This offence covers activity from incessantly phoning the same person all the way to making threats against a person, their friends, pets or family.
Some of the most common examples in Toronto include:
- Following someone home,
- Leaving threatening voicemails, and
- Contacting someone repetitively on the internet.
Other harassment offences, including sexual harassment and workplace harassment, are covered in provincial human rights legislation. Neither are criminal offences on their own, but both can amount to a criminal charge if the circumstances fulfill the elements of criminal harassment or sexual assault.
Whatever the harassing behaviour involves, it must give the complainant good reason to fear for their personal safety in order to constitute criminal harassment. The actions also cannot be derived from lawful authority, such as messages from a peace officer or lawyer.
Investigation of Criminal Harassment Charges in Toronto
Investigations of criminal harassment allegations are typically initiated by the alleged victim. They contact the local Toronto Police Service and report it. The police will request a written statement from the complainant and any witnesses, and will then launch an investigation.
The police will typically engage in a thorough investigation to find sufficient evidence to charge. This may include interviewing all witnesses, reviewing any video surveillance, seizing any evidence involved and photographing the scene.
After the police have gathered their evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all the evidence they collected, known as the “disclosure package,” to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Criminal Harassment Charges in Toronto
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for criminal harassment charges in Toronto?
If you have been charged with criminal harassment, it is not uncommon for police to release you at the scene on a release order. Police will provide you with a Promise to Appear document outlining your charges, and any required appearances you must make. This document may also include conditions that you are required to follow while on release.
However, a formal bail hearing may be required to secure your release, particularly if you have a criminal record, or if the charges you are facing are more serious.
In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be taken to the Toronto Police Service Division that is responsible for the alleged crime. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought into the Division.
The phone number for each division is 416-808-[Division Number – 00], so for example, the number for 52 Division is 416-808-5200. The addresses for each Division of the Toronto Police Service can be found here.
Alternatively, you may be held at the Toronto South Detention Centre:
160 Horner Ave
Toronto, ON M8Z 0C2
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on information about your whereabouts, if requested.
Because of these difficulties while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with your loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, if that happens, stop questioning you.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail.
We will immediately do the following:
- Call in to the Division where you are being held in Toronto and speak to you.
- Contact the Prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the Court about why you should be released on bail.
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
At the time of your bail hearing, you will be transported to the courthouse associated with the particular police division, except for on weekends when Old City Hall holds weekend bail court.
Old City Hall is located at:
60 Queen St W
Toronto, ON M5H 2M3
When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
Although it is unlikely that you will be denied bail for this type of charge, tight restrictions may nevertheless be applied to your release.
Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also to ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit).
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the Judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the Prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the Court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a bail review, which is conducted at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Where can I pay for bail for criminal harassment charges in Toronto?
If you or a loved one are charged with criminal harassment in Toronto and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. The cash deposit can be paid at any bail hearing office (courthouse) in Ontario. If you live in Ottawa, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Toronto.
Bail hearing offices in Toronto are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The simplest way to pay bail is usually to pay it at the courthouse where the bail hearing was held. For instance, at Old City Hall, you can pay the cash deposit at Room 7 on the ground floor. If you are held at the Toronto South Detention Centre, bail can also be paid there.
In Ontario, because of the prevalence of Justices of the Peace and Judges requiring a surety, various bail programs provide an alternative to a surety. The contact number for the Toronto Bail Program is 416-314-3765.
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for criminal harassment charges in Toronto?
Release on bail with criminal harassment charges may include restrictions that impact your day-to-day life.
This could include conditions to refrain from:
- Interacting with any alleged victim,
- Attending the alleged victim’s home or place of work,
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest),
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew),
- Breaking any laws,
- Using drugs or alcohol,
- Possessing weapons,
- Visiting certain places, and/or
The Judge may also impose some additional conditions such as:
- Attending counselling,
- Residing where approved,
- Reporting to probation, and/or
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:
- Your criminal history,
- Your physical and mental condition,
- The nature of the alleged criminal harassment,
- The likelihood that you will flee,
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage,
- Whether you have stable employment,
- Whether you have stable living arrangements, and
- Whether you have ties to the community.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown Prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Criminal Harassment Charges in Toronto
Criminal harassment is a hybrid offence, meaning that the Crown can elect to proceed by way of indictment or summary offence. This choice will impact the severity of punishments that you are given, with indictment being the more severe of the two.
Although criminal harassment has no mandatory minimum penalties, the Criminal Code does list the maximum punishments as follows:
- Indictment: Up to 10 years’ imprisonment,
- Summary: Up to 2 years’ less a day imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from a conviction for criminal harassment, it can have wide-ranging negative consequences on your future. You may have trouble securing employment, especially in roles that require working with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable sectors of society. The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can hinder immigration and travel. Finally, because of the nature of criminal harassment charges, your friends and family may perceive you as unworthy of their trust, and it can heavily impact your reputation.
Therefore, even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all the possible penalties. Often, good representation can result in no criminal record. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences that stem from a criminal conviction for criminal harassment. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the Prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Criminal Harassment Charges in Toronto
What are the best defences to criminal harassment charges in Toronto?
The best defences for a criminal harassment charge depend on the circumstances of your case.
Generally, however, some good defences are:
- Factual innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, harassing the person, or other basic elements of the offence.
- Identity: In some circumstances where the offence was not recorded by surveillance footage, or the footage is poor quality, you may be able to raise an identity defence. For example, authorities could have made a mistake in identifying you as the perpetrator based on the poor quality of the footage. In order to effectively raise this defence, you may need corroborative evidence, such as an alibi to where you were at the time of the offence.
- Unreasonable fear: One possible defence for criminal harassment is to challenge the reasonableness of the complainant’s fear. By pointing to your relationship with the complainant as well as the nature, context and history of your communications, we can argue that their fear is unreasonable.
- No intent to cause fear: If you can prove that you were unaware that your behaviour would cause the complainant to fear for their personal safety, and that you did not intend to cause the fear, this can help challenge a criminal harassment charge. You must be able to prove, however, that you did not know it would cause fear, and that you shouldn’t have known that it would.
- Lawful authority: If you had lawful authority to ‘harass’ someone, then you cannot be convicted of criminal harassment. For example, a debt collector calling someone incessantly to obtain owed funds is not criminal, because they have lawful authority to do so.
- Violation of constitutional rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence.
To be convicted, the Crown must prove that you harassed a person, causing them to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of anyone they know. While the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, you may bear some responsibility in raising certain defences at trial.
The availability and strength of any defence depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of various potential defences in criminal harassment cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the Court at trial. Even if you believe that you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend criminal harassment charges in Toronto?
If you have been charged with criminal harassment in Toronto, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. What information is relevant will depend on the facts in your case. If you are uncertain what information to collect, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful for building an effective defence (or convincing the Prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against criminal harassment charges in Toronto?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause, including:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence;
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events;
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches;
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.
Most of the information above relates to simple criminal harassment cases, which can still be complex and fact-specific.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Criminal Harassment Lawyers. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.
Criminal Harassment FAQs
- What is criminal harassment?
- What are the best defences for a criminal harassment charge?
- How can I get my criminal harassment charges dropped?