What Your Lawyer Can Do When You Are Facing Criminal Assault Charges

One of the most frequent criminal charges in Canada is common assault. Statistics Canada data shows in 2013/2014 assault was the fourth most common offence in adult criminal courts, following only impaired driving, theft and failure to comply with an order. If you or someone you know has been charged with assault it is important to consider speaking with an experienced criminal lawyer.

What is an Assault?


Assault is defined in section 265(1) of the Criminal Code. This section states that:

“A person commits an assault when without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly.”

This section means that any intentional application of force to another person, such as a shove or punch, done without the other persons consent is an assault. Other forms of assault include assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, sexual assault and assault of a peace officer. Again, these sections are given broad interpretation. Aggravated assault is charged anytime an assault “wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.” This can range from everything from a serious, life-altering injury to a short-term, temporary injury such as cut.

What Can Your Criminal Lawyer Do?

Assault is a commonly charged offence and, as the section above demonstrates, arises from a broad array of conduct. Because of this there are no two assault charges that are the same. An experienced criminal lawyer will spend time examining the unique facts of the case to determine the best approach for his or her client. This may include raising a defence or plea bargaining with the Crown.

Potential Defences to Assault

When matters do proceed to trial, a defence lawyer is able to assist his or her client in raising a defence. This could include a constitutional defence grounded in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as demonstrating the client’s right to counsel or protection against self-incrimination was violated by the police.

Another common defence for assault charges is demonstrating the accused acted out of self-defence. The 2017 Ontario case of R. v. Zejnelovski, 2017 ONSC 6076 (CanLII) saw an accused be found not guilty of assault charges due to self-defence. The case stemmed from two groups of individuals confronting each other at closing time on a busy street in downtown Barrie. As the victim of the assault, who was stabbed, was the aggressor of the altercation, defence counsel for the accused was able to demonstrate the elements of self-defence, leading to the accused being found not guilty.

Another defence to an assault charge is that the defendant consented, whether expressly or implicitly. Implied consent arises in contexts such as street fights and sporting events, where participants can reasonably presume some form of physical contact will occur.

R. v. J.K., 2016 ONCJ 787 (CanLII) is an example of implied consent in a hockey game. The accused, a young person, was playing hockey in a non-contact house league. J.K. delivered a hip check to an opposing player that unfortunately left the player with a serious leg injury requiring surgery. J.K. was criminally charged with aggravated assault. While the hit was illegal in the game the players were involved in and merited a penalty, the trial judge accepted that the hit did not exceed the limits of implied consent. J.K.’s criminal defence lawyer was able to bring up skillful legal arguments and use the factual record, including waiver’s signed by parents, Facebook messages after the game and testimony from those who observed the hit to demonstrate the defence of implied consent should be successful, leading to his client being found not guilty.

Plea Bargains with the Crown

In many cases the Crown prosecutor is willing to discuss plea deals with the accused. Having a lawyer on your side who knows the law can help these discussions occur quickly and aim for the best possible outcome. This may include having the charges withdrawn or stayed, and Statistics Canada shows that 32% of all adult criminal cases end with this result. In cases where the charges go forward, the Crown still may be willing to agree to a sentence such as an absolute or conditional discharge that does not result in a criminal record against the accused.

Contact Engel & Associates to Handle an Assault Charge in Ottawa

If you or someone you care about has been charged with an assault, it is important to seek professional legal advice. We handle youth court cases in Ottawa as well. Bruce Engel has nearly 30 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa and Elena Davies has nearly 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa. Our lawyers can review your case and determine if a defence may apply in your situation. While no results are guaranteed, hiring an experienced criminal lawyer can help ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Call 613-235-6324 to speak with us today.

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