Toronto Domestic Assault Lawyers
Defending Domestic Assault Charges (s.266) in Toronto
Being charged with any type of assault allegation is a traumatic and painful experience. Those charged in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario 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 and probation orders.
In most domestic assault cases, the police and Crown prosecutors will apply a rigorous zero tolerance policy, regardless of whether or not the complainant wishes to see the charges prosecuted in court. Our laws have also been recently modified to ensure that domestic assault charges are dealt with more strictly at the bail and sentencing stage.
Choosing the Right Lawyer to Defend You
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 Law is recognized as one of Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s Top 10 Criminal Law Boutique Firms for 2018-19.
Daniel Brown is certified as a specialist in criminal law by the Law Society of Ontario and has a proven track record for successfully defending all types of domestic assault allegations.
in 2019, Daniel was voted the Toronto Star’s Readers’ Choice Diamond Award Winner in the category of Best Criminal Lawyer.
One key to our law firm’s continued success is forming a winning strategy at the start of the each case tailored to the specific needs of each client we represent.
Daniel and his team of trial lawyers are familiar with the unique challenges posed by domestic assault prosecutions and we’ve had 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 Law for an immediate consultation at (416) 297-7200. To learn more about defending a non-domestic assault charge, please read our article on defending assault charges.
Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Assault Charges:
- What is a domestic assault?
- What if the person making the complaint does not wish the charge to proceed to court or to trial?
- What happens to a person charged with domestic assault?
- How can I change my bail conditions?
- What is a peace bond and why are they offered in spousal violence cases?
- What if I am trying to get a divorce and am charged with a Toronto domestic assault?
- Why should domestic assault complainants or victims hire a lawyer?
- What are the penalties for domestic assault?
A domestic assault is as an assault that takes place between “intimate partners” who are either current or former spouses, common-law partners or dating partners.
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 the Criminal Code doesn’t contain a distinct “domestic assault charge”, 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.
Recent Criminal Code changes instruct judges and prosecutors to act more harshly towards people accused of intimate partner violence at every stage of a criminal proceeding including the bail stage and at sentencing.
For example, In the bail context, a justice is now required to consider whether someone is charged with an offence where actual, attempted, or threatened violence was used against an intimate partner.
At the sentencing stage, the court must now consider violence against an intimate partner, or the family member of the victim or offender, as an aggravating factor on sentencing. Judges may also now exceed the maximum sentence imposed on an offender for some intimate partner offences.
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.
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 no longer wishes 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.
Some factors the Crown Attorney will consider in deciding not to press forward with a domestic assault prosecution include:
- there is no significant physical injury;
- there is no previous history of intimate partner violence;
- Crown Counsel has no reasonable grounds to believe there is a significant risk of further intimate partner violence offences between the parties.
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.
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. There are also a number of strategies that can be used to increase a person’s chances of having their bail conditions changes to allow for contact with their domestic partners. For details on how to change a bail condition read: How Can I Change My Bail Conditions? or call Daniel Brown Law to arrange a consultation.
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 admitting that a crime was ever committed. 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 favour the use of peace bonds before withdrawing domestic assault charges to ensure complainants in criminal cases are protected by a court order even after the criminal charge is withdrawn.
Most peace bonds last for 12 months though the time may be shorter or longer depending on the specific case.
The obvious benefit to agreeing to enter into a peace bond is that the accused will ensure their clean criminal record is protected.
A 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.
Allegations of domestic assault commonly arise in the context of divorce proceedings or separations. 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.
The lawyers at Daniel Brown Law will work closely with your family lawyer to ensure that your interests are protected in criminal court as well as in family court.
Once a complaint of domestic assault in Toronto has been made to police, 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 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.
What are the penalties for domestic assault?
The consequences of being found guilty of a domestic assault charge are significant. A person found guilty of a domestic assault may receive a criminal record and be sentenced to a period of incarceration in jail.
The maximum jail sentence for domestic assault is either two years less one day where the Crown prosecutes the case by summary conviction or 10 years’ imprisonment where the Crown proceeds on indictment.
Usually, the greater the harm suffered, the harsher the penalty. Alternatively, the court may impose a lesser sentence including probation with counselling or a fine without jail for less serious domestic assault allegations. It is also possible to be found guilty of a domestic assault and receive no criminal record.
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 and the lawyers at Daniel Brown Law have helped hundreds of people facing domestic assault charges escape criminal records and be reunited with their families. We 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.
* The Top 10 Criminal Law Boutique award is not intended to suggest or imply a qualitative superiority to other lawyers that are not recognized by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Additionally, our lawyers’ past successes or results are not necessarily indicative of future results and outcomes will vary according to the facts and merits of each individual case.