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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. J.T. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Resist /Obstruct Police.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided Crown with additional information regarding the alleged facts of the assault complaint and the excessive force used by police in arresting our client.  Ultimately Mr. Johnson persuaded Crown counsel to stay the proceedings on both charges. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Court to grant our client a conditional discharge. No conviction.

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

Charge: Commit Indecent Act.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to present information on our client's behalf and was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no longer any public interest in proceeding with this matter. Stay of proceedings. Warrant cancelled. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Rather than a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a 3 month prohibition.

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

Charge: Criminal Harassment (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to prosecute our client on the criminal harassment charge;
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to stay the criminal charge upon our client entering into a s. 810 Peace Bond for 12 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.M. - Surrey RCMP Investigation

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to meet the Crown's charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through the investigation and was able to provide information to police and Crown which culminated in Crown counsel's decision to not approve any charges. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.H.S. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to allow our client to plead to s. 24(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act. Rather than the mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a two month driving prohibition.

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

Charges: Sexual Assault x2; Sexual Interference.
Issue: Given the extensive information that we were able to provide to Crown counsel, whether there remained a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all counts. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.F. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (reduced to s. 810 Peace Bond).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed.
Result: Mr. Mines was first able to persuade Crown to proceed on a Peace Bond application rather than the criminal assault charge. He was then able to persuade Crown to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.K.- Abbotsford Provincial Court

Charge: Driving without consideration; driving past police vehicle; speeding.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with all counts, which upon conviction would have led to a driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to negotiate a resolution where our client pleaded guilty to only a three point speeding ticket and police withdrew the remaining counts. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. E.W. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a criminal conviction.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions on our client's behalf, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charge: Driving while Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with this charge which carries a one year mandatory minimum driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to permit our client to resolve this matter by pleading guilty to the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

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.