Peace Bonds / Restraining Orders In Ontario: How to get one; how to oppose one.

S. 810 Recognizance vs Common Law Peace Bond

The term “restraining order” is often thrown around in Americanized television and the media. However, a Peace Bond is much broader and complex than an order made by a court that someone should not come within a certain distance of someone else. For the sake of technical clarity, Peace Bonds are a common-law power used by judges and have no temporal limitation. These are typically referred to as a “Common Law Peace Bond”, are commonly used in resolution of summary criminal proceedings, and are not the subject of this article.

A section 810 Recognizance, is colloquially known as a “Section 810 Peace Bond”, “a Section 810”, or often just a Peace Bond, refers to the statutory power found in section 810 of the Criminal Code and is the subject of this article. For clarity, the recognizance outlined in s. 810 is hereinafter simply referred to as a “Peace Bond”.

Section 810 allows an Information to be laid before a justice by or on behalf of any person who fears on reasonable grounds that another person:

(a) will cause personal injury to them or to their intimate partner or child or will damage their property; or

(b) will commit an offence under section 162.1.

This latter section, 162.1, is “Publication, etc., of an intimate image without consent” or also known as the “revenge porn” law.  However, the earlier section is much more often relied upon in private peace bond proceedings.

Peace bond Restraining order 810 peace bond

Who Can Bring a Private Peace Bond Proceeding?

Any person who meets either prong of s. 810 (above) can attend at a Justice of the Peace’s office (or criminal clerk’s window depending on the jurisdiction and local procedure) at a courthouse in Ontario and apply for a Peace Bond against that person. The Applicant, seeking the Peace Bond, carries the obligation to demonstrate to the Justice of the Peace that they potentially have reasonable grounds on which a Peace Bond could be ordered.

Should the Justice of the Peace grant the application for a Peace Bond hearing, the Respondent, against whom the Peace Bond is sought, will be summoned for a hearing to be scheduled. At this hearing, the Applicant bears the onus, on a balance of probabilities, that the Peace Bond should be granted. This can be proved by calling and examining witnesses and submitting evidence – much like a trial. Often, the Crown will take over the Peace Bond application and run the Application a the hearing on behalf of the Applicant – however, this is not guaranteed.

Similarly, the Respondent can seek to show cause why he or she should not be compelled to enter the Peace Bond through the same means. Counsel is not provided for the Respondent, but private counsel can be retained to defend the Respondent and argue the Peace Bond is unnecessary and/or unfair to the Respondent.

What are the Possible Impacts of a Peace Bond?

Time Period: A Peace Bond is enforceable anywhere in Canada for up to and including one year.

Criminal Record Check: As a Peace Bond is not a conviction, an admission or finding of civil or criminal guilt, and it will not appear on a Criminal Record Check. Similarly, for the purposes of employment, it would not require you to admit on an application that you have ever been charged or convicted of a criminal offence.

Other Records Checks: However, it may appear on a Judicial Records check or a Vulnerable Sector Check. This may be an issue for volunteering or working with vulnerable persons. Some examples include working in hospitals, volunteering with children’s sports games, or submitting to a more advanced check for working with the provincial or federal governments. This is outlined in more detail at the end of the Police Record Checks Reform Act in the table that follows.

Travel: A Peace Bond may have impact on travel to the United States and abroad – you should speak to an immigration lawyer in the county of your visitation before consenting to signing a Peace Bond.

Police Records: A Peace Bond will also appear as an “outstanding entry” in police databases while it is active and can be accessed during police investigations.

Crown Records: The Crown could use the Peace Bond for future plea bargains should you be charged later. However, since it is not a finding of guilt, it cannot be used at sentencing or at a later trial (with narrow evidentiary exceptions).

Civil Litigation: A Peace Bond may present issues with your ability to sue other parties or may be used as evidence of your actions. Should this be a concern, or if the Peace Bond coincides with ongoing civil litigation. it is strongly suggested you speak to civil counsel for advice on this matter.

Bound by Terms: A Peace Bond will bind you to obey certain terms which are discussed (below).

How Serious are the Terms of a Peace Bond?

The terms of a Peace Bond vary and are entirely contextual based on the evidence submitted by the Applicant and the alleged situation. Typically, the more serious the situation and the threat to the Applicant’s safety – the more serious the terms. Some common terms that the Court may impose are that a Respondent are to:

  • Keep the peace and be of good behaviour;
  • Not contact the Applicant, their spouse, or child – directly or indirectly (through a third party);
  • Not visit or attend within a prescribed distance of the Applicant, their spouse, or child;
  • abstain from using non-prescription drugs or alcohol, and be required to provide bodily samples to ensure compliance;
  • Not possess any weapons as defined by section 2 of the Criminal Code;
  • Pay, or promise to pay, a set amount of money to the Court, which may be forfeited should the Respondent subsequently breaches any conditions of the Peace Bond; or
  • Abide by any other condition the Court considers desirable to prevent the harm.

What Happens if I Breach a Peace Bond?

It is important to note that the first condition, “keep the peace and be of good behaviour” is typically on every Peace Bond. The purpose of this rather innocuous condition is that should you be charged with another offence, during the term of your Peace Bond (even if it is in a different jurisdiction and completely unrelated to any person(s) named in your Peace Bond) you will be charged under section 811 of the Criminal Code in addition to whatever other charges are laid.

Furthermore, you may be ordered to pay, or forfeit, whatever amount of money you paid into, or promised, the Court.

Can A Lawyer Help Me?

The odds of success with applying for or responding to a Peace Bond in Ontario are much higher with the insight and guidance of experienced counsel. 

Maybe someone is repeatedly following you home, loitering outside your apartment building and making you feel unsafe.  Alternatively, maybe someone is bringing a Peace Bond against you because of an overreaction, misunderstanding, or just out of petty revenge. If you have received a summons or require assistance navigating the legal system, it is strongly suggested that you retain competent legal counsel. The lawyers in our firm offer experienced legal representation for both applying for and responding to Peace Bonds.  You can reach us 24 hours a day by calling (416) 999-9389 or complete a consultation form here.