Sexual Interference Lawyers in Winnipeg

Sex crimes are prominent in Canada, with terms like "rape" or "sexual assault" frequently being used. However, there are many other offences related to illegal sexual activity that bear mention. Among these are offences such as sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, highlighting the need for greater awareness and understanding of the full spectrum of sexual offences.

At Wiebe Criminal Defence, we understand the intense public scrutiny and media attention that often accompany allegations of sexual crimes. We are committed to defending our clients’ rights against premature judgements and ensuring they receive a fair trial.

Our approach involves thoroughly examining the circumstances surrounding each case. We then develop a tailored and strategic defence to challenge the prosecution's claims while working diligently to uphold the presumption of innocence.
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Secure Your Defence with Experienced Sexual Interference Lawyers

Canada treats crimes against young persons very seriously. Facing charges of sexual interference or invitation to sexual touching can therefore be a daunting experience with potentially life-altering consequences. Understanding the nature of these charges and their potential consequences is vital for navigating the legal process effectively and protecting your rights.

What Is Sexual Interference?

Sexual interference is a hybrid offence and is defined in s. 151 of the Criminal Code. It involves the act of touching, either directly or indirectly, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 for a sexual purpose. This offence requires intentional physical contact for a sexual purpose.

What Is Invitation to Sexual Touching?

Invitation to sexual touching is a criminal offence under s. 152 of the Criminal Code. This offence involves inviting, counselling, or inciting a person under the age of 16 to engage in touching for a sexual purpose—either directly, or indirectly. Touching for purposes of this section can involve any part of the body or an object. It can be directed towards the individual encouraging the touching, the minor who is being counselled, or any other person. The invitation, counselling, or incitement can be done through words, actions, or other forms of communication including electronic communication.  It is important to know that you can be charged with this offence regardless of whether any physical contact ended up taking place. 

Both offences carry severe penalties, reflecting the seriousness of protecting minors from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Choosing the right defence lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. We offer a free case evaluation to help you understand your legal options and the potential outcomes. Our commitment to transparent communication and confidentiality means you can trust us to handle your case with the utmost respect and seriousness.

The Age of Consent in Canada

Consent is defined in s. 273.1(1) of the Criminal Code as the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. In Canada, the legal age of consent to such sexual activity is 16. This means that individuals who are 16 or older can legally consent to sexual activity, provided that the activity does not involve exploitation or abuse. This rule is in place to ensure that individuals are mature enough to make informed decisions about engaging in sexual relationships. 

However, there are some exceptions to the minimum age of consent being 16:

Close-in-Age Exceptions

The concept of “close-in-age exceptions” in Canadian law allows for certain age differences between minors engaging in consensual sexual activity without it being considered a criminal offence. There are currently two close-in-age exceptions available:

  • Ages 14 and 15: A 14 or 15-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than five years older, provided there is no relationship of trust, authority, or dependency, and no exploitation. For instance, a 14-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is between 12 and 19 years old, and a 15-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is between 13 and 20 years old.

  • Ages 12 and 13: A 12 or 13-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than two years older, under the same conditions. For example, a 12-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is between 12 and 14 years old, while a 13-year-old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is between 12 and 15 years old.

Sexual Exploitation

Section 153(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code makes it a crime for anyone in a position of trust or authority, like a teacher or coach, to engage in sexual activity with a young person. This law is designed to protect vulnerable young people from abuse and exploitation, recognizing the power imbalance in such relationships.

The law applies not only to those with professional relationships with young people but also to situations where the young person is dependent on the adult, such as in a familial or caregiving context.

Specifically, the law makes it illegal for an adult in a position of trust to sexually touch a young person or to encourage them to engage in sexual activity. Ultimately, this law aims to send a strong message that those who abuse their power to exploit young people will face serious legal consequences. It’s a crucial safeguard in protecting the well-being and safety of young people in our society.

Potential Defences Against Sexual Interference Charges in Winnipeg

Defending against charges of sexual interference or sexual touching requires a strategic approach and a thorough understanding of the law. Both offences require the Crown to prove that the accused had a specific intent to commit the act for a sexual purpose. This means that touching must be intentional and intended for sexual interaction.

If you’re facing sexual interference charges in Winnipeg, several potential defences may be applicable depending on the specifics of your case. In addition to the close-in-age exceptions mentioned above, here are some other common defences:

No Sexual Purpose

The Crown must prove that the touching was for a sexual purpose. If the defence can demonstrate that the contact was accidental or not intended for a sexual purpose, this can be a strong defence. For example, accidentally brushing against the complainant in a crowded place like a concert or during a non-sexual activity could be argued as lacking sexual intent.

No Sexual Contact

If it can be shown that no sexual contact occurred, this is another defence. This might involve proving that the complainant is mistaken about or is fabricating the allegations. Evidence such as alibis, witness testimonies, or lack of physical evidence can support this defence.

Honest but Mistaken Belief in Age

A legitimate belief that the complainant was old enough to consent can also be a defence. This defence can only be valid if the accused took all reasonable steps to ascertain the complainant’s age, such as the complainant providing false identification or other convincing evidence of being over 16.

Arrest and Bail Process for Sexual Interference Charge

Being arrested for sexual interference is a serious matter. Understanding your legal rights and what to expect from the bail process is vital. 

Upon arrest, officers must inform you of your right to counsel, allowing you to speak to and retain a lawyer. This is guaranteed by s. 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is a fundamental right that must be communicated to you immediately upon your detention or arrest. If you choose to exercise this right, questioning must wait until you have had the opportunity to speak with your lawyer.

