We frequently see assault charges on our clients’ criminal records. This is not surprising because assault is by far the most common violent crime in Canada. Part of the reason assault is so common is because it’s an extremely broad term and can refer to so many different things.
As far as the criminal code is concerned there are a number of different kinds of assault. The least serious is just called “assault” although sometimes it is referred to as “simple assault” or “common assault.”
This offence happens any time someone intentionally applies unwanted physical force on another person. So it can include everything from shoving somebody or physically restraining them to punching or kicking them.
In fact, this simple assault doesn’t need to involve any physical contact at all – a threatening gesture or attempt to use force can lead to an assault charge – but in practice this is unusual. The vast majority of assault charges involve some kind of physical contact.
Simple assault charges usually lead to summary convictions that sometimes involve a short stay in jail. But usually the sentence is a probation order and a promise to stay away from the other person.
For first-time offenders, these kinds of charges are sometimes resolved without a conviction at all. It’s not unusual for the charge to be withdrawn if the accused agrees to stay out of trouble for a certain period of time (this is called a “peace bond”). But even if the charge is withdrawn, it will remain on the offender’s record unless he or she takes steps to remove it.
The next category of assault includes “assault with a weapon” and “assault causing bodily harm.” These are somewhat self-explanatory but let’s take a look anyway.
The first category means a weapon was involved in some way, even if it wasn’t actually used. For example, if you’re in a bar fight and you throw a bottle at another person, you could be charged with assault with a weapon even if the bottle didn’t hit anyone.
The second one means the person was physically injured in some way. It could be as simple as a black eye. It doesn’t mean serious injuries like broken bones, which fall into the next category. Obviously, offences in this category can be more serious than simple assault. But this isn’t always the case. A lot of people receive summary convictions for these offences, so if you’ve been convicted of assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm, don’t assume that the conviction was by indictment.
The final category of assault is “aggravated assault.” This is the most serious form of assault and it is rare – according to Stats Canada only 1.5% of all assaults in 2013 were aggravated assault. This kind of thing involves serious injury, including broken bones, serious wounds requiring stitches and abuse that endangers the victim’s life.
Someone convicted of this offence will be punished by indictment, they are probably going to spend some time in jail and they will require rehabilitation.
There is a separate category of assault when it involves a police officer on duty, which is called “assaulting a peace officer.” It goes without saying that acting in an aggressive or violent way toward a police officer is one of dumbest things anyone can do and courts hand down harsh sentences to anyone that acts in that way. But contrary to popular belief, assaulting a peace officer is not always considered a serious offence and it can be punished either summarily or by indictment.
In Canadian law there is no specific charge for resisting arrest, so anytime someone is being placed under arrest and a scuffle takes place, the person being arrested is likely to be charged with assaulting a peace officer. This often leads to a relatively light sentence. But if the person isn’t found guilty of the other charges, they may find themselves with a criminal record just because they were unwilling to cooperate with the police officer.
If you have been charged with assault or any other crime give us a call and we would be happy to explain your options for dealing with it.