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Is Threatening Someone With Sexual Assault Illegal?

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Is Threatening Someone With Sexual Assault Illegal?

Posted on April 7, 2021

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With the rise of social media and online gaming, there has been an uptick in online threats of sex crimes. Specifically, women on the internet face higher rates of sexual harassment, along with online threats of sexual assault or rape. However, can you actually face charges for making threats online? What if you don’t know that person in real life? Can you still face arrest for threatening them?

While Canada has laws against uttering threats, how do these laws apply to online interactions? Should you be afraid of being slapped with a criminal charge if you make an offhanded threat while online?

Uttering Threats In Canada

Uttering threats is an offence that is under the Criminal Code in section 264.1. It includes knowingly uttering, conveying or causing any person to receive a threat. The threat can be to cause bodily harm, such as raping someone or death. It also includes the threat to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property.

In Canada, uttering threats is a very common allegation. However, in order for the courts to convict someone of a threat, the prosecution must prove every element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. In cases of uttering threats, your lawyer can pursue a defence arguing that the alleged threat was not to cause bodily harm or death.

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In the conviction process for uttering threats, the prosecution must prove the following:

  • The Date & Time The Alleged Threat Happened
  • The Accused Uttered The Words, Text Or Gesture That Comprised The Threat

That the Words, Text, Or Gesture Communicated A Threat To:

  • Cause Death Or Serious Bodily Harm, Including Psychological Trauma
  • Burn, Destroy, Or Damage Real Or Personal Property
  • Kill, Poison, Or Injure An Animal Belonging To That Person
  • That The Words, Text Or Gesture Were Intended To Be Interpreted Seriously As A Threat

Other Factors That Are Considered

There are also several other factors that the court may consider in deciding whether you are guilty of uttering threats. The court must consider the accused’s demeanour as the words were being said. If you meant the threats as a joke, it might become a possible defence. The judge will consider the method you used to convey the threat and the motivation for the threat.

The court will also consider the effect that the threats had on the complainant. However, this is not an essential determining factor in how the case will proceed. Whether or not the accused planned or was capable of carrying out the threat is not important. Lastly, even if the subject of the threats did not feel endangered, it does not mean the court will immediately acquit you.

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Criminal Charges For Uttering Threats

If you are convicted of uttering threats, it results in a criminal record. Additionally, if the Crown chooses to pursue the charge, it can result in a term of up to two years in prison. If you are currently facing charges for uttering threats, you must seek an experienced defence lawyer to defend you. By introducing reasonable doubt in your defence, we can help you seek an acquittal.

Are Online Threats Illegal?

In short, yes; threatening someone on the internet is illegal. As we discussed above, Canada’s Criminal Code considers threats in any form to be an offence. Just because the threats are online, it does not mean you are exempt from charges. Additionally, even if you did not know the person you were threatening online, it’s still possible you may face charges for uttering threats.

For example, recently, there has been an increase in online threats against women such as feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez. Criado-Perez faced many hostile threats; many of which were threatening to rape or kill her. Police ended up arresting a man in connection with her case. This left many debating how to approach online rape threats and whether online threats should be criminal.

In many cases where online rape threats occur, the accused does not have the means or perhaps does not even actually intend to carry out the act of bodily harm. That’s why it is essential to have an experienced defence lawyer. We are here to protect you from unreasonable charges. Uttering threats online with no intent should not ruin anyone’s life.

If you are currently facing charges for uttering threats, you must retain legal counsel immediately. Our team at Ross Lutz Barristers has experience with these matters and can help you protect your rights and freedoms and find the best possible outcome for your case.