Uttering threats

Disclaimer: The text below contains only my understanding of the applicable law. It has nothing whatsoever to do with your particular situation. Do not assume you can make any decisions based on this text. I do not intend this text to apply to anyone’s situation. This text is not legal advice. The purpose of this text is to encourage debate and create awareness of certain criminal offences. Please consult a lawyer if you need legal advice or help with your particular situation.

Watch your mouth. Your mom or buddy told you this in high school when you blurted out something stupid or offensive. But it’s also what the law tells you now with all its authority and with all its might. Freedom of speech is not absolute, and for some speech, the law will put you in jail. It is a crime, for example, to make death threats or to promise to injure someone or to burn someone’s house. In 2009, at least two high-profile stories of prosecution for uttering threats hit the papers. The father of baby Kaylee was charged with threatening death and causing damage in September, and the sister of Toronto’s deputy mayor was charged with threatening death in April. The potential punishment is up to five years in prison. And if you are not a Canadian citizen, they can kick you out of the country. The law may come crushing down on you if you “utter threats,” so how does it work, exactly?

Courtesy Pearl Vas @ Wikimedia CommonsSection 264.1 of the Criminal Code defines the crime and the punishment for uttering threats. If you threaten anyone with death or “bodily harm,” you can get up to five years in prison. If you threaten to harm anyone’s property or animal, you can get up to two years in prison. The courts have said that you don’t need to be violent, to slap anybody on the face, to step on a dog’s tail, or to punch anybody’s car to commit this crime. Words are enough. Of course, if you jokingly yell “I’ll kill you!” and chase after your best friend who kicked you during a ball game, the law is not interested. You must intend to intimidate when you make your threats. You must want the other person to take your words seriously. But the victim does not need to understand or even know about the threat. All the Crown must prove when they haul you to court is that you “uttered the threat.” Even if you threatened not a specific person but a member of a race or a religion or some other group of people, you can be convicted.

Courtesy of Tim Dobbelaere @ Wikimedia CommonsA special warning to those who are not Canadian citizens. The government can deport you for certain crimes, and the law may ignore how long you lived in this country. They can kick you out even if you are a permanent resident and you lived here for 50 years. Uttering threats is one such crime. Under section 36(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the government can tell you to leave Canada, if you are a permanent resident and you were sentenced for any crime to more than six months of imprisonment. Uttering threats fits the bill because you can go to prison for up to five years. If you are not a permanent resident but just a visitor, a foreign student or worker, etc., it’s even easier for the government to expel you. Even if you don’t go to jail for uttering threats, the conviction alone is enough for deportation. Words can cost you dearly.

Most people are not criminals, and you can even say that it’s not that easy to commit most crimes. But some crimes are crimes of mere words with severe punishment in prison. There is no freedom of speech for these words. If you tell someone that you’ll kill them, or that you’ll cut their balls off, or that you’ll burn their house, or that you’ll kill their parrot, or that you’ll stab their tires, you can go to prison. If you are not a Canadian citizen, they can also throw you out of Canada. So know the law and watch your mouth.

By Pulat Yunusov



23 Comments on "Uttering threats"

  1. The disclaimer in the post should be unnecessary – it goes without saying for this entire site, and we have a similar disclaimer posted prominently on every visible page.

  2. The article makes it sound as though uttering threats is an obscure charge. That’s how I read it, anyway. In fact, uttering threats is one of the more commonly charged offences in the Criminal Code.

    As you’ve stated, if you threaten to injure or kill a person, the offence is punishable by up to 5 years. That is when the Crown proceeds by indictment. Much more commonly, the Crown will proceed by way of summary conviction, in which case the offence is punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

    However, the chances of getting anything close to the maximum penalty are extremely slim. In fact, jail time would be very uncommon for a first offence. That being said, it’s still not a good idea to utter threats. :P

  3. Dear Sir or Madam

    I have always wondered if threatening to sue is considerd an offence. I for one find it more intimidating to be threatned by a law suit than to be punched in the face. Being sued righly or wrongly always means having to start a costly and stressfull defence. Therefore, the words” if you don.t do what i want you to do i will sue you” can be very upsetting. Hince my question, is threatening to sue actually an offence in itself?



  4. what if you were on prescripton drugs at the time and did not know you uttered in the first place? can the crown prove Mens Rea?

  5. How does one PROVE the threats were made? Typically, the threat would be made with out any witnesses. What then? How does one proceed when a death threat was made with no witneses.

