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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 24 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. J.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for our client to receive a suspended sentence despite having two prior assault convictions.
Result: After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a suspended sentence with 12 months of " non reporting" probation.  No jail.

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

Charges: Indecent Act; Mischief (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that our client intended to commit a criminal offence.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the the criminal charges upon our client entering into a Peace Bond. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Given the Covid-19 pandemic, whether it was appropriate to refer our client into the Alternative Measures Program for this assault by spitting offence.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide Crown counsel with compelling information about our client which resulted in Crown allowing our client into Alternative Measures and staying the charge upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.F. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Uttering Threats x2; Unlawful Confinement.
Issues: Whether Crown could prove that a weapon was used or that the complainant was unlawfully confined.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to accept pleas to the lesser charges of common assault and uttering a threat. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions on our client's behalf, the trail judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No jail; no permanent criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving while prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prohibited driving charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser charge of driving without possessing a valid driver's licence. Rather than the 12 month minimum mandatory driving prohibition, our client received a 4 month prohibition.

R. vs. J.L. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to continue with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the assault charge upon you entering into a s. 810 peace bond. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.M. - Insurance fraud investigation

Charge: Fraud Under $5000.
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution in this extended health insurance fraud matter.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to negotiate a civil settlement and to persuade the investigator to not pursue a prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.P. - Vancouver provincial Court

Charge: Uttering a Threat (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issues: Whether the words uttered were clearly a threat or not.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that the words were vague. Crown agreed to end the criminal prosecution upon our client entering into a Peace Bond with a "no contact" condition. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.R. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Mischief to Property (x2).
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances, it was appropriate to continue the criminal prosecution of this matter which involved damage in excess of $5000 to two vehicles.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to stay both criminal charges upon completion. No criminal record.

R. vs. V. P. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault, Uttering Threats.
Issue: Given the context of this threatening and assault by spitting offence, whether it was appropriate for our client to be convicted.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided additional information to the Crown and the Court about our client and was able to persuade the judge to grant our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charges: Sexual Assault (reduced to assault).
Issue: Given our client's mental health issues, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to continue with the sex assault prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information top Crown counsel and to persuade Crown to proceed with a charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. no criminal conviction. no jail, no sex offender registry.

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.