Toronto Sexual Assault Lawyer

Toronto Criminal Defence Lawyers Providing Counsel to Clients Facing Sexual Assault Charges in Ontario

Sexual assault and all sexual offence charges under the Criminal Code of Canada are very serious. Defending these types of offences is stressful, challenging and can become quite complicated depending on the facts of the case. It can affect the rest of your life if handled incorrectly. Consulting with a Toronto sexual assault defence lawyer may be your best chance at avoiding a conviction or having your charges dropped or reduced. Convictions for sexual assault can lead to significant legal consequences, including imprisonment and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a broadly defined offence but it involves non-consensual sexual contact or activity and can present in various forms, such as forced sex, unwanted touching, or other sexually coercive behaviours.

In Canada, there are various categories of sexual assault offences in the Criminal Code, which are the following :

  • Sexual Assault (s. 271 of the Criminal Code)

This is the general and most common type of sexual assault charge. The Criminal Code of Canada does not specifically define it but uses the elements of the offence of Assault in s. 265 and further outlines that these elements apply to sexual assault and its various forms. Canadian courts have identified the sexual element of the offence as “an assault committed in circumstances of a sexual nature such that the sexual integrity of the victim is violated.”

The penalties for this offence, outlined at s. 271 of the Criminal Code can range up to 14 years in prison, depending on the circumstances and facts of the case.

  • Sexual Assault with a Weapon, Threats to a Third Party, or Causing Bodily Harm (s. 272 of the Criminal Code)

This aggravated category of sexual assault occurs when someone uses or threatens to use a weapon, causes or threatens to cause harm to a third party such as a friend, family member, or child, or commits the assault with another person.

This offence is a straight indictable offence, which indicates the seriousness of the charge. Penalties for this offence can be as severe as life in prison (when the victim is a minor). The penalties are contingent on a number of potentially aggravating factors depending on the type of weapon used, the age of the victim(s), or whether it is a first or repeat offence.

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault

Aggravated sexual assault occurs when the victim is severely injured, wounded, maimed or disfigured.

As this is also a straight indictable offence, penalties can again be as high as life in prison. The punishment will depend on numerous factors including whether a weapon was used (and the type of weapon), the age of the victim or whether it is a first or repeat offence.

In addition to the three offences of sexual assault defined above, the Criminal Code also contains numerous other sexual offences which include the following:

  • Sexual Interference
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Invitation to Sexual Touching
  • Voyeurism
  • Publication of an Image without Consent

Defending Sexual Assault and Sexual Offence Charges

Defending sexual assault charges and other sexual offence charges can often involve complex legal issues, including but not limited to the following common issues:

  • Consent

Whether the complainant or victim consented to any of the alleged sexual activity, including whether the complainant had the ability or was in a position to consent to the sexual activity in question. Another issue that can arise is whether the accused had an honest but mistaken belief that the complainant was consenting to the activity in question.

The Criminal Code provides that no consent can be obtained in certain situations, such as when a complainant is unconscious or otherwise incapable of consenting to the activity. The Criminal Code also limits the accused asserting a defence that they believed they had consent in a number of situations, including when they are intoxicated or reckless to the issue of consent.

Whether an accused has a legitimate defence with respect to the issue of consent requires an assessment by an experienced criminal defence lawyer. Proceeding to trial and arguing defences that are not available pursuant to the Criminal Code or otherwise against public policy can be disastrous.

  • Complainant Records and Evidence of “Other Sexual Activity”

Sexual assault and sexual offences in the Criminal Code are different than other charges in that certain evidence the accused may wish to use at trial requires approval of the Court before it can be adduced or admitted.

The evidence requiring approval involves records of the complainant that carry a “reasonable expectation of privacy” as well as evidence of “other sexual activity” of the complainant (other than that forming the subject matter of the charge).

If an accused wishes to use such evidence and seek approval from the Court, there is a two step application process they are required to make, preferably prior to the trial of the matter. The first part determines whether the application can succeed on its face and the second involves a hearing to decide whether the evidence can be adduced or is admissible. The complainant has a right to be represented and often has their own lawyer at the second stage evidentiary hearing.

Legal counsel is needed to help decide whether a text message, email or some form of evidence from the complainant requires an application. A thorough review of the case and evidence is needed in order to determine whether a “records” or “evidence of other sexual activity” application is warranted.

The Impact of Sexual Assault Charges

Even before going to trial, there can be immediate consequences of a sexual assault allegation such as:

  • Employment termination
  • Unwanted public attention
  • Restrictive bail or release conditions

If convicted, the additional penalties will be more severe. These include:

  • Prison sentence
  • Mandatory registration in the National Sex Offender Registry (SOIRA)
  • Mandatory collection of your DNA to be held in the DNA Data Bank
  • Travel restrictions if leaving Canada
  • Future employment limitations

The Importance of Seeking Legal Counsel

Consulting an experienced sexual assault defence lawyer is crucial, as the area of law is complex and the potential consequences severe . Our team of skilled Toronto criminal defence lawyers are able to assess the details of your case, provide guidance on the best course of action, and ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

We offer multiple convenient locations in Toronto, Whitby, Barrie and more to serve our clients better. To begin your initial consultation and find the right criminal lawyer, please contact us at (416) 449-1400.

Book A Consultation


By submitting this form I acknowledge that my meeting today does not mean that Devry Smith Frank LLP (“DSF”) is acting as my lawyers. I direct DSF to take no steps with respect to my matter until I have provided a monetary and written retainer, as acceptable to DSF. I may sign a retainer agreement and provide a monetary retainer (other than the consult fee) today. If I do not, I know that I can contact Devry Smith Frank LLP in the future to inquire about retaining the firm.