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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. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.P. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No criminal record.

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.