Ottawa Criminal Harassment Lawyer
Criminal harassment and stalking are criminal charges that often arise out of domestic disputes and often emotions and volatility of broken hearts and revenge. However, the charges are serious and like all criminal charges can result in a criminal conviction, prison time, fines, and civil repercussions. What began as a private matter can become a public trial. Skilled and competent representation by experienced Ottawa criminal harassment defence lawyers is necessary to protect your rights, and to prevent a criminal record from marring your future. Call Auger Hollingsworth now to arrange for a free consultation.
What is Criminal Harassment?
Criminal harassment is defined in Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada and is the act of frightening, annoying or disturbing the privacy of another, causing them to fear for their safety or the safety of another.
Criminal harassment can take many forms, and the threats inherent to the charge need not be explicit, but might include:
- Repeatedly following a person from place to place
- Repeatedly communicating with another person directly or indirectly in an unwanted way
- Staking out a residence, place of business, restaurant, bar, gym where someone regularly goes
- Engaging in threatening conduct directed at another person.
The definition of “repeatedly” is more than once or twice, enough to instill fear in the other person. How many times this unwelcomed behaviour occurs is often a focus of defence at trial.
What Must be Proven for a Criminal Harassment Charge?
Criminal harassment requires that the prosecutor prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant repeatedly followed, communicated with, watched, or threatened the complainant;
- The complainant was harassed by these behaviours;
- The defendant knew that the complainant was harassed or recklessly or wilfully blinded himself to the impact of his actions;
- The conduct caused the complainant to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of another known to her;
- The Complainant’s fear was reasonable.
Criminal harassment cases necessarily require an understanding of the reasons why the defendant was in such regular contact with the complainant despite that fact that the contact was unwanted. To determine why the defendant acted as such might require an examination of any history between the parties as well as the gender of the complainant and any physical disparities between the complainant and the defendant. Of course, use of alcohol and other intoxicants by the defendant or the complaining witness also becomes relevant.
Proof of physical harm is not required, only that the complainant was fearful and that the fear was reasonable under the circumstances.
Defences for Criminal Harassment
To defend against charges of criminal harassment, skilled criminal defence lawyers examine the circumstances of the police investigation and arrest to discern whether both were conducted within constitutional limitations. If the investigation and arrest did not conform to constitutional guarantees, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms dictates that improperly gathered evidence may be excluded from admission at trial.
Another legal defence might claim that the defendant operated under legal authority and was therefore incapable of harassment. Such a defence might claim that the repeated contact with the complainant was to secure payment or was in compliance with a valid court order.
In addition to legal defences, there are factual defences to charges of harassment such as mistaken identity or alibi.
Another factual defence focuses on the requisite element that the defendant’s actions must intend and elicit fear in the complainant. Remember that the prosecution must prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. One factual defence would claim that there was no intent to cause fear, since intent is required to prove the crime. Another defence might target the claim that the fear experienced by the complainant was unreasonable, that ordinary people would not find any of the contacts threatening.
Penalties for Criminal Harassment
Like all criminal prosecutions, a conviction for criminal harassment can result in jail time and fines. However, it is the impact of a criminal conviction that has lasting consequences on education, housing, and employment opportunities, travel, and immigration status. Conviction also might mean restrictions on the right to own and possess weapons, and depending on the method of harassment, a conviction might require that the defendant supply a sample to the Canadian DNA data bank.
The Initial Consultation
Charged with a criminal offence? Take advantage of the free consultation offered by most criminal defence lawyers before deciding how you are going to handle the situation. At the initial consultation, the criminal lawyer will be able to explain:
- the process,
- how long it will take,
- the types of defences that may be available to you,
- what should be expected in the disclosure and
- what range of sentence is possible if you were to plead guilty or be convicted of the charges, or any one of them.
Having this information is crucial to making a decision about whether or not to hire a lawyer and fight the charges.
However, at the initial consultation it is unlikely that an experienced criminal defence lawyer will be able to tell you if they can get the charges withdrawn or secure an acquittal. At the initial consultation stage, the lawyer will not have the disclosure, which is the Crown’s evidence. Some of the disclosure may be helpful to you. Other aspects of the disclosure may not be helpful. Until the defence lawyer has access to this information, it is unlikely that the lawyer will be able to give you an opinion.
The bottom line? Before you speak to the Crown or plead guilty to your charges, get the basic advice available at an initial free consultation so that you can make an informed decision on your case.
Contact our Criminal Harassment Lawyers Today
Choosing an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer can help preserve your rights and defences to criminal charges. At Auger Hollingsworth, we offer a free consultation session during which you can assess our lawyers and we can assess the strength of the prosecution’s claims. During this free consultation, we will:
- Review the criminal charges or the request for appearance or subpoena for documents, and any police reports and other documents.
- We will listen to your story and map out the areas for investigation, begin to compile a list of witnesses, and compose the various strategies the facts and law offer.
- We will provide you with an estimate of the cost of legal services.
- If we are unable to provide you with a defence, we will refer you to other counsel.
Call (613) 699-8192 today to schedule a free consultation with the knowledgeable Ottawa criminal defence lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth.