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The Advocates Society AIDWYC Criminal Lawyers Association Ontario Bar Association Toronto Lawyers Association Certified as a Specialist in Criminal Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada

 Domestic Assault Lawyer

How to Defend Domestic Assault Charges in Toronto

Being charged with any type of assault allegation is a traumatic and painful experience. Those charged with domestic assault under s. 266 of the Criminal Code will face additional challenges because bail restrictions imposed on accused persons for this type of offence often prevents contact with their loved ones while their cases slowly negotiate through the maze of the criminal justice system. Those found guilty of domestic related assaults also potentially face stiffer sentences.

In most domestic assault cases, the police and prosecutors will apply a rigorous zero tolerance policy, regardless of whether or not the complainant wishes to see the charges prosecuted in court.

One of the best ways to ensure that you do not end up as a casualty of these zero tolerance policies is to hire a criminal lawyer familiar with defending domestic assault cases in Toronto, Ontario.

Daniel Brown is a certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a specialist in criminal law with a proven track record for successfully defending all types of domestic assault allegations. One key to his continued success is forming a winning strategy at the start of the each case tailored to the specific needs of each client he represents. Daniel is familiar with the unique challenges posed by domestic assault prosecutions and has tremendous success representing both accused persons and complainants caught up in a justice system that refuses to listen to their needs. You can also learn about other domestic related charges including mischief, uttering threats and criminal harassment.

Read below for additional legal information about defending a domestic assault charge. Those looking for advice on domestic assault or spousal assault charges should call Daniel Brown for an immediate consultation at (416) 297-7200. To learn more about defending a non-domestic assault charge, please read my article on defending assault charges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Assault Charges:

What is a domestic assault?

A domestic assault is as an assault that takes place between two people who are either currently or formerly dating or in a common law or married relationship. Where an assault takes place between two people who share one of these relationships mentioned above, the mater is labeled “domestic” and prosecuted quite differently by Crown counsel than other types of assault charges.

According to the “Crown Policy Manual”, a document provided by the Attorney General, detailing how Crown prosecutors are to perform their duties, Crown Attorneys are instructed to “prosecute domestic violence offences as vigorously as other serious criminal matters”.

Although not classified differently in the Criminal Code, in many jurisdictions, domestic assault cases are separately identified and prosecuted by a special team of prosecutors who almost exclusively deal with these types of allegations.

Internal police policies dictate that in almost all situations, the police are to charge a person alleged to have assaulted another in a domestic context, regardless of whether or not independent proof of the crime exists such as visible injuries or independent witnesses to the offence. A person’s word in the absence of ANY other evidence is enough to bring someone into the criminal justice system on an assault charge.

What if the person making the complaint does not wish the charge to proceed to court or to trial?

At the court stage, the Crown attorney will usually move forward with a prosecution in cases where there is a “reasonable prospect of conviction”. It is of little importance to the prosecutor that the person making the complaint does not wish the matter to proceed to trial.

In domestic situations, a complainant does not have the choice to “press charges” or not. If a complaint of domestic violence is made, the police will arrest and charge the person accused of the offence and the Crown will likely prosecute them regardless of the complainant’s wishes to halt the prosecution. However, in some unique circumstances, it is possible for a complainant to influence a prosecutor’s  decision to withdraw a criminal charge.

What happens to a person charged with domestic assault?

Typically, those charged with a domestic assault offence are held for a bail hearing, whether or not they are otherwise upstanding citizens without previous criminal involvement. Those charged with domestic assault are also likely to be put on strict bail conditions restricting their contact with the complainant even if the complainant wishes to have contact with them.

The accused person will also likely be required to remain away from their family residence, regardless of legal ownership, if the complainant continues to reside there. Typically, these bail conditions remain for as long as the criminal charge is before the court or otherwise modified by the judge.

How can I change my bail conditions?

It is sometimes possible to change the conditions of bail to permit contact between the complainant and the accused person or to allow the accused person to return home before the case is completed. The process by which a bail is changed can often be lengthy, complex and costly unless the prosecutor agrees to the change of bail conditions. For details on how to change a bail condition read: How Can I Change My Bail Conditions?

What is a peace bond and why are they offered in domestic assault cases?

Domestic assault allegations are sometimes settled by way of the accused person entering into a peace bond agreement with the understanding that the criminal charges will be withdrawn upon signing the peace bond.

Agreeing to a peace bond is not a finding of guilt. However, much like bail conditions, the person who agrees to a peace bond will be required to abide by the terms and conditions of the bond until the bond expires.

Common conditions on peace bonds include restricting the possession of any weapons for the duration of the bond and/or limiting contact with the complainant on the assault charge except with the complainant’s prior consent. Prosecutors normally favor the use of peace bonds before withdrawing domestic assault charges to ensure the complainants in criminal cases are protected by a court order even after the charge is withdrawn against an accused person.

The length of time for most peace bonds is 12 months.

The obvious benefit to agreeing to enter into a peace bond is that the accused will ensure their clean criminal record is protected.

The prosecutor will often require a person charged with domestic assault to enter into a peace bond before dropping the criminal charges. The main reason for this is to ensure the complainant in the assault case is protected even after the charge has been withdrawn.

What if I am trying to get a divorce and am charged with domestic assault?

Allegations of domestic assault commonly arise in the context of divorce proceedings. Special considerations need to be taken into account when defending a domestic assault allegation when family law proceedings are occurring at the same time. Unfortunately, some family law litigants make false allegations of assault as a way to gain the upper hand in custody and divorce cases. Usually a person making the claim of assault will be permitted to have exclusive access to the home and full custody of the children until the assault matter is resolved in court. Many family law litigants are aware of this and use the police to assist them with their family law claims.

Daniel Brown will work closely with your family lawyer to ensure that your interests are protected in criminal court as well as in family court.

Click here to learn more about the family law consequences of a criminal domestic violence conviction.

Why should domestic assault complainants or victims hire a lawyer?

Once a complaint of domestic assault in Toronto has been made, it is only the Crown prosecutor that decides whether or not criminal charges will proceed to trial. Neither the Judge, the police, nor the complainant have any control over that decision making process. Sometimes complainants may require a lawyer to advise them on how to make their opinions on prosecution known to the prosecutor. As well, a seasoned criminal lawyer can provide important independent legal advice to complainants so they know their rights with respect to their legal obligations in court both inside and outside the courtroom.

There are many ways to defend against an allegation of domestic assault without pleading guilty. Every case is different and it is important to discuss with a lawyer what options are available to you before you walk into a courtroom for the first time. Know that, as in all criminal cases, being found guilty of a charge like domestic assault can have profoundly serious consequences for your employment, immigration status, ability to travel, family, reputation, and at worst, your freedom should you receive a jail sentence.

There is no substitute for strong, experienced legal representation when going through the criminal justice system. Daniel Brown has helped hundreds of people facing criminal assault charges escape criminal records. He can be reached at (416) 297-7200 to arrange a consultation to discuss your specific situation so that you can immediately obtain sound legal advice that suits your needs and objectives.