Defined under Sections 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code, Self-Defence and the defence of property are detailed as using force to prevent harm from befalling you, another innocent person, or your personal property. The law may consider an individual innocent of committing assault if their use of force was used because they had good reason to believe that violent force would be used against them or another person or that a credible threat was being made against them. The act of self-defence must’ve been used to defend themselves, other innocent individuals, or personal property from harm. And the act of self-defence must have been ‘reasonable’ given the circumstances and the threat of violence they believed the perpetrator represented at the time of using force.
‘Reasonable’ or ‘justifiable’ use of force are keywords that you need to pay extra attention to. If your self-defence went overboard or was unreasonable, given the threat posed by the other party, then you may be accused of assault because your use of force was not justified.
Canadian Criminal Code lists several factors which may determine whether an act was ‘justifiable,’ including:
- Differences in age, gender, size, physical fitness, and other personal characteristics.
- Shared history between the two opposing parties.
- The imminent potential use of violent action after a threat was made.
- The question of ‘proportionality’ of the self-defence response to the other party’s threat of force.
- The role of the self-defence defendant in the altercation.
- The type of threat the other party posed.
- The use of a weapon by either or both parties.
Can You Use a Gun in Self-Defence in Toronto?
People have several common misconceptions about the extent and the limitations of claiming self-defence.
For example, because of Canada’s close ties to the USA, some Canadians believe we must have similar ‘stand-your-ground’ laws that allow guns and other weapons to be used in self-defence. Unlike the US, though, our gun laws are federally managed nationwide, and we have stricter versions of anything resembling a ‘stand-your-ground’ law. Using a gun or other deadly weapon to defend oneself or property is a hotly debated topic. If a firearm is used for self-defence, the threat posed by an attacker must have been extreme and proportional.
What is the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act?
A little more than a decade ago, the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act was enacted, providing private citizens the right to arrest in Canada if they believed they’d just witnessed a person committing a crime. Before the Act, citizens could only lawfully arrest those found guilty of criminal offences.
While performing a citizen’s arrest is now legal, it should never be your first course of action. Contact law enforcement first and let the police take care of it themselves. There are other additional limitations as well. Such as, if someone has committed a criminal offence against a piece of property, you should only potentially consider a citizen’s arrest if it was your property.
Is Lethal Force Ever Justified in Self-Defence Cases?
Some people believe that if the attacker dies due to your act of self-defence, that you will inevitably be charged with murder. The truth is not so cut and dry. If it’s determined that your force was unreasonable given the circumstances, yes, you may be in extra legal trouble.
You must never choose to respond to force in a way that is out of proportion to the threat that’s posed against you. You cannot kill someone in every instance where you feel in danger. However, if you had no choice but to use lethal force, then the courts may consider your act of self-defense justifiable.
Contact William Jaksa Criminal Litigation to Schedule a Consultation
If you had to use force to respond to violence or a threat, you could argue self-defence in criminal court. However, the lawyers for the other side are likely to say that you were guilty of assault, so it’s crucial that you retain professional legal counsel to defend your interests.