Toronto Domestic Assault Lawyers

What to do if you have been charged with domestic assault

 A conviction for a domestic can have serious consequences. Assault carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail. Assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm can be punished by up to 10 years in jail, and for aggravated assault the potential punishment is up to 14 years.

Any charge of domestic assault – no matter how serious or trivial – carries the real risk of a permanent criminal record, which can have life changing consequences. A criminal record can make it harder to enter certain professions, to get a job, or to travel to the United States.

In domestic cases, the consequences can be particularly complicated. A charge for domestic assault leads to bail restrictions that prevent the parties from being around each other and speaking to each other. This can have the effect of breaking up the family home, or making it difficult to arrange access to children. For more information on this, see our page on bail.

Convictions for domestic assault can also often affect family law proceedings, including disputes over custody and access, and they can also lead to the Children’s Aid Society becoming involved in the home.

Anyone who has been charged with or who is worried they might be charged with a domestic assault should hire an experienced lawyer right away. Our firm has a lot of experience defending domestic assault charges across Ontario. We know how to craft a defence to these charges, to find and preserve the evidence needed to back it up, and to marshal that evidence in court to provide the best defence possible to the charge. We also use our experience in the court system to successfully negotiate withdrawals and other resolutions to many charges before they ever get to trial.

Sometimes, trials can’t be avoided, and in that case having a lawyer with a proven track record in Court is the most important thing you can do to help your case. You need a lawyer who can persuasively tell your story and present your defence through cross-examination of the complainant, by preparing you to testify, and by using the law and the facts to persuasively argue your defence in closing submissions.

If you have been charged with an assault or believe that you might be, contact us using the form on this web page immediately for a free consultation about your case.

What is domestic assault? 

 A conviction for a domestic can have serious consequences. Assault carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail. Assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm can be punished by up to 10 years in jail, and for aggravated assault the potential punishment is up to 14 years.

Any charge of domestic assault – no matter how serious or trivial – carries the real risk of a permanent criminal record, which can have life changing consequences. A criminal record can make it harder to enter certain professions, to get a job, or to travel to the United States.

In domestic cases, the consequences can be particularly complicated. A charge for domestic assault leads to bail restrictions that prevent the parties from being around each other and speaking to each other. This can have the effect of breaking up the family home, or making it difficult to arrange access to children. For more information on this, see our page on bail.

Convictions for domestic assault can also often affect family law proceedings, including disputes over custody and access, and they can also lead to the Children’s Aid Society becoming involved in the home.

Anyone who has been charged with or who is worried they might be charged with a domestic assault should hire an experienced lawyer right away. Our firm has a lot of experience defending domestic assault charges across Ontario. We know how to craft a defence to these charges, to find and preserve the evidence needed to back it up, and to marshal that evidence in court to provide the best defence possible to the charge. We also use our experience in the court system to successfully negotiate withdrawals and other resolutions to many charges before they ever get to trial.

Sometimes, trials can’t be avoided, and in that case having a lawyer with a proven track record in Court is the most important thing you can do to help your case. You need a lawyer who can persuasively tell your story and present your defence through cross-examination of the complainant, by preparing you to testify, and by using the law and the facts to persuasively argue your defence in closing submissions.

If you have been charged with an assault or believe that you might be, contact us using the form on this web page immediately for a free consultation about your case.

Types of domestic assault

Some of the charges the police can lay in domestic situations include:

  • Assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault. Most domestic assault charges are laid under one of these provisions, depending on how the alleged assault was carried out and the extent of the injuries the other person suffered. For more information about these types of charges, visit our Assault page.
  • Forcible confinement – section 279(2) of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to hold somebody against their will, or preventing them from leaving an area. In domestic cases, this charge often arises where there has been a fight or an argument between the couple, and one party tries to prevent the other from leaving the home or the place where the dispute has taken place.
  • Uttering threats – section 264.1(1) of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to threaten to cause death or bodily harm to a person, to damage their property, or to harm their pets or animals. These charges are often laid in domestic cases in situations where arguments get out of control, and in the heat of the moment one person threatens to harm the other in some way.
  • Criminal harassment – section 264(1) of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to cause someone to fear for their safety by repeatedly following them, communicate with them, wait outside the house or work, or engage in threatening conduct toward them or their family. These charges often arise in the context of domestic relationships that are in turmoil or where one person is attempting to separate from the other.

Frequently asked questions about domestic assault

Can the complaintant drop the charges?

We often hear stories on the news or TV about domestic assault charges that were dropped because the complainant or alleged victim decided not to “press charges”. It’s important to be clear that in Canada, the Crown prosecutes all criminal charges that are laid by police, and only the Crown has the power to “drop” or withdraw charges. A complainant in Canada has no power to drop charges that have been laid, or to stop the police from investigating a criminal offence. In domestic assault cases, the police enforce a “zero tolerance” policy, and will lay a charge in any domestic case where there is evidence that an assault happened, even if the alleged victim does not want to see charges laid. Similarly, Crown Attorneys will often seek to prosecute the charge in court even if the complainant does not wish to cooperate.

