I know there are a lot of people who enjoy a good scare on Halloween but, as you put on your ghoulish mask or gory makeup, take note that you could frighten your way right into a jail cell.
It is illegal to scare someone to death. Section 222 of the Criminal Code opens the door for either a murder or manslaughter charge when one person causes the death of a child or sick person by wilfully frightening them to death. This isn’t just reserved for the scary holidays like Easter (come on, that huge walking bunny doesn’t seem super scary to anyone else?) or Halloween. Frightening can take many forms, from crazed fake chainsaw-wielding teens at the local Halloween corn maze, to jumping out of fake mailboxes or garbage cans for the latest YouTube prank. If you are wilfully trying to scare someone and that someone has a pacemaker or a predisposition completely unbeknownst to you, the results of your actions could lead to criminal charges. You are assumed to “take your victim as you find them” meaning that you don’t have to know about their weak heart or other health factors that may make them more susceptible to being scared to death.
Cases on frightening someone to death are few and far between and I imagine it is a rarely used section of the Criminal Code. The fact that it is on the books means that it can be used against you. There is no doubt that, should a charge like this be laid, the trial would be a complicated one given the various elements of the offence that the Crown would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. It would no doubt be an interesting one and so if you or anyone you know has ever been charged with scaring someone to death, the team at CCD Law is here to help. Call us for this or any other criminal offence, we defend!