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aggravated assault

What Is Aggravated Assault?

Of the three levels of assault under the Canadian Criminal Code, aggravated assault is the most serious. It’s considered a straight indictable offence with severe consequences for the assailant’s life.

Here, we’ll explore the topic more closely, detailing what constitutes aggravated assault, its elements, and more. By the end, you should have a clear insight into aggravated assault and how it differs from similar crimes.

Elements of Aggravated Assault

The following elements must be met for the aggravated assault charge:

  •       The bodily harm must be intended toward the person and not done accidentally
  •       The harm can be inflicted either directly or indirectly
  •       The assault resulted in wounding, disfiguring, maiming, or endangering the victim’s life through any means
  •       The assault has resulted in permanent or long-standing injuries or conditions, like disability, loss of function, etc.

elements of aggravated assault

Aggravated vs. Other Assault Forms

Aggravated assault differs from other assault types mainly in the extent of harm caused to the victim. Here, the injuries often result in serious bodily harm, sometimes threatening their life or resulting in a long recuperation period.

In other words, it’s not something the victim can heal from in a few days, like bruising, for example. Some examples of harm that constitute aggravated assault include broken facial bones and nose, piercing or cutting the skin, and maiming.

Any action that causes permanent disfigurement, disability, or loss of function falls under the category of aggravated assault.

Proving Aggravated Assault

The first step in proving an aggravated assault claim is to establish that the victim was harmed without their consent. This is the same as with a simple assault charge, where the intentional application of force must be proven.

Once the Crown proves that the bodily harm was caused without the victim’s consent, that the damages were done intentionally, and that the victim’s injuries were long-term, it can build a solid case against the defendant.

The prosecution doesn’t need to prove that the defendant intended to cause the specific bodily harm, only that they intended the actions that led to the victim’s injuries.

Possible Defences for Aggravated Assault

It’s important when facing such a serious charge to lean on the expertise of an experienced lawyer. The defence team can use the following strategies when working on behalf of their client:

Consent – Unlike common assault, which can result from a simple fight or another action the victim consented to, a person can’t consent to the degree of bodily harm that is considered aggravated assault.

Self-defence – If the defendant caused the harm because they were forced to defend themselves against a force, threat of a force or stop an attack on themselves, they may use self-defence as a defence against aggravated assault charges.

However, for this, they must prove that they believed they were being threatened or attacked by the victim and that their reactions were reasonable. Also, they couldn’t withdraw or retreat from the situation without causing bodily harm.

Defence of Property – Defending one’s property is another common defence against aggravated assault charges. The defendant must establish that they had reasonable grounds to use the force under the specific circumstances prevailing during the attack.

For example, if a property owner causes injury while trying to remove another person from their property, they may argue that they didn’t intend to cause harm or injuries, just to defend their property.

Defence of Another – Under the law, using reasonable force to prevent someone from harming another person is also a valid defence against aggravated charges. The same criteria for proving their actions apply as it does with self-defence.

Reflexive Action – Involuntary response to a threat may also be a valid answer to the charges. Here, the defendant must prove that they had no control over their actions that caused harm or injuries to another person.

possible defences for aggravated assault

The Consequences of Aggravated Assault

There is no minimum sentence for aggravated assault, but the Canadian Criminal Code has determined a maximum of 14 years of imprisonment as punishment for this charge.

However, under aggravating circumstances (such as when the force was used against a domestic or intimate partner or when the perpetrator has prior convictions for assault), the charge can be increased to a life sentence.

Final Thoughts

Aggravated assault is when a person intentionally causes harm to another, targeting them and causing long-term or permanent injuries. Beyond intent, the prosecution must prove that person could’ve predicted that their actions would lead to harm they eventually did.

There are a few defence strategies for this charge, which can make all the difference in avoiding a significant jail term. If you need legal help for further advice on aggravated assault, then contact AGP LLP today, and we’ll be happy to help.

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