What is criminal harassment?

Susan Karpa Criminal Lawyer in CalgaryIf you have been charged or are being investigated, hiring a Calgary harassment lawyer is important. I can explain the strategy for fighting these charges, the repercussions of a guilty plea, the nature of a peace bond if applicable, and other related aspects of your charges. Contact us now at 587-888-7149 for a free consultation.

What is criminal harassment?

Criminal harassment, also called “stalking,” is a crime committed by repeatedly following, communicating with, or threatening someone in a way that causes them to fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know.

Many criminal harassment allegations happen after a relationship breakup. Knowing what is and is not criminal harassment can be challenging, as behaviour that some people might find perfectly normal could be criminal harassment.

According to section 264 of the Criminal Code, criminal harassment is knowingly or recklessly causing someone to be harassed and making them reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know by doing any of the following things:

  • Repeatedly following them or someone they know.
  • Repeatedly communicating with them or someone they know.
  • Watching the house, workplace, or any place where they or someone they know happens to be.
  • Doing something threatening toward them or a member of their family.

Common examples of criminal harassment can include repeatedly sending unwanted text messages, emails, or phone calls, following someone, showing up at their home or workplace, or making threats against them or their loved ones. Some of this behaviour may also result in an uttering threats charge. I have separate FAQs about uttering threats.

To be convicted of criminal harassment, the crown prosecutor must prove that the complainant feared for their safety, or the safety of someone they know, and that their fear was objectively reasonable. This makes criminal harassment cases highly fact specific.

Penalties for criminal harassment range from probation to jail time. I have a separate FAQ addressing what happens if you are convicted of criminal harassment.

Can one phone call be criminal harassment?

One phone call alone cannot be criminal harassment because one phone call is not repeated communication. However, one phone call can be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ if it is part of a repeated pattern of communication or conduct that meets the definition of criminal harassment under the Criminal Code. For example, if you repeatedly text someone, but they are not scared because of the texts alone, and then you call them, and the texts and phone call together make them reasonably fear for their safety, then you may have committed criminal harassment. 

Is it criminal harassment if the complainant was not scared?

No, if the victim is not scared by what you did, then it was not criminal harassment. To be convicted of criminal harassment, the crown prosecutor must prove all of the elements of the offence, including that the complainant reasonably feared for their safety or the safety of someone known to them based on your actions. 

However, you can scare the complainant without committing criminal harassment – another element of the offence is that the complainant’s fear was objectively reasonable. 

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