Domestic assault is some of the most challenging and sensitive issues our country’s legal system has to deal with, and unfortunately, such incidents appear to be on the rise. As anyone who has experience with domestic assault charges knows, it is a painful situation for all parties involved.
Assault against a domestic partner is a serious allegation, but many Ontarians don’t really understand how domestic assault charges in Ontario work. This can lead people to lay charges in the heat of the moment, not fully realizing how far-reaching the consequences can be.
Furthermore, for those who find themselves accused of a serious crime by a loved one, the experience can bewildering and disorienting — confused and hurt, they may make their situation even worse by trying to attempting to reconcile with their partner.
This is why it is important to know what to do when you’re charged with domestic assault in Ontario, and to enlist the help of a reliable criminal defence lawyer who can help them navigate these charges.
Domestic Assault in the Ontario Legal System
Contrary to popular belief, Canada’s Criminal Code (and by extension, the Ontario courts) do not list “domestic assault” as a specific crime. Instead, assault against a current or former spouse, common-law, or dating partner is treated as an aggravating factor.
However, given the unique nature of assault charges against an intimate partner, the phrase is a useful way of distinguishing between other forms of assault.
While we tend to think of assault as necessarily involving physical violence, a threat of violence, either verbal or gestural, is considered a form of assault as well. Even if you didn’t lay a hand on the complainant, you can still be found guilty of assault.
Functionally, domestic assault charges in Ontario are viewed as zero tolerance offences, which means that the police do not need any evidence that the crime has been committed in order to lay charges — the word of the alleged victim is all that is needed.
This is one of the things that makes domestic assault such a complicated offence: as soon as one partner contacts the police and ask for charges to be laid, the accused party will be taken into custody. In most cases, a restraining order will be handed down in the bail hearing, which means that the accused can no longer contact the alleged victim.
One of the most common mistakes people facing domestic assault charges in Ontario make is thinking that if they just reach out to their partner and apologize, they can achieve a reconciliation. Unfortunately, this usually just makes matters worse.
What Should You Do If You’re Charged with Domestic Assault?
The first thing you should do when facing domestic assault charges in Ontario — or any criminal charges, for that matter — is reach out to a reliable Toronto criminal defence lawyer who can represent you at your bail hearing.
A bail hearing is designed to determine whether or not you are a threat to the public, and if the judge overseeing the hearing decides that you are at risk of committing further offences, you will be detained awaiting trial.
People charged with domestic assault are naturally viewed as being at high risk, so getting bail will be particularly difficult. Being denied bail will mean that you await trial in prison, jeopardizing your ability to keep your job and deepening the social stigma that domestic assault charges in Ontario often bring.
A Toronto criminal defence lawyer can also provide you with support and counsel during this emotionally difficult process, and can help you explore the options available for your defence, so hiring a domestic assault lawyer in Toronto to represent you at your bail hearing is a critical first step toward clearing your name and putting the whole unpleasant episode behind you.
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Can You Get Domestic Assault Charges Withdrawn?
One of the first questions most people charged with domestic assault have is how to get domestic assault charges dropped in Ontario. Depending on the situation, it may be possible to have domestic assault charges withdrawn — but only if you follow the right steps.
One of the things that makes domestic assault charges so alienating is that once the charges have been laid, the issue is in the hands of the criminal justice system. Even if the complainant decides they don’t want to pursue the charges any further, they can’t halt the process independently.
Only a judge can choose to withdraw domestic assault charges, and often does so by imposing a common law peace bond that requires you to abide by court-imposed conditions for a certain period of time.
A Toronto criminal defence lawyer will serve as your mediator in this process, working with the Crown prosecutor to make the case for why the case should not go to trial.
What is the Sentence for Domestic Assault?
When it comes to domestic assault charges in Ontario, sentencing can be particularly tricky. A summary conviction will lead to up to six months in prison and a $5000 fine, while and indictment will lead to up to five years in jail.
However, every case is different, and depending on the particulars, the judge may opt for a non-custodial sentence if the incident is minor or a first offence.
The best way to ensure a more lenient sentence is to request a consultation with a criminal defence lawyer with a strong knowledge of how Canadian law treats domestic-related assault, and has a proven track record defending people charged with assault against a domestic partner.
With the increased number of reported domestic assault incidents in Canada this year, it is more important than ever for Canadians to understand how the legal system deals with this kind of offence.
Being charged with a domestic-related assault is a devastating experience, one that comes with heavy social stigma. Having an empathetic lawyer who can help you navigate every aspect of the criminal justice system — from your bail hearing to figuring out how to get domestic assault charges dropped in Ontario — is essential not only for your case, but for your own mental and emotional wellbeing.
If you want a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who understands how assault charges work and can represent your interests, get in touch with Jeff Reisman Law today.