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Harassment Charges in Alberta Explained

By: Alberta Legal Team

What is criminal harassment?

Criminal harassment is committed when a person carries out any of the following:

  • repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
  • repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
  • besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
  • engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.

Some common language examples of harassment include but are not limited to the following:

  • Attending a residence, parking lot, or street of the complainant,
  • Loitering near their home, place of work, or school, etc.,
  • Repeated social media contact, phone calls or text messages;
  • Following the person around,
  • Or generally, any form of contact that causes the person to reasonably fear for their safety.

Criminal harassment charges can be classified as both domestic and non-domestic. It is common to see additional charges laid along with criminal harassment, these typically include charges of uttering threats, assault, and mischief.

Criminal harassment and the typical charges that arise in this context are considered serious and typically include what is known as an aggravating factor because of the planned and repeated nature of the accused’s conduct.

How can harassment charges be dismissed?

It is critical to have a skilled and capable criminal lawyer coordinating and building a defence. One compelling defence is to persuade the trial judge or in some cases the prosecutor that the complainant’s fear was unreasonable in the circumstances. In order for this defence to be successful, it will be important for your lawyer to understand the nature of this relationship, the issue in context and to have evidence of historical communication. Your lawyer will use this material to build a defence which will demonstrate there was no basis on which the complainant can claim the behaviour was threatening.

Another compelling defence argument may be that the accused did not have the mental intent that is required to commit the offence. This involves an objective-subjective analysis of the admissible evidence. Additionally, it is critical that your defence lawyer analyze whether or not the prosecution can prove the mental intent via recklessness or willful blindness.

Sometimes your defence lawyer can persuade the prosecutor to agree to a peace bond. Peace bonds are court orders which require specific conditions to be adhered to and requires a monetary pledge.  Typical conditions of a peace bond include staying away from the complainant, not contacting the complainant in any manner, and sometimes require that you attend for counselling and or treatment. Disobeying any condition of a peace bond will result in a separate criminal charge. If a peace bond is executed, it means the criminal harassment charge is dismissed.

Attending and completing a diversion program is another way to ensure the criminal charge or charges get dropped. The most applicable program for a criminal harassment charge is usually Mental Health Diversion. Other programs may also be possible, it is critical your lawyer is up to date on the newest initiatives that are being offered. Furthermore, it is vital that your lawyer is diligent in seeking any creative way possible to get your criminal harassment charge dismissed.

Arguing for and being successful at obtaining a conditional discharge is another way to ensure that the accused person does not get a criminal record as a result of the prosecution. If your lawyer argues and is successful at obtaining a conditional discharge, conditions will attach to a court order which will require the accused to abide by specified conditions for a set period of time. If the accused is successful, the conditional discharge results in an absolute discharge, which means after a period of time, nothing will be reflected on the accused’s record.

It is important to understand that due to the violent and repeated nature of these types of offences, it is not easy to achieve resolutions that do not result in criminal records. If you get charged with this criminal offence, we urge you to contact an experienced and well-practiced criminal defence lawyer as quickly as possible. Building a defence strategy at the earliest possibility allows your lawyer the flexibility to change directions and to identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. This ability will strengthen your lawyer’s ability to argue or persuade the prosecutor to drop or dismiss your case.

How long does harassment stay on your criminal record?

The short answer is that it depends on what happened. If you were convicted without obtaining a discharge, then it remains on your criminal record until you seek a Record Suspension (formally called a Pardon). If your stellar and smart criminal defence lawyer obtained a discharge, then it will stay on your record for a period of time (typically three years) while you complete the process. It is important to note that a letter must be written to ask for the records to be destroyed.

How Can You Get Yourself Out on Bail for Criminal Harassment Charges in Alberta?

When charged with criminal harassment, the police may release you at the scene without a formal bail hearing depending on the circumstances of your case. To avoid being taken into custody, the police will provide you with a document which contains the conditions of your release. This document, known as a “Promise to Appear” document, outlines the charges you face and details on the required appearances in court.

If the criminal harassment charges you are facing are more severe or you have a criminal record, the police will take you into custody, and you will need a bail hearing to secure your release. Bail hearings are conducted at the Spyhill Services Center within 24 hours from the time one is arrested or detained. The Spyhill Services Center is located in the North West of Calgary, which makes it harder for those released on bail to get home after their release.

Family members and friends will not be able to contact you while in custody, nor will they be given any information regarding your whereabouts by the police due to privacy laws. However, if you retain a lawyer, he/she can contact you at any time while you are in custody and not only handle the legal process but also liaise with your loved ones.

