Uttering Threats: What You Need to Know

PUBLISHED ON March 6, 2019

Uttering Threats Lawyer Toronto

According to the Canadian Criminal Code it is illegal to knowingly threaten to cause death or bodily harm to a person.  Section 264.1(1) also makes it clear that it is a criminal offence to knowingly threaten to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property, or to threaten to kill, poison or injure a person’s animals or birds. The original intent of this law was meant to contend with the threatening behaviour of those engaged in organized crime, but has since evolved to encompass a broad array of settings, from domestic to public.

From time-to-time each of us has said something in anger or frustration. Maybe you have said something like, “I could just murder my mother-in-law” or “I want to kill that dog, it is barking so much”.  Either of these statements could be construed as your having made a threat. The difference between saying something as a joke, or in frustration or anger, and an actual threat is hostile intent – were the words meant to intimidate or to be taken seriously.

When is a threat, a threat?

The law does not require that the intended recipient be aware that you made a threat, nor does it matter how or the threat was made. The law considers a threat to be a declaration of hostile intent to harm, injure, inflict punishment, pain or injury to another person, that person’s property, or animals. An expressed intent to harm can be conveyed in any manner, such as:

  • “finger guns” (depending on the context)
  • social media messages and posts
  • telephone conversations
  • written statements
  • email
  • face-to-face

When is it time to contact a Toronto Defence Attorney?

Not every statement made in anger contains hostile intent. There is a distinction between a threat, a joke, or overzealous team loyalty, for example. There is also a dissimilarity between a threat and a simple observation that unpleasant events could occur. This is why, if you find yourself accused of uttering threats, it is important to retain the services of a Toronto criminal defence attorney who can help you.

The Crown will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly made the threat and that the threat was intended to be taken seriously. The Crown is not obligated to prove that you had the ability to carry out the threat; in fact, it does not matter if it would be impossible to carry out the threat. The intended recipient of the threat does not even need to know that the threat was made. In the example above, if your spouse believed that you could kill your mother-in-law, that may be considered hostile intent.   There is much to consider.

However, not all “threats” contain hostile intent. Words spoken in jest, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, relayed imaginings are oftenfound to have not met the hostile intention test.

This post is for informational purposes onlyand is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. However, if you have been charged with uttering threats, please feel free to contact Brian Ross, the criminal defence lawyer, at 416.658.5855 to schedule a consultation today!


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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.

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