What are the best defences to an uttering threats charge?

By Last Updated: July 26, 2022

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The best defence to an uttering threats charge is highly dependent on the context in which the threat took place. As such, if you have been charged with uttering threats, having a criminal defence lawyer review your matter is the best way to find out what the strongest defence to you charges is.

However, one common defence to the charge of uttering threats is to show that a reasonable person, who was fully aware of the circumstances in which the threat was made, would not perceive the utterance as a threat. Whether a threat has been made is very context-dependent, and a close look at the circumstances may reveal that a reasonable observer would not find that the accused’s words, conduct, or message constituted a threat. If you are successful in proving that the utterance or gesture couldn’t reasonably be construed as a threat, you will be able to disprove one of the essential elements of the offence. In such a case, you would be entitled to an acquittal or a finding that you are not guilty.

Another effective way to defend an uttering threats charge would be to undermine the mens rea component, or the mental element of the offence. That is, while you may have uttered words that were taken to be a threat by the complainant, in order to be found guilty of the offence it will also have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended your words to threaten. That is, while it is not necessary that the Crown prove you had an intent to carry out the threat, they do need to prove that you meant to threaten. As such, arguing that you said the words jokingly or that you did not mean for them to be taken seriously could be a defence to the charges against you. However, be aware that the Crown can point to the overall circumstances of the offence to suggest that your intent was in fact serious. For example, the defence that ‘I was joking’ will not likely operate in a situation where you were in a heated violent verbal or physical altercation with the complainant.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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