What is aggravated assault?


Aggravated assault is the most serious type of assault. An assault occurs when a person applies force intentionally to another person, directly or indirectly, without their consent. That action becomes “aggravated” if the complainant is wounded, maimed or disfigured, or if they feel their life is endangered, according to s. 268 of the Criminal Code.

A wound can be a broken bone or a break in the skin. To maim or disfigure someone means that the assault caused more than a temporary impairment of a person’s figure or appearance, such as a facial scar. To endanger someone’s life means a person felt they faced a real risk of dying, even if no bodily harm was done.

The charge of aggravated assault can also be laid against anyone who commits any form of female circumcision.

What are my defences when charged with aggravated assault?

That always depends on the circumstances that led to the charge being laid. After you retain me as legal counsel I want to hear your account of the incident. I will then study the evidence the police have compiled against you. Maybe you did not intend to cause harm to someone, or perhaps in their investigation, police violated your rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As with any charge, the burden of proof remains on the Crown. Drawing on my extensive experience in Alberta courts, I will build your best defence.

What does the Crown need to prove?

The Crown prosecutor must show you intentionally applied force against the complainant knowing that could result in bodily harm. They also have to demonstrate the injuries the other person sustained were not trivial or temporary, or that they truly felt that their life was in danger.

They also have to show you had the intention (mens rea) to cause bodily harm, even if you did not intend to maim, wound or disfigure. A 2016 judgment from the Provincial Court of Alberta bears that out. In this case, a youth was charged after he punched another youth in the face. The victim’s jaw was broken in two places, requiring immediate surgery and the installation of metal plates. In finding the youth guilty of aggravated assault, the court ruled, “the Accused had the requisite objective foresight of causing bodily harm to the Victim. There is no requirement in law for the Crown to prove that the Accused had an intention to maim, wound or disfigure the Victim.”

What is a wound?

Though not legally binding in Alberta, a 2019 B.C. Court of Appeal ruling provides some guidance here. It involved a man who punched another man several times in the head, leaving him with two cuts that required five stitches to close. The assailant was charged with aggravated assault, but the trial judge found him guilty of the lesser charge of assault causing bodily harm, ruling the victim’s injuries did not amount to a wound.

The appeal court disagreed, noting that “injury rose to the level of serious bodily harm. A cut that requires five stitches or staples is a substantial interference with someone’s physical integrity.”

Spitting or coughing on someone is aggravated assault

Intentionally spitting or coughing on someone is a form of assault. During a pandemic, it could be considered aggravated assault. During the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of people from across Canada were arrested after intentionally coughing or spitting on others. That includes an Edmonton resident who was charged with assault after allegedly coughing on an Edmonton bus driver and transit peace officers before claiming he had tested positive for coronavirus.

What is the penalty for aggravated assault?

Aggravated assault charges are always treated as indictable offences with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The court can also demand that a victim fine surcharge be paid. Those convicted will be subject to a mandatory weapons prohibition. If the circumstances warrant, the Crown can bring an application to have you declared a dangerous offender.

The severity of the punishment shows the importance of having diligent legal counsel working on your behalf if you are facing this charge.

You need seasoned counsel at your side

If you are facing an aggravated assault charge you need experienced legal assistance to guide you through the judicial process. Contact me for a free consultation. I have the track record and skills necessary to represent you.