ASSAULTING A PEACE OFFICER
Any assault in Alberta is a serious offence but when it is aimed at certain individuals called “peace officers”, it may be treated even more harshly.
Section 270 of the Criminal Code of Canada outlines the crime of assaulting a peace officer, which can result in a lengthy prison sentence if you are convicted. It will also leave a permanent negative mark on your criminal record.
You need to take the accusation seriously and be prepared to mount a strong defence against the charge.
Cory Wilson at Wilson Criminal Defence can help protect your rights and freedoms and will look to prevent a momentary lapse of judgement or a wrongful accusation from impacting your future.
What does a charge of assaulting a peace officer mean?
Common or simple assault is the intentional application of force, directly or indirectly, without a person’s consent or an attempt or threat to apply force with an act or gesture causing a person to believe that an assault will take place.
No contact or bodily injury is required for a charge of assault to be filed against an individual.
When the assault is aimed at peace officers carrying out official duty, it is called assaulting a peace officer. These individuals are generally uniformed and acting in an official capacity, such as:
- Calgary police officers
- Canadian Forces officers
- Customs officers
- Wardens, etc.
The charge can also be filed against you if you assault an individual assisting the peace officer in executing their duty.
It is not to be confused with obstructing a peace officer or resisting arrest. With these offences, there is no element of threat – just actions that prevent a peace officer from carrying out their lawful duty.
“Lawful duty” generally means that the peace officer must be attempting to carry out a lawful and active investigation involving the accused.
As with common assault, assaulting a peace officer will be considered a more serious offence if a weapon is used, bodily harm is caused, or if there are other aggravating factors present.
Penalties for assaulting a peace officer
Assaulting a peace officer is an indictable offense and a Crown priority in Calgary.
Individuals charged with assaulting a peace officer can face a prison term of up to five years. If a weapon is involved, it could lead to double the sentence. An aggravated charge due to wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of the peace officer could come with a prison term of up to 14 years.
If you have an existing criminal record, the prosecution is likely to want to throw the book at you.
A conviction will result not only in harsh immediate penalties but long-term consequences too. Employment, education, international travel and immigration status can all be affected if you are convicted.
And if anyone checks your record and finds an assault of a peace officer on it, this can be difficult to explain away.
How do we defend a charge of assaulting a peace officer?
To convict you of assaulting a peace officer, the Crown prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an assault by an intentional application of force (or threatened to do so) against a peace officer, public officer, or someone helping them and engaged in a lawful duty.
After reviewing the evidence and hearing your version of events, your criminal defence lawyer will start working on your defence and liaising with the local prosecutor’s office.
The following defences may be used to either get your case dismissed or downgraded to a lesser offence:
Violation of constitutional rights
You are protected before and after your arrest by certain provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the police fail to follow these provisions, your lawyer may be able to have evidence dismissed from the case, which could well aid your defence.
A common defence for assault crimes is self-defence i.e., you did commit the assault but it was to defend yourself against an attack. Note that your actions must have been proportional to the attack you were facing or you may still be found guilty and convicted.
Defence of another person
If you assaulted a peace officer by using reasonable force to defend someone else against an unlawful attack, this can be a legitimate defence if there was no intent to cause bodily harm or death. This defence is quite rare in such cases as you need to show that a peace officer was committing an unlawful attack on another person.
Defence of property
You are entitled to use reasonable force or the threat of force to defend your property. Again, this can be a challenging defence to use in cases of assaulting a peace officer.
If the alleged assault was not caught on surveillance video, or the video is of poor quality, reasonable doubt may be raised about the identity of the person involved. If you have a reasonable alibi, your lawyer may be able to argue that it was not you who committed the assault.
If you can prove that no assault took place according to the physical or mental requirements of the offence, (for instance, you had consent to apply force), you cannot be convicted of assaulting a peace officer.
Unlawful exercise of duty
To achieve a conviction, the peace officer must have been lawfully carrying out his or her duty when assaulted. Your lawyer may be able to argue that he or she failed to advise you of the reason why they wanted to arrest you or had no warrant to enter a property. In such cases, you may not have been legally bound to follow the commands. However, you could still be convicted of common assault.
Call us to arrange a confidential consultation
To speak with Cory Wilson or arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Wilson Criminal Defence, call 403-978-6052 or email us here.
Cory Wilson is a criminal defence lawyer based in Calgary. If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are a suspect in a criminal investigation, call today for a free, no-obligation consultation.