alleged $70,000 theft from his employer, whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to pursue a jail sentence that, given the breach of trust, would normally be called for.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that they could only prove theft in the amount of $40,000. He was then able to persuade Crown to proceed summarily on 8 counts of Theft Under $5000 and to make a joint submission for a conditional sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines’ submissions, the court granted our client a 6 month conditional sentence and made a stand alone restitution order. No jail.

R. vs. T.G. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a Weapon; Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through, whether our client would be convicted of the offences.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson’s submissions on our client’s behalf, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No conviction; no criminal record.

UBC Independent Investigations Office vs. B.F.

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether the complainant could prove her allegation of being sexually assaulted.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the investigator on our client’s behalf, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the allegation was dismissed.

The Defence

The typical defences to threatening charges is to establish doubt that the words were ever uttered or, alternatively, that the words uttered were not intended to be taken seriously by the complainant. Clearly, any evidence from third party witnesses or video or audio recordings will be relevant.

As experienced lawyers, we are able to offer significant assistance to clients who contact us before they are contacted by police. We will contact the police investigator and will strive to persuade police to not take you into custody at all or, alternatively, to release you on the least onerous conditions as possible, as quickly as possible. In our more than 25 years of experience, we have been successful in obtaining non-custodial sentences for the majority of our clients charged with uttering threats. We will strive to resolve your threatening charge with alternative measures, a peace bond or a discharge.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.