  6. Can you be charged with uttering threats if you where using it as a defence mechanism in a situation where you thought your life was in danger. For example, you get into a yelling match with a person and then 3 more people come out behind and you feel your life is in danger so you say stay back or i will ——– (whatever you say) and then THEY call the police on you…. Can you argue that you said it in self defence?

  7. Erin: We really can’t give you legal advice. If you’ve been charged, speak to a lawyer or take advantage of free duty counsel services at the courthouse. They should be able to answer your question for you.

  8. Debbie Buchanan | August 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm |

    What if the threat is from through facebook, messenger etc. It isn’t verbal, is there a different law for internet threats?

  9. Well readers, here is the secret formula & it is used ALL the time.

    Mom & her friends decides one day that she wants a divorce & Dad does not. Dad insists she come with him to marital counseling. Mom decides with the help of her bitter fad divorced women friends how to proceed.

    She calls the police stating that her husband has “uttered threats”. The police come & arrest Dad. This starts a crown – criminal case. Dad is immediately under a recognizance of bail condition which disallows him contact with the wife & his children.

    She starts a civil action to gain interim custody of the children of the marriage. This is done ex-parte (no evidence other than more of her lies).

    The civil case starts, going into case-conference after initial interim access is granted (if it actually is). In my case: Judge Brownstone demanded interim access as her charade was obvious.

    But catch-22, your kids cannot have access because of the criminal cases geography stipulations of the recognizance of bail. The purpose of case-conference is to have the parties (Dad & Mom) talk out a solution, but that is not possible because of the criminal cases communications stipulations of the recognizance of bail.

    Dad goes to a justice of the piece (another woman) who allows for child access to proceed but not communications. Money is basically now wasted in multiple civil case-conferences.

    Dad has a criminal trial. AS WITH 90 PERCENT of these cases, he is found guilty because “they were in marriage counseling”. No one questions that there was 17 years of marriage without incident. No one questions that if he was such a threat, why was access granted to the man. Dad now has a criminal record, is out of the home, & mom is ensured custody. The alternate for the criminal court would be “not guilty” opening Mom to charges of false arrest etc. No one ever questions the mother’s credibility. Her testimony to the police is suppressed in summary judgements. The psychotic claims could all have been concretely disproved.

    So Mom gets custody in the civil court. This happens all the time. The saving grace for my situation, I was a stay-at-home Dad. Mom may have custody of the kids but both of them hate her guts. Dad promotes this, I have never lied to my children. They know their mother is a lying bipolar psychotic. When they grow & leave her home, I hope they will do this for good.

    The mother is ADD, BiPolar, Oppositionally Defiant, fully Borderline Personality Disordered individual. Her attempts at Parental Alienation have been thwarted. But the cost because of her denial & immaturity? Dad & Kids understand & hate the woman.

    Mom now gets solace with SSRI anti-depressants. She has become just like her homies, a Bitter FAt Divorced Woman. The feminazis are overjoyed.

    The state has no business in all of this unless a man takes a baseball bat to a woman.

  10. im 14 years old after school i ride the bus home and walk home from the bus stop about a year ago i started receiving calls from a man asking for my mom and would tell her i saw you at some place and both you and your daughter are sexy and im going to rape you. that same man waited at my bus stop and would tell me many things like he is going to rape me and he would tell me he is going to kill me if i told and my little sister that is 7 years old and rape my 12 year old sister so i told him i wouldnt say anything he would meet me after school outside of the school and one day he took me a black rose and said soon i was going to be like that he also asked me if i wanted to die i said no he said im going to make you want to die you better watch out sooner or later im going to rape you he would also hit me and i finally told my parents and we went to the police they had a police car follow me around for a week then they said that all i wanted as attention and thats all they did now he is back and wont leave me alone i dont know what else to do i feel very alone and im scared he does something he said they called him the dead please help!

  11. Allen-Nelson of the Boisjoli family | May 4, 2011 at 12:59 am |

    Dear poor, poor law student.

    First they have to prove they have jurisdiction to apply their CORPORATE POLICIES. I.E. charter article #32 “this charter applies to parliament and legislature”. so you see the statutes, codes, and bi-laws of Canada Corp. (yes it is a corporation…check dun & Bradstreet or Hoovers) only apply to government employees. These laws are made to govern “out-of-control” government workers…they do not apply to the people. Also it is quite insane to assume anyone resides in “Canada”, a legal fiction, a man made corporation, that only exists on paper…wouldn’t you say?

