Criminal harassment is a charge that is laid against individuals who knowingly engage in prohibited conduct that causes another person to fear for their safety or the safety of someone known to them.
In order to be convicted of criminal harassment, the Crown Prosecutor will need to prove that the complainant felt harassed and that you knew your conduct would make the complainant feel harassed.
They would also have to prove that your conduct caused the complainant fear for their safety and that their fear was reasonable in the circumstances.
Some forms of prohibited conduct include following the complainant, repeatedly communicating with the complainant, watching them where they work or live, and engaging in threatening behavior directed at the complainant or members of their family.
Related Criminal Harassment Charges
Criminal harassment is considered to be a serious offence when combined with other commonly related charges:
- Uttering threats
- Domestic assault
- Mischief (damaging or destroying property with no intent to steal it)
Punishment for Criminal Harassment
- Imprisonment (up to 10 years)
- Summary conviction (imprisonment up to 18 months)
- $5,000 fine
A summary conviction, or summary offence, is resolved without a jury or indictment. It’s considered a “less serious” offence and is punished according to a different set of rules and lower sentencing guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions about Criminal Harassment Charges in Alberta
1. What are the best defences for a criminal harassment charge?
Like all criminal defences, the best ones depend on the circumstances and the evidence. However, one common defence tactic includes arguing that the complainant’s fear was not reasonable in the circumstances.
This involves proving that, based on the nature and history of your relationship, there is no basis on which they can reasonably claim that your behavior was harassing.
2. How is criminal harassment proven?
In order to prove criminal harassment, the Crown Prosecution must establish that the complainant, through your actions, was feeling harassed (i.e. tormented, worried, troubled, fearful for their safety, etc.).
In many cases, the police will issue an official warning upon the first complaint to warn you that the other person is feeling harassed. Continuing contact with that person will lead to a charge of criminal harassment and the police-issued warning will be used as evidence in court.
3. Can my criminal harassment charges be dropped?
It’s possible to have your criminal harassment charges dropped by agreeing to sign a peace bond. This requires you to stay away from the complainant and cease contact with them for a year.
If you are offered the opportunity to sign a peace bond in lieu of charges, the charges are dropped and you avoid a criminal record.
However, being granted this opportunity depends entirely upon whether or not the Crown Prosecution believes it to be appropriate in the situation. This is why it’s important to contact a criminal defence lawyer if you are facing criminal harassment charges.
4. How does the court determine if the complainant’s fear is “reasonable”?
To determine if a complainant’s fear is reasonable, the court will first inquire into whether a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the complainant would fear for their safety or the safety of someone known to them.
They will also take into consideration the complainant’s history and other circumstances surrounding the prior relationship between them and you.
I’ve Been Charged with Criminal Harassment. What Should I do?
DDSG Criminal Law has a number of expert lawyers with years of experience in this area. Contact us today to learn more. Contact us right away if you have been charged for harassment.