Depending on the offence and your personal circumstances, such as having a criminal record, you may either be released directly by the police with conditions known as an undertaking or remain in custody pending a bail hearing. Regardless of whether you are released by police or through a formal bail hearing in front of a judge, it is likely that you will be given conditions specific to this offence as outlined in section 161 of the Code.

Bail Process and Legal Representation

Everyone has a constitutional right to reasonable bail, which may include financial pledges from sureties and just conditions. 

Generally, you will have the opportunity to be heard by a judicial official within 24 hours. This first opportunity is usually in front of a Judicial Justice of the Peace (JJP). However, depending on the nature of the charges and your personal circumstances it may be advisable to wait and appear before a judge in bail court and take the time to strengthen your bail plan. 

The Crown may contest your bail due to concerns about the plan, offence circumstances, or your ability to follow conditions. This is when you bring your matter before a judge and have a bail hearing.

During the hearing, a judge or justice of the peace will determine whether you should be released on bail and under what conditions. 

A lawyer will guide you through this process and work on securing your release. They can negotiate with the Crown and propose a bail plan. This may involve a cash deposit, a promise to pay, a surety, a curfew, or any number of combinations of conditions.

What is a Surety?

 A surety is an individual who pledges money and takes responsibility for ensuring you follow your release conditions.

Grounds for Denial of Bail

During your bail hearing, the court will assess various factors to determine whether you should be released on bail or remain in custody pending trial. These factors include:

  • Ensuring Court Attendance: If the judge believes there is a substantial risk that you will not attend future court dates, bail can be denied. Factors like a lack of ties to the community, a history of failing to appear, or being a flight risk can contribute to this decision.

  • Public Safety: Bail may be denied if the judge determines there is a substantial likelihood that you will commit another offence, particularly against minors, if released.

  • Maintaining Public Confidence in the Justice System: Bail may also be denied if detention is deemed necessary to maintain confidence in the justice system, considering the seriousness of the allegations and the strength of the Crown’s case.

If released on bail, you will likely be subject to strict conditions. These conditions can include a cash deposit, restrictions on activities, restrictions on areas you can access, regular check-ins, travel restrictions, and other prohibitions to ensure public safety and compliance with the law.

Understanding your rights, the bail process, and the importance of legal representation is crucial when facing sexual interference charges. If you are facing such charges, seek experienced legal representation to protect your rights and navigate the legal process effectively.

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Role of a Criminal Lawyer in the Post-Bail Legal Process

A criminal lawyer plays a critical role in defending you, regardless of whether bail was granted or denied. One of the primary roles of a criminal lawyer is to request and obtain full disclosure of the Crown’s case against you. This is a constitutional right, which mandates that the Crown must disclose all relevant evidence, whether favourable or not. 

Reviewing Evidence

Disclosure can include witness statements, forensic reports, and any video or audio recordings. This evidence can be extensive going into hundreds or thousands of pages of documents and hours of police interviews and surveillance footage. A lawyer will meticulously review this evidence to build an effective defence including interviewing witnesses and consulting experts.

Presence During Pre-Trial Processes

After reviewing the disclosure, your lawyer will engage in off the record discussions with the Crown attorney, often over email or phone. Your lawyer will eventually attend a Case Management Conference (CMC); this is a meeting with the Crown prosecutor with a judge present. During this meeting, they can freely discuss legal issues, clarify the Crown’s position, and potentially negotiate a resolution without going to trial. Your lawyer can also ask the judge for direction and their input on particular legal issues in a less formal setting than court. These conferences can be very helpful for both sides involved and are an integral part of the justice system. 

Representing You in Court

A criminal lawyer will represent you at all court appearances, including bail reviews, preliminary inquiries, and the trial itself. This relieves the burden on you to navigate the complex legal system and advocate for yourself without legal support.

Trial Preparation and Strategy

If the case proceeds to trial, your lawyer will develop a comprehensive defence strategy based on the disclosed evidence and applicable laws. This may involve challenging the admissibility of certain evidence, cross-examining witnesses, presenting defence evidence, and delivering closing arguments.

Penalties and Consequences for a Sexual Interference Conviction

A conviction for sexual interference in Canada carries significant penalties and consequences, which vary depending on whether the Crown proceeds by indictment (they almost always do) or summary conviction. If prosecuted as a summary conviction, the minimum penalty is 90 days of imprisonment and a maximum of two years less a day. If prosecuted by indictment, the minimum penalty is one year, with a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

In addition to imprisonment and the accompanying criminal record, the court may also impose additional penalties, including:

  • Registration on the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) in terms of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act (S.C. 2004, c. 10) (SOIRA), can impact housing, employment, and community involvement. You will also have to report changes in address, employment, and international travel. 

  • An order to provide a DNA sample to the national DNA databank.

  • A prohibition on owning weapons.

  • Section 161 prohibition orders restrict the offender from frequenting places where individuals under 16 are likely to be, such as swimming pools, schoolyards, and public parks. It also restricts their internet use to prevent them from grooming or harming children using online methods. This is also referred to as a section 161 order. 

Seek Counsel from an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer

Facing accusations of sexual assault or interference can be overwhelming and isolating. We understand the sensitivity of these charges and the potential impact on your life. That’s why it’s crucial to seek professional legal advice from the very beginning to protect your rights and build a strong defence.

Our experienced criminal defence lawyers will guide you through the legal process, help you understand the charges, and ensure you receive a fair trial. They will assist in gathering necessary evidence, preparing for court appearances, and developing a robust defence strategy.