What is uttering threats?
An accused is guilty of uttering threats if they knowingly uttered, conveyed, or caused any person to receive a threat to:
(a) cause death or bodily harm to that person;
(b) burn, destroy, or damage real property;
(c) kill, poison, or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.
If we break that down into its elements (i.e. ingredients), the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
(1) “The accused…” – the accused must be the one who made the threat;
(2) “…knowingly…” – the accused must have known they were making the threat;
(3) “…uttered, conveyed, or caused any person to receive…” – the accused must have uttered (i.e. spoken), conveyed (i.e. communicated), or caused any person to receive the threat. That means the person who received the threat doesn’t have to be the same person who was threatened;
(4) “…a threat…” – the communication must be a threat. A “threat” is determined objectively from the point of view of a reasonable, hypothetical person asking themselves “is this a threat?”;
(5) “…to cause death or bodily harm, or burn, destroy, or damage real property, etc.” – the threat must be the type of threat listed under (a), (b), or (c) above.
So for (a), if someone were to say “if you do that I’ll slap you” that might not count as a threat for an uttering threats charge because a slap wouldn’t cause someone bodily harm.
For (c) if someone were to say “I’ll kill this wild deer if you don’t do what I say” that would also not count as a threat for an uttering threats charge because a wild deer, by definition, doesn’t belong to anyone.
Although the definition of uttering threats in the Criminal Code doesn’t mention intent, the accused must also have intended to intimidate or be taken seriously to be guilty of it. However, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove that the accused intended to actually carry out the threat, nor that the person who received the threat was actually intimidated by it, or took it seriously.
Is uttering threats a serious offence?
The courts consider uttering threats to be an offence of violence. All prosecutions for violent offences are treated seriously, although it obviously also depends on the specific facts of the allegations. If the prosecutor alleges someone made a threat where it appears they might intend to carry it out, that’s much more serious than if the prosecutor just alleges they made a threat to intimidate someone.
Where the prosecutor alleges the accused threatened their intimate partner, the courts will treat it more seriously (all else being equal), as it does for all offences against intimate partners.
What are some defences to uttering threats?
Defences to uttering threats will generally involve negating one of its elements (i.e. ingredients). That means showing there is a reasonable doubt about whether the accused made the communication, whether they knew it was a threat, whether they truly communicated the threat, etc.
Usually, the most difficult element for the Crown to prove is that the accused meant to intimidate or be taken seriously by the person who received the threat. Other times the threat itself may be ambiguous, which causes a judge to have a reasonable doubt about whether it was a threat at all.
You can find some of the firm’s case results defending charges of uttering threats HERE.