Assault Charges

Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers

Assault Charges Lawyers in Calgary

Assault is viewed as an offence of violence. While it is commonly associated with an exchange of blows, the offence encompasses a vast array of conduct. Assault is defined in the Criminal Code as a non-consensual application of force to another. This may entail punches, kicks, even a shove. Actual physical contact is not always required as an attempt or threat to apply force to another grounds the offence as well.


The offence varies in severity depending upon the nature of the injuries that resulted as well whether a weapon was utilized. A common assault involves an application of force where little to no injuries were produced. Assault causing bodily harm requires that the Crown prove that the complainant suffered an injury that interferes with their health or comfort that is more than trifling in nature. The relevant case law suggests that this can be proven by severe bruising, concussions, sprained ligaments, or broken bones. That said, the offence of aggravated assault involves injuries that wound, maim, disfigures, or endangers the life of the complainant.

While every case is different, the goal remains the same, ensuring the best possible result for our clients.

An essential element of the offence of assault requires the Crown to demonstrate that the force utilized was non-consensual in nature. As such, they must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the act was not consented to by the complainant. This becomes problematic for the Prosecution when participants engage in a consensual fist fight as we often see at house parties or nightclubs. While two participants can willingly engage in a consensual fight, any such consent will be vitiated if non-trivial bodily harm results.

Lastly, actions that constitute an assault will result in an acquittal if they are shown to be justified. In the context of an assault allegation, the Criminal Code contains numerous defences to such charges. These include self defence, defence of others and defence of property. Should these defences be advanced, the Court will analyze the nature of the threat, its imminence, the history of the relationship as well as the proportionality of the response. While the consequences of a conviction for this offence are considerable, counsel with knowledge of the proceedings and Criminal Code provisions is an invaluable asset.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is assault with a weapon?

  • Section 267 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to assault another individual with a weapon or imitation thereof. In fact, there need not be any type of physical contact for the offence to be made out, as threatening the use of a weapon is sufficient. An example of this would be pointing a firearm at someone. While a firearm or knife will fit within the ambit, a wide array of objects have been found to constitute a weapon. A “weapon” under the Code means any thing used in causing injury or death to a person, or for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person.

What is self defence?

  • The Criminal Code provisions relating to self defence are always a live issue in any type of assault allegation. Should the elements of an assault be proven, the Court next must give consideration to whether the assault was legally justified. Before considered, the judge has to be satisfied that there is an “air of reality” to the defence. This requires the judge to analyze whether there is evidence upon which a properly instructed jury acting reasonably could acquit. Once this low finding has been reached, the onus then falls to the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did not act in self defence. In considering whether this is proven, the court will examine the relationship between the parties, their physical statures, the immanency of the threat as well as the proportionality of the response.

What is Alternative Measures?

  • In certain cases, assault charges are eligible to be diverted from the court system by way of the Alternative Measures Program. This program is typically eligible for individuals with little to no criminal record who have been charged with a relatively low-end offence. The program requires approval from Crown Counsel. In the event that a client is eligible, their matters are adjourned 4 months so that the accused can meet with a probation officer. At this meeting, an Alternative Measures Agreement will be signed by the client. The agreement will set forth the requirements that have been put in place by probation. These may include a charitable donation, community service hours or even a written apology. Once these conditions have been satisfied, the matter returns to court where the charges are then withdrawn.

What are the penalties if I am convicted of assault?

  • As is the case with all criminal offences, the penalty will depend upon the circumstances of the offence as well as the background of the offender. In considering the offence, the court will look at the whether the assault was spontaneous or planned, whether it was racially motivated, and whether injuries resulted. In considering the offender, the court will look at the criminal history (or lack thereof) as well as their personal background. For such matters, our office will routinely file character references that speak to the client’s prior good character. We will often routinely have client’s participate in anger management counselling for such files as it is important to demonstrate to the Crown as well as the Court that the client has taken the charges seriously and sought to learn from them. It is unusual for an accused with no record to receive a jail sentence for an assault charge all sentencing options short of incarceration must be considered by the presiding judge. That said, consideration of a custodial sentence is certainly in play should the assault result in significant injuries to the complainant.