One of the most common types of offences our lawyers defend are criminal charges relating to domestic violence. These “domestic” charges can include assault, uttering threats, theft, mischief to property, and any type of criminal offence that happens in a domestic context.
Domestic Violence: a common criminal charge, but a specialized area of law.
What makes a charge “domestic” is not an easy thing to pin down. That is because there is actually not a specific charge of “domestic assault” or “domestic violence” in the Criminal Code of Canada. Rather, charges of a “domestic nature” are considered an aggravating factor on sentencing under section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
“Domestic” can mean a relationship between a husband and wife, a parent and child, sexual partners, siblings, or even other more broadly defined “domestic” relationships. This is ultimately a decision for the Court to conclude as to whether or not a crime is “domestic” for the purpose of sentencing.
In addition to the specific feature of sentencing explained above, the provincial Crown Attorney offices and Courts of Ontario often treat charges in a different manner than other sorts of courts. For example, most Courthouses in Ontario have special “Doemstic Violence Courts” that are dedicated to these cases. Highly specialized Crown Attorneys and specifically trained judges are often set aside to prosecute and hear such cases.
Therefore, when facing specialized prosecutors, it would be highly advisable to hire a lawyer who is equally qualified and experienced in domestic violence cases.
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The challenges facing people charged with domestic violence:
Crown policies mandate a serious and aggressive approach to spousal abuse, or “domestic assault” charges. As mentioned above, “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.
For the purpose of prosecution, what qualifies as “domestic” violence or domestic assault is a matter of discretion left with the Crown’s office. For the purpose of sentencing (if convicted), what qualifies as “domestic” is left to the Court to determine.
In the prosecutorial context, once the Crown considers the case “domestic” in nature, there is a heightened concern in their approach. This can mean a 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 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 violence as possible worse-case scenario where further violence is inevitable. You will need legal representation to deal with these difficulties effectively and you should call a lawyer immediately.
It is not up to the victim to withdraw the charges.
A common misconception in domestic charges, is that the “victim” (often called the “complainant”) decides whether to go ahead 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”.
Why you should hire an experienced lawyer for domestic assault, or domestic violence
There are many options available to someone charged with domestic violence, domestic violence, or other domestic related charged. An experienced lawyer can assist in explaining what it means to fight the charges, plead guilty, accept a peace bond, or other offers.
One very common program offered to people charged with domestic violence is “PARS” or an “Early Intervention” program. As enticing as it may seem at first reading, understanding the practical effects of these programs may not be what a person is after. A lawyer can break down the terms and consequences of the nature, consequences, and long-term benefits and pitfalls of these programs are often misunderstood by accused people.
Before accepting any Crown’s offer to enrol in such domestic violence programs, you should speak to a lawyer experienced in domestic related charges to appreciate the effects of any guilty plea. PARS programs may be right for some, but not for others. It’s necessary to have an experienced criminal lawyer explain to you the consequences before accepting any sort of “deal” from the prosecution who have no obligation to take your interests into account.