The Difference Between Assault and Aggravated Assault

PUBLISHED ON January 11, 2022

This article attempts to distinguish between the two charges and illustrate what constitutes an “aggravated assault”. This is intended as information only and not legal advice. To receive legal advice, you will need to contact an experienced criminal lawyer and discuss the particulars of your matter.  

Defining Assault: The Criminal Code of Canada defines an assault (s. 265(1)) as follows:

A person commits an “assault” when

  1. Without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
  2. He attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
  3. While openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

This definition applies to all forms of assault. This includes sexual assault, assault with a weapon and aggravated assault, for example.

What Separates Aggravated Assault Charges From Simple Assault Charges?

As stated above, to prove an “aggravated assault” the Crown must prove that there was an “assault” (as defined above) and that the assault was “aggravated”. The Criminal Code of Canada defines “aggravated assault” (s. 268(1))  as:

Everyone commits an aggravated assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.  

Essentially then, to prove an aggravated assault, the Crown must prove that there was an assault and that that assault wounded, maimed, disfigured or endangered the life of the complainant. While the use of weapons is not required to prove an aggravated assault, it is often the case that a weapon was used in causing the injuries.  The use of a weapon in an assault that does not result in the injuries described above, can often result in a charge of Assault with a Weapon. Section 267 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines an Assault with a Weapon as follows:

Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who, in committing an assault,

(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation thereof,

(b) causes bodily harm to the complainant, or

(c) chokes, suffocates or strangles the complainant

Sentences for Assaults and Aggravated Assaults

Another distinguishing feature of an aggravated assault prosecution is that a person charged with aggravated assault faces greater penalties if found guilty. A person convicted of aggravated assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years whereas a person convicted of a simple assault is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years if the Crown proceeds by indictment.

Contact Brian Ross Criminal Defence Lawyer at (416) 658-5855 today for legal advice in Canada or for more information about the differences between assault, aggravated assault, and other types of assault-related charges.


A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications. Don't take a chance with an inexperienced attorney. I will fight to get your life back as I have done with countless others before you.

(416) 658-5855

Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

Nominated in 2023 for the Best Lawyers Award in Criminal Law

Candidates who are nominated for consideration are voted on by currently recognized lawyers working in the same practice area and located in the same geographic region. Our awards and recognitions are based purely on the feedback we receive from these top lawyers.


Mr. Ross is a member of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and Legal Aid Ontario’s “Extremely Serious Matters” Panel, consisting of criminal lawyers deemed to have the proven experience necessary to conduct trials in the most serious of criminal matters.


You will be contacted to discuss the case in confidence.