Why hiring a lawyer for domestic assault and domestic violence can make a huge difference in your case.

Domestic Assault LawyerOver the past decade, our lawyers and law firm have represented a large number of people for domestic assault, uttering threats, and other forms of domestic violence.  That number is now well into the hundreds.

With nearly all of these cases, our representation starts out with a simple telephone call explaining the basics on domestic violence prosecutions: how they are handled by the Crown Attorney, what happens on the first day of court, and the range of what they can reasonably expect in the circumstances.

A common theme that arises is how wrong the assumptions are that people make in assessing their situation. This article attempts to address and correct some of those misled assumptions so that individuals can make better, more informed decisions on how to proceed. In the end, the only correct course of action is to hire a lawyer experienced in domestic violence cases. These are the reasons why:

Domestic Assault and Other Forms of Domestic Violence Area Treated Differently Than Other Criminal Charges.

Domestic assault charges in Ontario are treated with zero-tolerance Crown policies. Crown policies mandate a serious and aggressive approach to spousal abuse, or “domestic assault” allegations. A “domestic relationship” can mean conflicts between people in a girlfriend and boyfriend relationship, a wife or husband, common-law partners, same-sex partnership, children, parents, and even relatives.

What happens when the Crown considers a matter “domestic” in nature?

Once the Crown considers the case to be of “domestic” nature, the degree of seriousness and zeal that the Crown will approach the case with is heightened.

This can mean greater difficulty in obtaining bail, an inability to return home, and many other conditions of release that are often reserved for the most serious of offenders. The philosophy behind this approach is a concern that people who are abused by their domestic partner will return and inflict greater violence upon them. Although an obvious concern in some rarer cases, the Crown will consider all domestic allegations as being a possible worst-case scenario where further violence is inevitable.

Domestic Assault Charges are Never Withdrawn on the First Day of Court. Ever.

Ontario Criminal CourthousesMany people who are charged with domestic assault, threatening death, or criminal harassment assume that if they explain why they are not guilty to the Crown or Court on their first day, the charges will simply be withdrawn with an apology for the misunderstanding.

This never happens. Ever. Not even once.

At the bare minimum, a Crown Attorney is obligated to review the file thoroughly and consider what position is appropriate for a disposition. Even if a charge is screened for a withdraw (which is highly unlikely), that individual will still invariably need to do counselling and/or enter into a peace bond once those terms are completed.

By a vastly overwhelming majority of cases (including yours), the case is adjourned for a period of 3-4 weeks so an accused can review the disclosure and then ideally retain counsel who will then negotiate with the Crown Attorney a suitable manner of settlement.  If that settlement isn’t reached, estimates for trials and similar issues are discussed so that a trial date can be set expeditiously.

The victim does not lay the charges, the police do.  The victim also has no control in whether the charges are withdrawn.

A common misconception in domestic charges is that the “victim” (often referred to as the “complainant”) decides whether to proceed with the charges. This is false: it is the Crown and police who decide whether the charges will continue or not. The Crown will not withdraw the case simply because it is against the wishes of the “victim”. The Crown is often of the view that there is a public concern in prosecuting the case that expands beyond the particular instance of your case.

Another reason to retain experienced counsel in this area is to understand the various options that the Crown itself may put to you. More specifically, you may be eligible for a domestic assault program called “PARS” or “Early Intervention”. However, the terms and consequences of the nature, consequences, and long term benefits and pitfalls of these programs are often misunderstood by accused people. Before immediately accepting the Crown’s offer to enrol in such programs by entering a plea of guilt, you should speak to a lawyer to appreciate the effects of the guilty plea you must enter to be eligible.

Why hiring an experienced domestic violence lawyer is essential to your case.

domestic violence victim lawyerIt is very wise to retain legal counsel as soon as possible as there are subtle issues, events, and legal issues arise right from the outset that you may overlook that may have lasting consequences if not addressed effectively.

In addition to having the inherit benefit of counsel at an early stage, it is of vital importance to an experienced criminal defence lawyer to explain the process, appear on your behalf, and attempt to have your bail varied so that the accused can return to the household as quickly as possible.

I found over the years that the overwhelming goal of accuseds and alleged victims alike, is to have the family or domestic unit restored to the way things were before the police were called. To return to my suggestion above, an experienced lawyer can assist in making this happen in some circumstances.

Without counsel, the accuseds (and even alleged victims) will find that they are not heard by people in a position to make the changes they want. More specifically, Crown Attorney’s and judges beyond the trial judge, either will not address accuseds or victims on these issues, or lack the jurisdiction to do so. On the other hand, Crown Attorney’s will speak and negotiate with defence counsel in attempts to try and resolve the matter in a way that is appropriate to everyone.

Resolving a domestic violence case quickly, discreetly, and without lasting consequences is our approach.

Our first priority in domestic assault cases is making my best efforts in restoring things to the way before that call was made to the police. We do this by attempting to vary bail conditions, by speaking to the Crown to see if they are willing to consider a withdrawal of the charges, or by working on an agreeable resolution if you choose to accept responsibility for what happened.

Please call (416) 999-8389 to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about how our lawyers and law firm can assist you in resolving your domestic violence charges. 

Sean Robichaud, Barrister & Solicitor