Domestic assault charges are laid for many reasons. When a relationship is going through a period of strain or disintegrating entirely, it’s common for accusations to be made, and Ontario law requires that those accusations be taken very seriously.
But not every charge leads to a conviction, and over the years our team at Jeff Reisman Law has successfully defended numerous clients faced with a charge of domestic assault. In our experience, if you’ve been charged with domestic assault, here are four things you should and should not do.
1. Don’t Provide the Police with More Information than Necessary
In Ontario, the police are allowed to ask for certain information from you if they believe you have committed a crime — specifically, they can ask your name and, if you are driving, they can request your license and registration.
But beyond that, you are under no obligation to answer questions without first asking for legal counsel (though unlike in the United States, Ontario police do not have to tell you this when charging you or placing you under arrest).
It is generally a good rule to say as little as possible before you’ve had a chance to consult a lawyer, as the police can use anything you tell them against you in court. Even fairly innocuous statements can be used to build a case for the prosecution.
2. Don’t Lie
While you are under no obligation to answer police questions before talking to your lawyer, you should never lie. Lying to the police can lead to a charge of obstructing justice, so even if you are acquitted of the original charge you may still face a penalty.
Being stopped by the police is a frightening experience, and the temptation to say something can be overwhelming — especially if you are being aggressively questioned (Canadian police have been known to pressure people into admitting to crimes they didn’t commit).
But the truth is that if you’re in an emotional state, the last thing you want to do is talk. The risk that you will say something that could be construed as a lie or an admission of guilt is simply too high. Instead of answering, insist on talking to a lawyer.
3. Stay Calm
Crown Attorneys take domestic assault charges very seriously, and can lead to a sentence of up to five years in jail if you are indicted. But a charge is not a conviction, and if you stay calm and get good legal advice, the case may not even go to a trial.
The most important thing to keep in mind during the first hours and days following an arrest or charge is that you have options — charges can be dropped, an acquittal can be handed down, and even if you do lose your case, you may not face the maximum penalty.
The easiest way to jeopardize your chances of securing a good outcome is by losing your cool and exacerbating the problem, so if you use social media avoid making mention of anything related to your charges.
4. Find a Criminal Defence Lawyer Who Specializes in Domestic Assault
Domestic assault cases are complicated for a number of reasons. While the law does not distinguish between domestic and non-domestic assault, it does treat assault against a domestic partner (a boyfriend or girlfriend, common-law partner, or current or former spouse) as an aggravating factor.
In practical terms, there is a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of offence in Canada, but it is possible for the charges to be withdrawn. Typically, your lawyer will meet with the prosecution to explore the possibility of having the charges withdrawn, which is one of the reasons it’s so important to work with a lawyer who has experience in this area and understands the range of options available.
Hiring a seasoned domestic assault lawyer in Toronto who understands the law inside out and has a long track record of working with clients facing these kinds of charges will ensure you have someone in your corner who can advocate for you, and can help secure an agreeable arrangement between the two parties outside of court.
In the event that the charges are not dropped and the case goes to trial, an experienced defence lawyer will be able to draw on a range of different legal tools and strategies to present your side of the case and secure a favorable ruling.
Regardless of the particular circumstances of your case, if you’ve been charged with domestic assault you should get in touch and know your rights if you want to get a fair hearing that leads to an acquittal (you can click here to learn more about our legal firm and how we approach domestic assault charges).
While being charged with such a serious crime can be a frightening experience, it is important to remember that a charge does not necessarily lead to a conviction. Even if there is substantial evidence against you, it may still be possible to successfully fight the charge in court or to have the charges dropped altogether.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Ontario legal system is predicated on the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that there are resources available to help you clear your name or mitigate the severity of your sentence should you be convicted.
If you want a Toronto lawyer with the experience and determination to provide you with the best possible defence against domestic assault charges, get in touch with Jeff Reisman Law today.