  12. jack singh | May 16, 2011 at 2:50 am |

    Dear all,
    the law is bull crap for uttering threats to kill someone in canada. go on you can threathen anyone that u will kill him or her and no harm can come to you as rcmp or law enforcement needs real proof meaning they need to really watch you that someone threathened you that he will kill you.
    here s is a real example and we 5 brothers and sisters from india are fighting a losing battle against surrey RCMP that our mother was threathened by someone in canada that if she ever tried to return to india he will kill her as this individiual has usurped her property in india worth more than one million canadian dollars and he was keeping our mother in canada without her consent.rcmp is siding with paramjit singh because he is a canadian citizen now and says we dont see paramjit singh threathened our mother the case no is 2010 SRY-086156.
    RCMP does not want to hear from us that paramjit singh entered canada on a false visa through 3 yes 3 major misrepresentation to procure his immigrant visa . they say its not our job. we say if paramjit was denied an immigrant visa at the first place our mother would nt have been in such a horrible position today penniless and on welfare. we have written to the honorable prime minister honourable jason kenney (minister of citizenship) honourable stephen rigby (president of cbsa) local MP , governor of BC , RCMP , many other investigation divisions but our complaints have fallen on deaf ears , we thought canada to be no one country in this world , reality is you cant get justice from someone who is a canadian citizen. our mother even told the neighbors that paramjit singh threathened to kill her but rcmp would nt interview them because paramjit singh is a canadian citizen now, paramjit singh entered canada by fooling that he is an electrical engineer and got his immigrant visa approved in fact he s not even got his high school diploma (he a a used car salesman) he stated in his application he was never married before in fact he was married (another major misrepresentation) again he never disclosed he applied for political asylum in USA where he gat his immigrant visa ( in fact he applied for political asylum in usa and when it was denied he applied for his immigrant visa from canada that he s an engineer and here he was successful in fooling CONSULAR OFFICER WARREN OF LOS ANGELES CONSULATE IN MARCH APRIL 1999) EVERYTHING IS FALLING ON DEAF EARS . its very hard to get justice in canada . we have left upto god . rcmp can never understand indian people . when we tell them to put paramjit on a lie detector test thet give us no reply.
    If someone come forward and take our case to court we will really appreciate anyone who is a good attorney and a good human being who is willing to fight for truth and provide us justice and justice to our mom.all proofs were posted to everyone regarding paramjits fake degree to get immigrant visa and his misrepresentation.
    email us at tigersingh85@hotmail.com

  13. I am a policing student that just stumbled on to your site and wow I feel for you, you mention anything about the law and you get every nut coming out of the woodwork. I just wanted to thank you for your above information helped me out on my paper.

    TO UNKNOWN: if the police wont listen to you about the man harassing you, tape record anything he says to you or your mom and there is not a judge in canada that will refuse you…. make sure you hide the recorder though… stay safe walk with a buddy as much as possible.

  14. i am a law student 18 years old. this article was really amazing to read i really enjoyed it. this is very true if you intent to make a threat you will be convicted on indictment or summary conviction.it is very important for the adults to know the law about these offenses. for children under 18 they wont get that much punishment but for adults they will be severly charged. so many people doesn’t have the knowledge about law, we should take time and read about these offenses. it will helps us in the future to be aware of these crimes and offenses so we dont commit any of these crimes. i wish i could offer free legal advice but we as law student are not allow to. the best advice we can give out is to contact a lawyer or read the criminal code to better understand the procdure.

  15. When did Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code come into effect? To be more specific, how would today’s laws differ from those in 1975 with respect to uttering a threat to injure?

    Thank you in advance for any assistance you might provide. (Yes, I’m working on a novel.)

  16. My boyfriend just got charged with uttering threats to my ex. He has a court date coming up and I want to know how serious this is and if he can get off. My ex boyfriend is very verbally abusive and has been harassing me for months. He finally got sick of it and in the heat of the moment phoned him but he’s a coward and didn’t answer so he left a message saying he would come down there and hit him. He didn’t actually go and realized how stupid it was to have said that. But my ex being an asshole that he is took the recording to the cops and pressed charges. He didn’t mean it as it was in the heat of the moment and wanted to protect me. What can we do on his court date to stress this wasn’t an actual threat but an emotion out of control?

  17. oncearoundjupiter | August 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm |

    I need help and advice…. Do the words “I could kill you if I wanted to” constitute Uttering Threats?

