Criminal harassment is more commonly known as “stalking” and it is not just Hollywood actresses who are affected by it.
It happens on the streets of Ottawa – but false accusations are also common.
If you are charged with criminal harassment, you need to take it seriously, unless you want to end up with a criminal record that will impact your immediate and future rights and freedoms.
With strong legal representation, the charges can often be dismissed or downgraded. If you are convicted, the consequences may be mitigated.
Speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer at Friedman Mansour LLP in Ottawa to start building your case. We will protect your rights and advise you on the recommended next steps.
What is criminal harassment?
Criminal harassment is the act of frightening, annoying or otherwise disturbing another individual by displaying obsessive and unwanted conduct.
Section 264 of the Criminal Code says:
No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.
The conduct referred to in that passage includes:
- Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them
- Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them
- Besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be
- Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family
What are “repeatedly following” and “repeatedly communicating”?
To do something “repeatedly” means to do it more frequently than once or twice or more often than is generally considered to be normal.
In the case of criminal harassment, it would mean actions like following someone home against their will more than once or twice. If you reputedly take any unwelcome action that torments, frightens or annoys the person, it may be construed as criminal harassment.
The notion of “repeated” action is highly subjective and the defendant’s conduct in this regard is often debated in court in criminal harassment cases as a key element of the case.
What must be proven for a criminal harassment conviction in Ottawa?
To secure a conviction in a criminal harassment case, the Crown Prosecution will need to prove the following:
- The defendant engaged in any of the actions outlined in the Criminal Code description of the offence (repeatedly following, communicating, watching or threatening the complainant)
- The complainant was harassed
- The defendant knew that the complainant was harassed or was reckless or willfully blind to it
- The conduct caused the complainant to fear for his or her safety or the safety of anyone known to him or her
- The complainant’s fear was reasonable
For the final element (that the complainant’s fear was reasonable), the court will examine whether a reasonable person, in the same circumstances, would feel threatened.
Criminal harassment cases generally involve consideration of the circumstances surrounding the alleged harassment as well as any history between the complainant and the defendant, as well as the gender of the complainant.
Note that the prosecution does not need to prove that the complainant suffered any physical or mental harm – only that they felt threatened.
What are the possible defences against a harassment charge in Ottawa?
The precise circumstances of your case will determine the defence strategy we adopt. Based on our previous experience in such cases, we may adopt any of the following defences:
Sometimes, the motive of the complainant must be probed by a defence lawyer to find out why the complaint was made. There can be an ulterior motive in some cases, which may call into doubt the testimony provided and aid the defence.
What are the penalties for criminal harassment?
The consequences of a conviction for criminal harassment are two-fold. You face the immediate possibility of jail time and fines the long-term consequences of a criminal record.
In reality, jail time for this type of crime is rare, although aggravating factors may convince a judge to impose a prison sentence and, technically, you can face up to 10 years behind bars.
We are generally confident that our clients will escape a criminal conviction. Our lawyers may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the crime to a lesser charge involving fines and probation. Depending on the circumstances of the case, your criminal history, and your personal situation, we can also fight your case for leniency with the judge, who can exert a great deal of discretion in such cases.
If you end up with a criminal record, it will show up in background checks. This can make finding employment more difficult and will preclude you from certain professions. If you are not a Canadian citizen, it could affect your immigration status, and Canadians may not be able to travel to the U.S. because of a conviction.
You may also be hit with a mandatory ten-year weapons prohibition, and prosecutors may request your DNA to be put on the Canadian DNA data bank.
These harsh potential outcomes make it so important to work with the best criminal defence team possible on your case.
Contact our criminal harassment Lawyers in Ottawa
If you are charged with criminal harassment in Ottawa, our experience in such cases can help mitigate the consequences for you.
At Friedman Mansour LLP, our skilled criminal lawyers can protect your rights and freedoms and defend you against the charge. Contact us online for a free case evaluation or call us directly with any questions at (613)-223-4089.