The criminal harassment lawyer will contact your prosecutor to begin negotiating for your release. The lawyer will review all the documents from the police investigations with details of the allegations laid against you in advance to prepare for your bail hearing.

If accused of criminal harassment, you may be denied bail if the judge determines that:

  • You will not attend court as required
  • You are a flight risk
  • You have a high risk of re-offence
  • You have a significant risk of causing harm to the public
  • Detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice

If granted bail, there are tight restrictions that may be applied to your release, such as

  • Being put on curfew
  • Having to report to a police station at specific times
  • Not leaving the house (house arrest)
  • Living at a specific address
  • Not consuming drugs or alcohol

A competent criminal harassment lawyer not only works to help you secure your release but also ensures that you get the least restrictive set of bail conditions. Our lawyers have worked on criminal harassment cases in Alberta and have experience negotiating with prosecutors in charge of bail to secure our clients’ release.

Is it Possible to Change Your Release Conditions for Criminal Harassment Charges in Alberta?

If you have been granted bail, one of the top concerns could be the restrictive conditions that secured your release.

Some of the restrictive terms you may face securing your release may include:

  • Refrain from using drugs or alcohol
  • Do not possess any weapons
  • Do not visit certain places or travel
  • You may be bound by a curfew
  • You cannot attend the alleged victim’s place of work or home
  • You may not have contact with the alleged victim or other named invidividuals

Being asked to refrain from leaving the house, interacting with the alleged victim, or staying out beyond a certain time can make it difficult for you to continue with your day-to-day life after the criminal harassment charges. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you can have these release conditions changed.

The court will consider several factors when determining your release conditions. Some of these include:

  • Whether you have a criminal record
  • Your physical and mental health
  • The nature of the criminal harassment charges
  • The likelihood that you will not appear in court/you will flee
  • Any history of drug/alcohol abuse
  • Whether you are in full-time employment
  • Whether you have a stable living arrangement and ties to the community

If you have already been granted bail, your lawyer will explain the release conditions, which you must abide by as you seek to have them changed. Breaching the release conditions can lead to a revocation of your bail, additional charges as well as forfeiture of any money paid as bail.

Your criminal harassment lawyer will negotiate with the crown prosecutor all the release conditions by requesting some of them to be eliminated or for exceptions to be added.

If you must wait several days for your court date and need to have the release conditions reviewed in order to continue with your daily routine, your lawyer can arrange to have the negotiations done sooner. Having these restrictive release conditions addressed sooner also helps to prevent the accused from feeling pressured to plead guilty. Our criminal harassment lawyer can help negotiate more manageable and less intrusive conditions for your release.

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Harassment Charges?

Criminal harassment charges do not have any mandatory minimum penalties. The severity of punishment given when charged with a criminal harassment offence will depend on whether the crown prosecutor decides to proceed by way of indictment or summary.

If charged with an indictment offence, you face up to 10 years imprisonment when found guilty, whereas a summary judgement attracts a penalty of up to 2 years less day imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

There are additional consequences resulting from a criminal harassment conviction in Alberta that can have negative impacts on your future.

  • You may have trouble getting full-time employment with a criminal record.
  • You may have limitations on the roles you can apply for, e.g. working with children and other vulnerable members of society.
  • You may face limitations on immigration and travel.
  • You may face limitations on where you can live (some property owners do not allow convicted felons to reside on their property).
  • You may face challenges accessing financial support in certain institutions.
  • You may lose the trust of friends and family.
  • A criminal conviction can adversely affect your reputation.

Even if you intend to plead guilty, it’s worth exploring all the possible options and understanding the potential penalties you face. With good representation, your case may result in no criminal record. Oftentimes, having a competent legal team can make a world of difference when it comes to the severity of punishment given.

When you hire our criminal harassment lawyer in Alberta, rest assured that we will work tirelessly to help minimize the consequences that come from a criminal conviction. We will work hard to secure a range of sentencing options, including community-based sentencing, minimally invasive bail restrictions as well as no criminal record. We protect our clients’ rights and set them up for success in court.

Why You Need a Lawyer to Defend You Against Criminal Harassment Charges in Alberta

If you face criminal harassment charges, contact a lawyer immediately to begin building a strong defence. Your lawyer will help to:

  • Collect and maintain all the documents detailing the event.
  • Gather a list of witnesses that support your version of events.
  • Ensure that you secure bail as quickly as possible.
  • Identify mistakes and omissions in the investigations done by the police.
  • Uncover systemic and administrative errors or weaknesses in the crown’s case that makes it difficult to prove you are guilty of the offence.

To learn more about how we can help defend you against criminal harassment charges, contact our team today. We will thoroughly review your situation and use a precise strategy to successfully defend you in court.