Who Is Considered a Peace Officer in Canada?
Canadian law defines "peace officer" in broad terms. It includes uniformed police officers and prison guards, but it also includes holders of public office and specialized enforcement groups such as:
- Any member of the Canadian forces acting in the service of civil authorities
- Military Police
- Fish and game wardens
- Pilots in command of an aircraft
- Court bailiffs
- Customs officers
- Land conservation officers
- Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
- Justices of the Peace
- Any officer or agent deemed a "peace officer" by the courts
What Will Happen If I'm Found Guilty?
Canada has a vested interest in protecting on-duty peace officers from assault. As a result, these offences are taken seriously under the law and usually involve jail sentences as a deterrent against future attacks.
The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you applied non-consensual force to a peace officer acting in the lawful execution of their duties. If they are able to do so, you may be ordered to serve time in jail for:
- Assault While Carrying a Weapon. If you are found guilty of attempting to cause harm to a peace officer while using, holding, or threatening to use a weapon, you could face up to five years in prison.
- Assaulting a Peace Officer Causing Bodily Harm. If your actions caused bodily harm to a peace officer, you could face up to 18 months of imprisonment on a summary conviction or sentenced up to ten years in prison on indictment.
- Aggravated Assault of a Peace Officer. If your actions caused the wounding, maiming, disfigurement, or endangerment of the life of the peace officer, you may be found guilty of aggravated assault and face a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment.
While there are no mandatory minimum penalties for this offence, there are a number of other penalties besides incarceration. For example, you may be placed on probation for up to three years, be prohibited from possessing weapons for up to ten years, be required to submit your DNA to the National DNA Data Bank of Canada, and live under the lifelong restrictions of a criminal record.
Are There Any Valid Defences for Assaulting a Police Officer?
There may be several defences available to you. For example, you may avoid conviction if our assault defence lawyers are able to show that:
- You were unaware that the person was a Peace Officer. Given the broad definition of the term, it's possible that you acted in an attempt to protect yourself or your property without realizing the alleged victim's authority. For example, you could strike someone who enters your home without your consent before they establish their legal right to be there. Did the officer identify themselves? Were they dressed in plain clothes instead of a uniform? Were there children in the house that you were trying to protect?
- You didn't know you were being arrested. Charges of assault on a peace officer are often brought in conjunction with resisting arrest. However, this requires proof that you were aware that an officer was attempting to arrest you. Were you read your rights? Were you asked to accompany the officer to the police station? Did you take actions to defend yourself that were misinterpreted by the authorities?
- The officer used excessive force and you were acting in self-defence. It may be that the peace officer in your case has given a different version of events in order to escape charges of misconduct. One of the best ways to refute the charges against you is to use video footage from body cams and cellphones. If there was more than one witness, we might be able to show inconsistencies in the prosecution's story that point to the use of unreasonable force.
- Your rights were violated. In order to get a conviction, the peace officer must have been engaged in the execution of their duty at the time of the assault. If the peace officer's actions exceeded their authority, then they were not engaged in the lawful execution of their duty. Did police follow proper protocol before, during, and after the arrest? Did the officer have a justifiable reason to enter your home or stop your vehicle?
The legal team at Kruse Law is made up of several former prosecutors, so we know the tactics used by the Crown to get a conviction. Don't leave your future up to chance! Contact us today to set up your free case review and learn how to minimize the effects of criminal charges on your life.