Understanding Calgary Law: Aggravated v. Simple Assault (Part 1)

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Assault is one of the most common charges dealt with by the Calgary Police, and assault charges are one of the most common causes for cases before the Calgary courts. This is due in large part to the broad manner in which the crime of assault is defined—common or simple assault can apply to a situation where someone was simply physically intimidated or threatened via word or gesture without ever being physically touched.

Simple assault isn't the only type of assault defined in Canada's Criminal Code, however. When contact is made and more serious injuries occur, and in certain other situations, the crime can jump from simple assault to aggravated assault, which has the potential to carry far more serious penalties. Understanding the difference between these two types of assault could be an important part of protecting your legal rights, especially if you find yourself facing a criminal assault charge, so read on to see a Calgary defence lawyer's explanation of these two related crimes.

Simple Assault: A Summary or Indictable Offence in Calgary

The general concept of "assault" in Canada's criminal justice system, and the basis for simple assault charges in Calgary, is described in Section 265 of the Criminal Code:

(1) A person commits an assault when

  • (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
  • (b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
  • (c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

(2) This section applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm and aggravated sexual assault.

(3) For the purposes of this section, no consent is obtained where the complainant submits or does not resist by reason of

  • (a) the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant;
  • (b) threats or fear of the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant;
  • (c) fraud; or
  • (d) the exercise of authority.

(4) Where an accused alleges that he believed that the complainant consented to the conduct that is the subject-matter of the charge, a judge, if satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and that, if believed by the jury, the evidence would constitute a defence, shall instruct the jury, when reviewing all the evidence relating to the determination of the honesty of the accused’s belief, to consider the presence or absence of reasonable grounds for that belief.

The first paragraph describes the crime itself: any intentional force against another person without their consent, any threats or gestures of violence that could reasonably be construed as intents to actually commit violence, or simply "impeding" another person while wearing or carrying a weapon.

The third paragraph defines consent, and the fourth paragraph essentially defines when someone accused of assault would be able to use their belief that the contact was consensual as their defence.

It's relatively straightforward, and simple assault cases can also proceed in a relatively straightforward manner as summary offence. Summary offences have a quick trial in front of a magistrate only and carry a maximum penalty of six month in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Indictable offences, on the other hand, can carry larger fines and more jail time, and in some cases Calgary law enforcement and/or Crown prosecutors may be able to select either type of case.

Contact a Calgary Defence Lawyer with Questions About Your Assault Case

In Part 2 of this article, we'll take a detailed look at the law behind aggravated assault. In the meantime, please contact my office today if you have questions about your own assault case. You're alway entitled to speak to a knowledgeable Calgary defence lawyer, and I'm happy to offer a free initial consultation.

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