    After hearing this from my boyfriend on Aug 27th, I went to my bedroom to grab a panic button that came with my security system (it provides me with instant 9-1-1 help). I didn’t press it, but was prepared to do so if he made any advances.

    He then said, “That panic button won’t do you any good”, and I interpreted it to mean that he could do me in before emergency help would arrive. I said, “How would you do that?”. “Energy”, he said. I have no idea what that means, but it was very upsetting none the less. The event was compounded with his screaming at full volume things like “F*** YOU”, “SHUT UP”, etc. It took about an hour to diffuse him and calm him down.

    If the parameter for this charge is that the threatening comment has to be intimidating, then yes, it hit the mark. I was scared, and slept in a locked bedroom since that time.

    He’s a man that I’ve been dating for over a year, and flies over the Rockies to see me. He’s here for several more days before flying home in 48 hours. I’m doing my best to make everything as amiable as possible while he’s here visiting. No problems so far…. but I’m curious to know about Uttering Threats and if this constitutes a charge.

    Thanks for listening.

    – Sleepless in Saskatoon

  18. Rémi Fournier | November 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    Greetings to you all.
    I live in Welland Ontario. I was arrested last night, Hand-cuffed, searched and thrown in jail.
    Charged with uttering a death threat. Section 264.1, subsection 2.
    This is a long story.
    In a nutshell My crime is hanging an 18 inch puppet in my backyard that is of the likeness of my neighbour. He is 25 years old. Above the noose, I wrote the word KARMA Not a word spoken. This all hapened in three hours time. I will turn 62 in april. Still recovering from cancer and chemotherapy. Living on a small pension. I will plead not guilty . Court date is January 13th 2012.

    R Fournier

  19. My boyfriend was really drunk and threatened to shoot someone, while using racial slurs on a customer service voicemailbox. He left two messages and received a first warning a couple months ago. Today he phoned and apologized but Im not sure how far that will go, but he tried. Anyway, I was wondering how badly he is likely to be charged? He doesn’t have a criminal record beyond these two instances and is on a waiting list to receive treatment for social anxiety and severe depression. Unfortunately, he is currently unble to work due to his mental illness and therefor cannot afford the medication she wants to prescribe. Can any of this help his case? He has never even shot a gun

  20. My boyfriend was really drunk and threatened to shoot someone, while using racial slurs on a customer service voicemailbox. He left two messages and received a first warning a couple months ago. Today he phoned and apologized but Im not sure how far that will go, but he tried. Anyway, I was wondering how badly he is likely to be charged? He doesn’t have a criminal record beyond these two instances and is on a waiting list to receive treatment for social anxiety and severe depression. Unfortunately, he is currently unble to work due to his mental illness and therefor cannot afford the medication she wants to prescribe. Can any of this help his case? He has never even shot a gun and is good natured.

  21. I agree with the police officer who responded earlier about the nature of some of these responses. Its hard to say if the people here are nuts but my advice to the last four entries would be to not associate with drunkards that cannot control their verbatim. These drama queens are surrounding themselves with violent people that aren’t patient or bright enough to handle a situation with dignity. These females need to do a better job of regulating the circumstances surrounding their associations. To the man who hung a doll up in your yard… That is a pretty silly thing to do and if you got charged with uttering threats your old enough to chalk it up as a lesson. That takes it to a whole new level and shows ignorance, immaturity, and the potential propensity for violence.

    If you don’t get along with somebody then stay away from them or don’t speak to them. Simple.

  22. I have a friend who was arrested for uttering death threats to his spouse (divorce proceedings underway).

    He was called and instructed to show up at the police station and was arrested and released. He has to appear in court sometime in April 2013.

    I have a specific question re procedures:

    My questions?

    What happens in the meantime? What do the police do?
    What happens at Court?


  23. The point is anyone with a vendeta can use the police as their personal pimp. Guess what? its happening all the time. Yes there are people who do utter threats. The vast majority of people dont even mean their threats, their made out of anger or frustration. This is not to say its right, but you need evidence, because you never will know if their guilty.

    We could encourage others to accuse another for uttering threats untill the province runs out of money or until they relize we dont want to live in a napoleanic lawed society
    This law was incouraged by female fundemetalists. Cristy Clark was wondering why they have so many expenses from the legal sector, and why the budget isnt paying for it. Here is the biggest reason.

    Say yes to a free society for everyone, not just one group.

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