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Understanding the Offence of Assault

Sections 265-266 of the Criminal Code

An assault charge is a serious offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Understanding the legal definitions and implications is crucial. This blog article will break down Sections 265 and 266 of the Criminal Code, explaining what constitutes assault and the penalties involved.

What is Assault? Understanding Section 265 of the Criminal Code

Assault is defined under Section 265 of the Criminal Code. Here is the text from the law:

265 (1) A person commits an assault when:

  • (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
  • (b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
  • (c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

(2) This section applies to all forms of assault.

Breaking Down Section 265

Intentional Application of Force: The most straightforward form of assault is intentionally applying force to another person without their consent. This can be direct or indirect. For example, hitting someone is a direct application, while setting a trap that causes harm is indirect.

Threats and Gestures: Assault can also occur without physical contact. If someone attempts or threatens to apply force, and the victim believes the person can carry out the threat, it counts as assault. This includes gestures or verbal threats that cause fear of imminent harm.

Use of Weapons: Assault also includes situations where the assailant uses or displays a weapon. Even if no physical harm occurs, the presence of a weapon or imitation can elevate the seriousness of the act.

Legal Consequences of Assault: Section 266 of the Criminal Code

Section 266 outlines the penalties for committing an assault:

266 Every one who commits an assault is guilty of

  • (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
  • (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Penalties for Assault

Indictable Offence: For more serious cases of assault, the charge is an indictable offence. This can lead to imprisonment for up to five years. Indictable offences are considered more severe and carry harsher penalties.

Summary Conviction: For less serious instances, assault can be prosecuted as a summary conviction offence. This involves a shorter legal process and usually results in lighter penalties compared to indictable offences.

Factors Influencing the Severity of Assault Charges

Several factors determine whether an assault is charged as an indictable offence or a summary conviction. These include the severity of the harm, whether a weapon was used, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Severity of Harm: The more severe the injury caused, the more likely the offence will be treated as indictable.

Use of Weapons: If a weapon was involved, the courts take this very seriously, often resulting in harsher penalties.

Context of the Incident: The circumstances, such as whether the assault was premeditated or in self-defense, also play a crucial role in determining the charges.

Defending Against Assault Charges

If accused of assault, it’s vital to seek legal counsel immediately. A skilled defense lawyer or paralegal can examine the specifics of your case and develop a strategy. Possible defenses include proving lack of intent, self-defense, or questioning the credibility of witnesses.


Understanding Sections 265 and 266 of the Criminal Code is essential for grasping what constitutes assault and the potential penalties. Assault charges can have serious consequences, making it crucial to know your rights and the law. If you find yourself facing assault charges, seeking legal advice is imperative.

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