One of my close British classmates will be travelling soon to Canada and the the United States for a week. Although hes a 'decent' guy who has gathered no criminal charges or arrest records as a 20yr old guy, he has some serious 'mental instablity'/ personality issues and has made some serious verbal threats towards people along with various physical altercations in the past.

Watching these border security shows, he believes that those people are only concerned about drugs, immigration status, and illegal stuff. He has a short temper and thinks that throwing a few swear words or threats will be fine. however I have seen various signs on these shows pasted around airports warning passengers about the penalties for verbal and physical assaults on officers. He seems to be downplaying the seriousness of all this.

From a legal standpoint, what is the limit to what can be considered a threat to an immigration officer aside from punching them in the face? I have heard stories of people arrested in Canada for swearing at CBSA officers but I'm not exactly sure if that's standard policy or a once-off thing.

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    They all have a 'been there/done that' tee shirt and especially in this era, a low tolerance for smart-asses. Your friend can expect a very brief intermezzo in Canada
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 19:48
  • There are numerous signs at US border crossings saying assaulting border officers is a felony. It is taken very seriously. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 19:48
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    Frankly, someone who is unlikely to be able to get through a border crossing without threatening law enforcement officers shouldn't be traveling. Is he going to assault or threaten people on the plane too? Traveling means having to deal with a lot of people in close quarters. If he can't handle that without getting into a fight, that's a problem he should work on at home first. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 19:49
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    Either something bad, or something very bad. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 20:13
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    "Watching these border security shows, he believes that those people are only concerned about drugs, immigration status, and illegal stuff." They mostly are, but assaulting a border officer is an excellent example of the "illegal stuff" they're concerned about.
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


It certainly depends on the mood of the officer he swears to or threatens, but with high probability, they have a low threshold, and it is a felony.
He can expect arrest, some nights in detention, with a conviction (probably on parole), deportation, and a multi-year ban for the country. Nobody wants people with this attitude.
This could also (negatively) influence getting visas for other countries.

I am aware that for many brits, a sentence without 'bloody' is syntactically incomplete, but he should try to adjust to other cultures a bit, before he has to learn the hard way. Just shutting up will go a long way; he is allowed to think what he wants.

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    For the US specifically, a quick check of the sentencing guidelines says that assaulting a federal officer, if the offense involves physical contact, has an offense level of 13. That means that even with no criminal record, you're looking at potentially 12-18 months in federal prison, where there is no such thing as parole.
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 20:15
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    As far as Canadian law goes, both uttering threats and assaulting a peace officer are punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 21:07
  • For the US, I'm not so sure that swearing and threatening should be lumped together as felonies. There have been court cases that held that profane and insulting speech to police officers was protected by the First Amendment. Example: law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca11/12-12562/…. So if he swears but does not threaten or physically assault, I am not sure that could be a crime. Of course, they might well still deny him entry, because that is discretionary. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 22:44

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