Is it a Crime to Threaten Someone In Canada?

August 7, 2021
  • Threatening someone can be a criminal offence in Canada.
  • It is defined as such in the Canadian Criminal Code as Uttering Threats in section 264.1.
  •  A conviction of Uttering Threats will result in a criminal record for the accused.
  • As explained in the Criminal Code an individual convicted of Uttering Threats is liable to imprisonment for a term of up to five years if the Crown proceeds by indictment, or of a term of up to 18 months if the Crown proceeds summarily.
  • Threats can be expressed through different modes of communication.
  • Threats can be communicated verbally, in text (text message, social media, email, letter etc.), or communicated though a third party, or conveyed through physical gestures.

Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Uttering Threats

  • 264.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat

(a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person; (b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or (c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.

  • Marginal note: Punishment

(2) Every one who commits an offence under paragraph (1)(a) is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.

  • Marginal note: Idem

(3) Every one who commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b) or (c) (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 38;
  •  1994, c. 44, s. 16.

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How would the Crown prove that an Individual  was guilty of Uttering Threats?

  • In order to find someone guilty of an Uttering Threats offence it is essential that the Crown prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:
  1. The date and time that the alleged threat occurred;
  2. That the accused, in fact, uttered the words, text or gesture that comprised the threat.
  3. That the words, text or gesture communicated a threat to:
  • Cause death or serious bodily harm to a person, including psychological harm
  • burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or
  • kill, poison, or injure an animal that is the property of any person.

4. That the words, text or gesture were intended to be interpreted seriously as a threat.

What are the other factors that would  be considered when determining guilt of an uttering threats offence?

  • The accused demeanour as the words were being said;
  • The method by which the threat was conveyed;
  • The motivation of the accused for uttering  threat;
  • The effect the words had on the recipient is considered but is not an essential determining factor.
  • It is of no relevance whether or not the accused was capable of or intended to carry out the threat.
  • The fact that the subject of the threats did not feel threatened is not, by itself, reason to acquit.
  • In cases involving third parties, is not required that the accused intended the third party recipient of the threat to convey it to the target.

What are valid potential defences to an uttering threats charge?

  • In order to convict someone of an Uttering Threats offence, the Crown must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • The defence, like Toronto Defence Lawyers, can introduce doubt, that if argued successfully, can result in an acquittal for the accused
  • The defence can argue that that the utterance had another plausible alternative meaning and were intended to be interpreted differently.
  • It can be  argued that the utterance in question was ambiguous and do not necessarily amount to a threat.
  • When said in isolation phrases like “I’ll get you”, can be argued not to be an utterance of a threat as the ambiguity renders it questionable.
Jonathan Pyzer
Written By:
Jonathan Pyzer
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan is a highly skilled and sought after criminal defence lawyer who represents clients charged with criminal offences all over the Province of Ontario. He is a member in good-standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Toronto Lawyers Association.
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