In Canada, if you engage in conduct that causes another person to fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones, you are guilty of an unlawful act known as criminal harassment.
Criminal harassment includes activities such as:
- Regularly following another person
- Repeatedly communicating with a person against their will
- Continuously waiting at a person’s home, workplace, or another place they frequent
- Engaging in threatening behaviour targeted at another person
Criminal harassment is a hybrid crime, meaning it can be prosecuted as an indictable offence or an offence punishable by summary conviction. If your case is tried summarily, the maximum penalty is 18 months in jail. If prosecuted by indictment, the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment.
You should consult a lawyer immediately if you are facing charges of criminal harassment. A criminal harassment lawyer will help you understand all your options and increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome in your case.
Criminal harassment defences
Below are some defences a criminal harassment lawyer might explore.
One effective way to get criminal harassment charges dismissed is to prove that the actions alleged to be harassment were conducted with lawful authority. For example, suppose you must follow a person or make repeated efforts to contact them to enforce a court order or serve court documents. In that case, your actions will not be considered criminal harassment.
You might have a successful defence to criminal harassment charges if you can show that your alleged actions did not cause reasonable fear. Reasonable fear is determined by whether a rational person would, under similar circumstances, fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. The judge in the matter will consider the alleged actions, the complainant’s gender and the nature of the current or prior relationship between you and the complainant.
Proof of engagement
If the alleged harassment took the form of emails, text messages or phone calls, you might have a legal defence if you can prove that the complainant was an active participant in the conversations. Ensure you gather proof of engagement to use as evidence in your case.
Lack of intent
For the prosecution to secure a conviction, they must demonstrate that you had the intent to harass the complainant. If you can show that you did not intend for the complainant to feel afraid and that you weren’t willfully blind as to whether your actions would cause the person to fear for their safety or that of others, you might be able to get the charges dismissed.
Other legal options
If you do not have a viable defence to the charges laid against you, here are other options your criminal harassment lawyer could explore:
- Peace bond. A peace bond will require you to stay away from the victim for at least a year. Signing a peace bond will result in the charges being dropped. Therefore, you will not have a criminal record.
- Diversion program. Diversion programs typically involve community service, counselling or similar actions. Once you have completed the program, the charges will be dismissed.
- Discharge. There are two types of discharges—conditional and absolute. If the court grants a conditional discharge, you must comply with set conditions before the court dismisses your charges. You do not need to meet any conditions for the case to be dismissed with an absolute discharge. But note that absolute discharges are rare even for minor crimes.
Criminal harassment lawyer in Vancouver
If you are searching for a criminal harassment lawyer in Vancouver, contact us at the law office of Tom Doust.
With over 20 years of experience successfully representing clients in a range of criminal matters, Tom Doust is in a strong position to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation.