A Toronto Raptor player had his domestic assault charges withdrawn, is this special treatment?

Today, domestic assault charges against Toronto Raptors player Terence Davis were withdrawn by The New York District Attorney’s Office. Twitter quickly exploded with questions why, is this special treatment, and why didn’t this proceed to trial.  This article attempts to explain some of the many reasons why domestic charges are withdrawn (or “dropped”) frequently and has little to nothing to do with celebrity status.

There can be any number of reasons why domestic assault charges are withdrawn. Often times it comes down to whether an accused party (statistically, mostly, men) has a history of domestic violence with the same or other partners and if he does not, whether he has taken meaningful steps to address any underlying, unresolved, personal, psychological, or emotional issues which may have led to the incident in question. This often comes in the form of counselling to address anger management, substance misuse, and/or interpersonal relationship boundary issues. This sort of counselling can vary in quality and merit so it’s important that anyone charged with domestic assault makes sure that the counselling they undertake is substantive and provides real insight and guidance to help improve the accused’s personal circumstances, impulse control, and decision making.

Domestic Assault Lawyer

A change of circumstances in the case or the accused

Up front work can be worth its weight in gold. By showing the Crown and Court that you are working hard to improve your personal circumstances and have committed to changing your life in a way that will ensure the safety of the complainant and any future partners, you may find yourself eligible for a peace bond. In fact, there are ongoing programs in almost every jurisdiction offering partner assault response counselling where eligible accused parties do just that. Upon completing counselling to the Crown’s satisfaction, the Crown will often withdraw charges in exchange for your commitment to follow the terms of a peace bond which, if breached, might bring about more criminal charges and potentially land you in jail. 

What are peace bonds and can anyone get one on their domestic violence charges?

These peace bonds (helpful Robichaud primer linked here) will make it clear whether you are able to have any contact with the complainant and if so, whether contact will require her/his written, revocable, consent. Simply put, sometimes couples fight and then want to try to reconcile, but only on certain conditions. Including a “written, revocable” consent condition in a peace bond will give a complainant the opportunity to re-engage with the accused on her/his own terms and gives her/him the ability to stop any further contact when and if she or he wants to do so. 

Why would a prosecutor withdraw domestic assault or domestic violence charges?

Crowns can choose not to continue with a prosecution for a number of reasons, but normally the decision falls into one of two categories: i) a prosecution is not in the public interest or ii) there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. Where an accused and his partner are committed to reconciling after a domestic incident and the partner makes it clear to the police, victim services and the Crown that they wish to get back together, Crowns can exercise their discretion to withdraw charges on either of the above grounds. Crowns can also withdraw charges if further investigation by police services reveals fabrication or misrepresentation by a complainant that substantially impacts her/his credibility. This isn’t a common occurrence, but diligent police work and attentive Crowns can make all the difference in the world. 

The best result for all parties, including the alleged victim, is not necessarily going to trial

It is not uncommon for police to charge a man with assault in a domestic context based exclusively on the unsubstantiated claims of his partner. This might make sense policy-wise, but practically, it often leads to criminalizing arguments and disputes that don’t quite meet the threshold for criminality. There are countless men who can attest to this and every criminal lawyer has heard their stories.  Here is where things get difficult. Crowns, especially seasoned ones, have seen enough of these files to register when there are warning signs. Crowns are trained to do their best to identify when an accused might graduate from a domestic argument to domestic assault to homicide. This might sound overly dramatic, but that sort of escalation has and does happen too often and to terrifyingly tragic results. This is why domestic assault charges are not commonly withdrawn and if they are, only when the individuals involved have shown the Crown and Court that this is the correct and fair outcome for all involved parties.