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Assault causing bodily harm is aserious criminal offence in Canada. This type of assault generally refers to an intentional act that results in injury to a person. However, there are different types of physical assault (excluding sexual assault) that can be charged, depending on the circumstances of the incident. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common types of assaults aside from sexual offences. We’ll also discuss the potential penalties you could face if convicted.

1. Simple or Common Assault

Common assault is the least severe form of assault. There is no lasting damage or major injury involved in simple assault. Examples include pushing, slapping, and verbal threats. This type of common assault is typically prosecuted by summary conviction when the allegations are not serious and there is no related criminal record. Also, when the allegations are not serious and the assault was minor in nature the offender is not usually liable to imprisonment.

2. Assault With A Weapon or Causing Bodily Harm

Any kind of assault where non-trivial bodily harm occurs is assault causing bodily harm. Assault with a weapon is any assault committed while carries, uses, or threatens to use a weapon. A weapon is anything that is designed, intend, or used to cause injury or death to a person. As well, anything used or intended to intimidate or threatening a person may be considered a weapon. This includes any weapon or an imitation thereof.

Both assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm can be punishable on summary conviction or as an indictable offence. If the Crown elects to proceed as a summary offence for these charges the maximum penalty is 18 months of jail or a $5000 fine. If proceeding by indictable offence the liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years.

3. Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is the most severe form of assault that involves or risks major injury. This includes injuries that wound, maim, disfigure or jeopardize the life of a person. These injuries cannot be trifling in nature or transient.  Next to homicide, aggravated assault is the most serious violent crime.

Aggravated assault is always prosecuted as an indictable offence and liable for a maximum imprisonment for a term of 14 years.

For a more comprehensive review aggravated assault, what injures are considered aggravating and some sentencing considerations please the article “What is Aggravated Assault?“.

For information on sexual assault charges read: The Sexual Assault Lawyers Guide to Charges & Defences


There are two main categories of actions that result in assault causing bodily harm. The first is the intentional application of force against another. The second is actions that could foreseeably cause bodily harm to another.

Assault through the intentional application of force occurs when one applies physical force to someone without their consent. Consent in the context of criminal law is not always straightforward. For example, consent does not legally apply to any serious bodily harm. If a serious injury occurs, there is no consent. For assault causing bodily harm there is a low threshold for what is considered hurt or injury.

In this type of assault, the action taken had the explicit intention of causing bodily harm or putting someone at risk of bodily harm. However, the same charge can apply if the resultant harm was unintentional. This is a scenario where the accused has objective foresight to the risks.

Objective foresight includes acting despite knowledge, or having willful blindness to the fact, that the actions could cause bodily harm. This reckless action can count as assault, even if the injury was not intentional.


Bodily harm is an under-defined term. The general guidelines are the bodily harm is “trivial and non-transitory.” This definition leaves room for inconsistencies between different cases. Some things, such as a broken arm or an injury that requires an immediate hospital visit, are clear examples of bodily harm.

More minor injuries can be less consistent. For example, bruises are usually transitory because they are temporary. However, bruises on the face may be considered non-trivial, in which case they count as bodily harm.

As well, assault causing bodily harm is not always physical. Psychological harm can count as well. Psychological trauma, such as anxiety, PTSD, or chronic depression falls under the category of bodily harm.


If you are charged with a serious assault, it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. William Jaksa has over 15 years of experience dealing with these types of charges and knows how to get the best possible outcome for you. He understands that results matter. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you navigate this difficult time. Contact the Toronto criminal law firm of William Jaksa today.

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