The Charge

You may be charged with criminal harassment if you:

  • Repeatedly follow someone from place to place;
  • Repeatedly communicate with another person, directly or indirectly;
  • Make threatening gestures or behavior towards any person or any member of their family; or
  • Watch or stalk a person’s home, work place, or anywhere else they are; and you either know, or are reckless as to whether that person fears or their safety as a result.

Criminal harassment is a very serious charge. Most people are not familiar with the technical term of “criminal harassment”, but essentially, it is the legal equivalent of “stalking”. The reason this is such a serious charge from the police and Crown prosecutor’s perspective is that it tends to show a persistent pattern of behavior of fixation/obsession with the alleged victim. Unfortunately, stalking behavior too often leads to an escalation of serious violence, and is therefore treated with utmost caution by the police.

Adding to the perceived danger of criminal harassment is the sensationalizing of stalking in the news and the media. Most commonly this occurs in the context of celebrity stalker cases. Movies, such as “The Fan” portray stalkers as fixated irrational people who cannot be reasoned with, and who will go to extremes to control their victims. Calgary saw its own case of celebrity stalking allegations in recent years when a High River man showed up to the filming set of “Heartland” with a .22 calibre rifle asking to see the actress Amber Marshall, who he thought liked him.

Criminal harassment can occur in many contexts, like celebrity stalking, but also between neighbours, work colleagues, teammates, etc. Most often, however, Criminal Harassment occurs in a Domestic Violence context, which makes the case even more serious in the eyes of the police and the Crown Prosecutor. Calgary Criminal Lawyers handle criminal harassment charges in all these circumstances, but the vast majority of cases we handle involve some kind of domestic relationship between current or former intimate partners. We have found that most of our clients charged with Criminal Harassment are far from the “crazy stalkers” depicted in movies. The reality of Criminal Harassment cases is that often there is simply a misunderstanding or miscommunication between the parties. What one party perceives as harassment is another’s attempt to reconcile a relationship, or secure their belongings, or clarify childcare issues, etc. Moreover, there are cases where complainants have alleged that they are harassed just to get the upper hand in divorce proceedings, or child custody battles. Our criminal defence lawyers explore every aspect of these allegations to see not only if the alleged conduct constitutes criminal harassment, but also to see if we can prove that the complainant is lying about the harassing behavior, or that they are in fact harassed.

Bail

If you are being investigated for criminal harassment, it will be very difficult to secure bail. That is, because of the nature of the charges, there will likely be an allegation of a prolonged and persistent pattern of threatening behavior. As discussed above, the main concern for the judge deciding whether to grant bail is how much danger would the complainant be in if you were released. The length of the behavior, the severity of the conduct, the number of occurrences, and the escalation of any of the foregoing, are all factors the court will consider.

Because Criminal Harassment involves a prolonged pattern of aggressive behavior, it often overlaps with assaults, threats, and breaches of previous court orders. As such, when someone is charged with Criminal Harassment, Calgary Criminal Lawyers commonly see additional charges laid as well. This makes securing release even more difficult. Our lawyers always take the time to careful review the situation, including each charge laid, and develop a clear release plan to ensure that the court is satisfied that the complainant will be safe.

On release, depending on the severity of the criminal harassment alleged, you can expect to have stringent conditions placed on you, including:

  • No contact with the complainant, direct or indirect;
  • No contact with the complainant’s family;
  • No go within 500 meters of the complainant’s residence, place of work, or the children’s school;
  • Regular reporting to a probation officer;
  • No weapons or firearms; and
  • No alcohol

Finally, it is not uncommon for someone charged with Criminal Harassment to be put on a curfew or even house arrest to ensure the safety of the complainant until the matter is resolved. Due to the prospect of severely restrictive conditions being imposed, it is advisable to contact one of our criminal defence lawyers to see if we can help negotiate terms of release that will impact your liberties as little as possible. If have already been released, but find that the restrictive conditions are preventing you from being able to work, or see your family (particularly if this is a domestic situation), our criminal defence lawyers can meet with the

The Defence

Depending on how the prosecution alleges you engaged in the harassing behavior, you may have a defence to the charge. For example, where the police allege that threats or harassment was committed over the phone or computer, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove that you were the one using the phone or computer at the time of the offence.

The Sentence

You may receive a jail sentence of up to 10 years if found guilty of this charge. In virtually all cases, the Crown asks that the offender be placed on probation for up to three years, which can require you to stay a certain distance away from anywhere the victim is likely to be (their home, place of work, their child’s school, etc.). Conditions requiring you to take any treatment or counselling required by your probation officer are also requested by the Crown. You can be prohibited from possessing any weapons for several years, and in addition, The Court will order that you give a sample of your DNA to be placed in the National DNA Databank.

A sentencing under this charge puts your liberty at risk for years to come. Let Calgary Criminal Lawyers help, to minimize the extent to which your freedom is restricted.