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Defend Forcible confinement charges

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Frequently Asked Questions

Forcible confinement is a criminal offence set out under s. 279(2) of the Criminal Code. Under that section it is illegal for anyone to confine, imprison, or forcibly take control of another person. To be found guilty of forcible confinement, the offender must have no lawful authority to confine the victim. Essentially, this means forcible confinement will not be found where police are acting within the scope of their powers when arresting someone, or in many cases where a parent has grounded their child and prevents them from leaving on their own as a form of punishment.

An example of forcible confinement may include the following. Person A and Person B are roommates. The two get into a fight and Person B goes to their own bedroom that has only one exit and shuts the door. Person A then uses furniture in their home to barricade the door and prevents B from coming back out for several hours. In this scenario, Person A would have committed forcible confinement.

Domestic Assault and Forcible Confinement

If an offender commits a forcible confinement offence against their spouse, partner, or child, that will factor into the sentence they receive. The concept of aggravating factors was discussed above. The abuse of an intimate partner or a member of the offender or victim’s family is a major aggravating factor that is specifically set out under s. 718.2 of the Code. The seriousness of domestic violence and the vulnerability of victims in those circumstances demonstrates that stronger sentences are necessary for offenders in those situations.

The Ontario Superior Court case of R. v. Eamer, 2017 ONSC 2549 (CanLII) demonstrates how this aggravating factor can impact sentencing. Here, the offender and victim were in a relationship. Among the various charges against the offender was forcible confinement, assault, and assault with a weapon. Over the course of their relationship the offender and victim got into several arguments that turned into physical altercations. During these incidents, the victim would try to leave, but was stopped by the accused in various ways. Each of these confinements involved the offender threating to injure himself or assaulting the victim and preventing her from leaving. On these facts, the offender was classified as a dangerous offender and issued an indeterminate prison sentence for his crimes that reflected his lengthy criminal history, his violent behaviour, and the seriousness of the offences. The court also imposed lifetime weapons ban, and a DNA order.

What Happens When Someone is Arrested for Forcible Confinement?

What happens to someone arrested for forcible confinement depends on the circumstances in each case. The police will often take an accused person into custody because of the nature of a forcible confinement offence. However, the decision whether the accused will be released, or held for bail depends on a number of factors. Among these are the recency of the alleged confinement. If an accused has been arrested for a confinement that occurred years ago, they may be released without bail because the police believe they do not pose an ongoing threat to the community. The police will also look at the severity of the offence when deciding on release. This involves looking at the circumstances of the offence such as who the victim is or whether the confinement occurred in connection with another offence. Forcible confinement is sometimes committed during a chain of events involving the uttering of threats, a form of assault, or a form of sexual assault.

If forcible confinement is committed in connection with another offence, it is more likely that the accused will be held for a bail hearing. At a bail hearing, the Crown and a judge will look at the case and determine if it is appropriate for the accused to be released pending trial, and if so, with what conditions. The court can impose a number of different conditions on an accused depending on the nature of the charges and the accused’s history. The court will always include a no-contact order with the victim of the offence and will require the accused or their lawyer to attend all set dates or other court appearances as ordered by the court. They may also be ordered not to possess any weapons or to stay away from certain geographical areas or locations. If an accused is denied bail, they will be detained until their trial or whenever their case is otherwise

Jail Sentences for Assault Charges in Canada

Donich Law - Assault Punishments

Will an Offender Go to Jail for Forcible Confinement?

Jail time is possible for offenders convicted of forcible confinement. Forcible confinement is a hybrid offence. Hybrid offences allow the Crown to prosecute each case differently depending on a number of factors. The more severe instances of forcible confinement are often treated as indictable offences and carry harsher sentences. The less severe cases are often treated as summary conviction offences and carry lighter sentences.

