Canadian courts take crimes against peace officers seriously. The charge is under “Offences Against the Person and Reputation.” Similar to other assault charges, the same elements of assault must be met but unlike other assault types, the victim in the assault is a peace officer. The Criminal Code outlines serious punishments for such crimes against peace officers.
What is Assaulting a Peace Officer?
First, the Crown must establish you committed an assault. You will be found to have committed an assault if any of the three situations occur:
- You intentionally applied force to another without their consent; or
- You attempted or threatened to apply force with an act or gesture causing the victim to believe you were going to assault them; or
- While wearing a real or imitation weapon, you accosted or impeded another person
Then, the Crown must prove you committed the assault against a peace officer. Assault against a peace officer is outlined in section 270(1) of the Criminal Code. Three types of assault can constitute an offence:
- Assault in the line of duty: Assaulting a public officer or peace officer while in the course of their duty or assaulting a person aiding the officer;
- Resisting their arrest: Assaulting a person with the intention to resist or prevent the lawful arrest or detention of yourself or someone else;
- Preventing the execution of their duty: Assaulting a person who is either:
- Engaged in the lawful execution of a process against lands or goods or in the lawful distress or seizure of such land or
- Someone who has the intent to rescue anything taken under lawful process, distress, or seizure
Who Is Considered a Peace Officer in Canada?
Section 2 of the Criminal Code defines a peace officer as any uniformed police officer, prison guard, holder of public office, and specialized enforcement group. Enforcement groups include any of the following:
- Court Bailiffs
- Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs
- Fishery Guardians
- Members of the Canadian Forces
- Military Police
- RCMP Officers
- Customs Officers
- Land Conservation Officers
- Justices of the Peace
- Any officer or agent the courts deem a peace officer
What Must the Crown Prove for a Conviction?
In addition to the elements of an assault and the elements set out in section 270(1), the Crown must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, three other elements. First, the intentional use of non-consensual force on the peace officer. Second, you must have known the victim was a peace officer. And third, you must have known the officer was acting in the lawful execution of the duties.
Charges and Penalties for Assaulting a Peace Officer
Assaulting a peace officer is a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison if the Crown proceeds by indictment. If the Crown proceeds by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is six months in jail and/or a $5000 fine.
There are several charges and penalties for assaulting a peace officer. There are no mandatory minimums for assaulting a peace officer; however, it is common for courts to serve additional penalties against the accused. These penalties include: up to three years probation, up to ten years of weapon prohibitions, mandatory DNA submission to the DNA Data Bank, and a criminal record.
Penalties are often worse if combined with other elements: for example, carrying a weapon, causing bodily harm, or aggravation.
Assault While Carrying a Weapon
Assaulting a peace officer while carrying a weapon can result in up to five years in prison.
Assaulting a Peace Officer Causing Bodily Harm
If the assault causes bodily harm against the peace officer, a summary conviction results in up to 18 months in prison. However, if the Crown proceeds by way of indictment, you can face up to ten years in prison.
Aggravated Assault of a Peace Officer
If the assault resulted in the wounding, maiming, disfigurement, or endangerment of the peace officer’s life, you can face up to 14 years in prison.
What Are the Possible Defences for Assaulting a Police Officer?
If you find yourself charged with assaulting a peace officer, there are several defences available to you.
Unaware of the Person's Status as a Peace Officer
One of the elements of the offence is the knowledge that the victim is a peace officer. As such, a defence to the offence is that you were unaware of their status as a peace officer. Evidence that can support this defence include: the officer not identifying themself, the officer being out of uniform, and whether you had time to realize their authority.
Unaware of Being Arrested
One of the categories of assault against an officer includes resisting an arrest. If, however, you were unaware that the officer was attempting to arrest you, you have a defence available. The following facts can support this defence: the officer did not read you your rights, the officer did not ask you to come with them to the police station, or your actions were misinterpreted by the officer.
A common defence to any assault charge is that you were acting in self-defence. If you were acting in self-defence against excessive force, you can be able to argue against the charges set out against you. The best evidence for this kind of defence is any sort of video footage or eyewitnesses showing inconsistencies in the prosecution’s story to show unreasonable and excessive force.
Violation of Your Rights
Another required element for a charge of an assault against a peace officer is that the officer was executing their duty during the assault. For example, if the peace officer was acting outside of their duties at the time of the assault, the assault does not qualify as an assault against a peace officer. Some evidence to support this defence is whether the officer followed their proper protocol or whether the officer had a justified reason to initiate their action.
Contact an Experienced Assault Lawyer Today
Assaulting a peace officer can result in severe penalties that can impact your life permanently. At Pyzer Criminal Lawyers, we have won some of the toughest assault cases in Toronto. An experienced assault lawyer can help you achieve the best possible outcome and protect your reputation! Contact us today at (416) 658-1818 to begin building the best defence for your case.