What is a peacebond?

A peacebond is similar to what we commonly understand as a restraining order. A peacebond is a Court order that puts conditions on you. It will always require you to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour.” Often, it also requires you not to have contact with certain people (e.g. the alleged victim of the assault), or to only have contact with them with their permission. Peacebonds are usually used as a way of avoiding a criminal prosecution, and the Crown will at times offer to withdraw charges if a peacebond is entered into. Less commonly, peacebonds can also be imposed after a trial, even where someone has been found not guilty of the offence.

Can I do counselling to get the charges dropped?

Simply doing counselling will not result in a domestic assault charge being dropped. However, a good lawyer can often negotiate with Crown Attorneys, explaining the mitigating factors or problems with the complainant’s credibility, and can propose a way of resolving the case that may involve the client doing some upfront counselling. Many courts in Ontario offer the Partner Assault Response Program (often called PARs), but it is also possible to pursue other courses or private counselling sessions. Most often, doing upfront counselling can be part of a resolution proposal that involves entering into a peacebond, having the charges withdrawn

What is the punishment for domestic assault?

The Criminal Code creates a wide range of possible sentences for those who are convicted of assault, from up to 14 years in jail for the most serious offence (aggravated assault), to house arrest, probation, fines, or discharges. Offences like forcible confinement, criminal harassment, and utter threats can carry similar penalties. Our first goal is always to find a way to have someone’s charges withdrawn or dismissed, but in cases where a sentence will be imposed for a domestic charge, having a good defence lawyer to put together the strongest argument for a fair and lenient sentence is invaluable. Doing a good job at a sentencing hearing is a lot of work. It requires legal research, reference letters, and reports that are all designed to show the sentence you are asking for is in the public interest.

What are the defences for domestic assault?

Domestic assault cases are often “credibility cases” – meaning that whether someone is convicted usually depends on whether the evidence of the accuser is believed. This is why it is so important to have a good criminal lawyer with a lot of experience in these types of cases. Cross-examining a witness to poke holes in their story or to reveal contradictions, lies, and inconsistencies takes skill and effort – and a cross-examination that isn’t well prepared will go nowhere and achieve nothing.

Aside from raising issues with the credibility of the accuser, there are some specific defences that often come up in domesticup domestic assault cases. The first is consent. The Criminal Code only criminalizes an assault if the other person did not consent. In some cases, may be the case that the alleged victim of the assault consented to the application of force that occurred (e.g. a consensual fight). However, this defence is complicated, and the Courts have held that no one can consent to serious or non-trivial bodily harm.

The second is self-defence. Section 34(1) of the Criminal Code provides a defence for someone who commits an assault if they believebelieved that force or a threat of force is being used against them or another person, that their action is committed for the purpose of defending themselves or someone else, and that the act is reasonable in the circumstances. Self-defence cases will always turn on questions surrounding how a fight or disagreement started, who the aggressor was, and whether the defensive act was reasonable in the circumstances.

Our experience with assault charges

  • R. v. E.P. (Ontario Court of Justice, North York): The client was charged with assaulting his girlfriend. In reality, the client had actually been assaulted by the complainant and a man the complainant was having an affair with. After careful negotiations with the Crown, the charges were withdrawn.
    R. v. M.N. (Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto): The client was charged with assaulting her spouse on numerous occasions. The defence was that the complainant made up the allegations in the context of ending the relationship in order to get sole custody of their child. The case went to trial and after cross-examination of the complainant and the client’s testimony, the client was ultimately found not guilty on all counts.
    R. v. N.S. (Ontario Court of Justice, North York): The client was charged with criminal harassment for attempting to communicate with an ex. After negotiations, the Crown Attorney agreed to withdraw the criminal charges and the client entered into a peacebond.
    R. v. M.M. (Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto): The client was charged with a domestic assault. After negotiations with the Crown, the client’s bail conditions were changed to allow them to return to the family home and to have contact with their partner. Ultimately, the criminal charges were withdrawn and the client entered into a peacebond.
    R. v. DF (Ontario Court of Justice, Oshawa): The client was charged with a domestic assault that was captured on video. At trial, the defence was advanced that the complainant in fact initiated the fight and consented to any physical contact. The client was acquitted on all counts.

Disclaimer: Every criminal case depends on its own unique set of facts and legal issues. Past success does not mean the same result can be obtained in future cases. We look at each case individually and base our approach on the specific challenges it presents.

Contact us about your case

Please leave us the best number to call and we will reach out to you as soon as possible.

Telephone: 416-649-5061
Email: info@gsllp.ca

Address:
116 Simcoe Street, Suite 100
Toronto, ON
M5H 4E2