For forcible confinement prosecuted by indictment, an offender will face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Forcible confinement prosecuted by summary conviction carries a maximum penalty of two years less a day and/or up to a $5,000 fine. Apart from the main sentence, a court may issue several ancillary orders, which are measures that also impact the life of the offender. In forcible confinement cases, they include DNA Orders, or weapons bans and SOIRA orders where appropriate.

In the Canadian justice system, the maximum sentences for an offence are rarely issued to an offender. Instead, a court will determine the most appropriate sentence by reviewing the facts of each case and considering the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors increase the severity of an offence, whereas mitigating factors do the opposite. Both types of factors are usually present in most cases and must be balanced by a judge. Common examples of an aggravating factor in forcible confinement cases include its severity or duration of confinement, factors involving the victim, and the criminal history of the offender. Mitigating factors can include the offender’s lack of criminal record, their decision to plead guilty to the offence, or their young age.

How to Defend Assault Charges

How Does the Crown Prove Forcible Confinement?

There are three basic elements common to every criminal offence that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict an accused person. They are the identity of the accused, the time and location of the alleged offence, and the location of the offence. This last element is referred to as jurisdiction. Once these issues have been proven, the Crown then moves to the elements specific to a forcible confinement offence.

In a forcible confinement case, the Crown must prove that the accused’s actions met the definition of confining, imprisoning, or forcibly seizing the victim. The Crown must then prove that the victim did not consent to their confinement, and that the accused had no lawful authority to confine them. Finally, the Crown must prove that the accused intentionally confined the victim and that whatever form the confinement took, it involved the threat or use of force. This is required to show that the victim had limited choice to avoid their confinement. If the Crown can prove each of these factors beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused will be convicted and issued the appropriate sentence.

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Recent Cases

R. v. Gordon, 2023 ONSC 1036

This Ontario Superior Court of Justice case dealt with a forcible confinement offence connected with human trafficking. The offender and victim were involved in a romantic relationship. The victim was an exotic dancer, and the offender was introduced originally as a friend, who then became very controlling over all aspects of her life. At one point, the victim tried to end the relationship, but the offender would only allow it if he were paid a large amount of money. When the victim tried to escape, the offender attempted to restrain her and prevent her from leaving.

The major element of this case was the control the offender exercised over the victim as a form of human trafficking. However, that control also took the form of forcible confinement. As noted by the court at paragraph 31, [t]he aggravating factors are obvious.  Mr. Gordon engaged in classic pimping behaviour.  Mr. Gordon exercised control over G.L. using manipulation, threats of violence, and actual violence for a significant period of time.  He took control of her earnings and used them to support his lifestyle.  He respected no boundaries regarding her living arrangements or her person.  He inflicted significant injuries to her.” For the charged offences, the offender was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

R. v. R.M., 2022 ONSC 6662

This Ontario Superior Court of Justice case demonstrates that even minor incidents can ground unlawful confinement charges. Here, the offender was a father who had divorced from his wife, and the victim was his child that he had no custody of. The offender was charged with several offences, most notably were forcible confinement and kidnapping. The incident leading to the charges involved the offender going to the victim’s school and attempting to take him somewhere else by grabbing his arm and pulling him towards a car. There were no plans in place for the offender to contact his son or take him anywhere. The exchange took place over a few minutes, and some witnesses to the incident took notice of the victim’s fear and stepped in to prevent the situation from escalating any further.

This case exhibits all the elements of forcible confinement discussed above. Particularly, it shows that the victim did not consent to his confinement and that the offender clearly used force, although in a limited form, that restricted the victim’s chance at escape. It is worth noting that the offender was found guilty of both kidnapping and forcible confinement but was only sentenced on the first charge. This is because the two charges were laid based on the same action. The sentence was issued for kidnapping because it was the more serious of the two crimes, which involved the element of moving the victim from one place to another. This is distinct from forcible confinement because under that offence, the offender need only to keep the victim in one place and restrict their movement. These facts led to a sentence of one year imprisonment alongside a lifetime weapons ban, a DNA order, and three years probation following the completion of the sentence.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.