As a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, uttering threats can have serious legal consequences. If you are in British Columbia and are unsure about what constitutes uttering threats, it’s essential to know the legal definition and potential consequences. 

In this article, we’ll explore what is considered uttering threats, the types of threats, potential consequences, defences against such allegations, and more.

Legal Definition of Uttering Threats in British Columbia

Uttering threats is defined as an individual who knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat to cause death or bodily harm to any person, or to damage or destroy any person’s property with the intent to cause fear or apprehension in the person who hears or receives the message.

An alleged threat can result in a charge of uttering threats, which is a criminal offence. The charge can be classified as an indictable offence, which carries severe penalties, or a summary conviction, which results in a lesser sentence. Regardless of its classification, anyone facing charges for uttering threats should seek the support and guidance of a top criminal lawyer in Surrey, BC

To prove a charge of uttering threats, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intended for the alleged threat to be taken seriously by the person who received it. The prosecutor must also prove that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have taken the alleged threat seriously.

Types of Illegal Threats

Threats can be either direct or indirect, depending on how they are communicated. A direct threat is a statement that directly threatens death or bodily harm to an individual or their personal property. An indirect threat, on the other hand, is a statement that implies a threat without stating it directly.

What’s more, a threat can be classified as conditional or unconditional. A conditional threat involves an “if-then” statement, such as “if you don’t do what I say, I will hurt you.” An unconditional threat involves a straightforward statement of harm, such as “I’m going to hurt you.”

Within these categories, there are several types of threats that are considered illegal in British Columbia. These include verbal threats, written threats, gestures or actions that are interpreted as threatening, and threats communicated via electronic means.

Verbal threats can be made in person, over the phone, or through any other means of communication. Written threats can be in the form of letters, emails, or social media posts. Gestures or actions that are interpreted as threatening can include physical actions, such as pointing a weapon, or non-physical actions.

Threats and Electronic Communication

Threats via electronic communication have become much more prevalent as technology has permeated our lives and as more of our communication has come to take place through electronic mediums. Threats of this nature include any communication made through electronic means such as text messages, emails, or social media posts. 

It is important to note that even if the actual words spoken or written do not explicitly state a threat, the context and intent behind the words can still be considered threatening.

Punishment for Uttering Threats in British Columbia

Uttering threats is a hybrid offence in British Columbia, which means that it can be prosecuted as either a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence.

If prosecuted as a summary conviction offence, the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. If prosecuted as an indictable offence, the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment. The punishment for uttering threats can be increased if the threat was made against a specific group of people, such as a racial or religious group, or if the accused has a previous criminal record.

A conviction for uttering threats can also have serious and far-reaching consequences beyond legal penalties. It can damage an individual’s reputation, affect their relationships, and limit their employment prospects. In some cases, it may even result in the loss of custody or visitation rights with children or lead to immigration consequences. Therefore, it’s important to take accusations of uttering threats seriously and seek the guidance of a criminal lawyer to navigate the criminal justice system.

Defences for Uttering Threats Charges

There are several potential defences that can be used in court for uttering threats charges. Common defences include arguing that the accused did not intend for the alleged threat to be taken seriously, or that the alleged threat was not credible.

A criminal lawyer can help build a defence by reviewing the evidence and identifying any weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. A guilty plea may also be an option if the prosecutor has a strong case and the evidence against the accused is overwhelming.

Steps to Take When Facing Uttering Threats Charges

If you are facing charges for uttering threats, it’s important to take immediate action to protect your rights and interests. The following are the steps you should take when facing uttering threats charges:

  • Seek legal representation: Contact a criminal defence lawyer experienced in handling uttering threats cases. A lawyer can help you understand the charges against you, the potential consequences, and develop a strategy to defend yourself.
  • Gather evidence: Collect any evidence that could be used to support your defence, such as witness statements, video footage, or audio recordings of the alleged threats.
  • Avoid discussing the case: Do not discuss the case with anyone other than your lawyer. Statements made to friends, family members, or on social media could be used against you in court.
  • Comply with bail conditions: If you have been released on bail, comply with all conditions set by the court.
  • Attend court appearances: Attend all court appearances as required and follow the advice of your lawyer.

By taking these steps, you can minimize the potential impacts of the charges and work towards a favorable outcome.

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