Domestic violence in Ontario has become a “zero tolerance” crime. The guidelines that police follow for laying charges are very clear and allow them almost no discretion. Domestic assault charges can affect your personal and professional life.
Domestic assault, commonly referred to as domestic violence, is any assault allegations between spouses, intimate partners, or siblings. A domestic assault lawyer, is your best bet to navigate these complex charges.
Offences for domestic violence include:
- Criminal Harassment
- Sexual Assault
- Threats (Death or Bodily Harm)
What Are Zero Tolerance Crimes?
Zero tolerance crimes are offences that follow strict guidelines. In most circumstances police officers are not able to exercise their own discretion. As well, Prosecutors often can only resolve domestic violence matters in predetermined ways. Examples of zero tolerance crimes in Toronto include domestic violence, sexual assault, and impaired driving.
In the past zero tolerance laws have been met with scrutiny. Zero tolerance policies, such as those in New York in the 1990s, and California’s three strike rule bred a lot of controversy. The policies were accused of having racist consequences. As well, they tended to focus more on minor and street level crimes, ignoring white collar crimes.
In most places zero tolerance policing, as a whole, has been phased out. However, a few crimes remain under it’s umbrella. The nature of domestic violence charges makes them one of the special cases where these narrow zero tolerance policies applies. Without strict initiatives, victims living with the accused often unwilling or feel pressured into not pursuing charges. With zero tolerance punishments must be meted out, in hopes of preventing or changing the violent behaviour.
One of the major criticisms about this policy in Ontario is that zero tolerance crimes use most of the court resources and that all accused, regardless of their specific circumstances, are treated in the same manner with very little discretion from the Prosecutors. While there is a call to revisit these policies, if you are facing charges now, you need to know what a zero tolerance policy means for you.
What This Means For You
If you face charges for domestic assault, you will go to court. It is almost mandatory for police to lay charges when domestic violence allegation are made. Unfortunately in some cases they may not even fully investigate complaints before laying charges. Rather, they arrest the accused, lay the charges, hold them overnight for bail court, and move the matter to the Crown to sort out.
At this point, your defence is up to your domestic violence lawyer. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your arrest the Crown will almost always want you to enter into a peace bond and/or attend counselling.
Can The Victim Withdraw The Charges?
In the case of domestic assault it is the police, not the victims, who lay the charges. That means that the victim cannot withdraw charges, even if they want to. The prosecution is under just as strict guidelines as police for domestic violence charges.
The case will not be dropped, even if the victim does not show up to court. In fact the Crown can even postpone the case until they can bring in the victim. If necessary the Crown can issue a warrant for their arrest.
What Are The Consequences For Domestic Assault Convictions?
Domestic assault convictions affect your personal life, professional life, relationships, and damage your reputation. They can even affect future attempts at child custody or access. In addition to these matters, there are legal implications as well.
Consequences for domestic assault convictions include:
- Imprisonment – up to 5 years
- Intermittent Imprisonment (Sentence serves on weekends)
- Conditional Sentence (House Arrest)
- Lengthy Probation
- Court Order Counseling – PARS (Partner Assault Response Services)
- Peace Bond
- Criminal Record
There are two ways the Crown can proceed with domestic assault cases:
- By Way of Indictment
Crown Proceeds Summarily
Summary convictions are more minor. They may result in fines, jail time, or both.
Crown Proceeds By Way Of Indictment
These are more serious than summary offences. For these offences you are entitled to a trial and should hire a domestic violence lawyer. You are open to greater punishments.
Can I Post Bail For Domestic Assault Charges?
In short, yes, you can post bail for domestic assault charges (own recognizance). However, there are conditions. In domestic violence cases most people are held overnight before a show cause hearing. At the hearing the Crown often, but not always, needs to show cause why an accused person should be denied bail and detained.
The Crown needs to give reason for the accused to remain detained. The Crown can seek grounds for the accused’s detention to:
- Ensure attendance in court
- The protection/safety of the public
- Main confidence in the administration of justice
With domestic violence, the protection and safety of the public is a primary concern. The Crown considers a number of factors such as:
- The severity of the offence
- The accused’s history
- Psychiatric/medical/abuse issues
- Level of violence
If there is evidence of a high risk level, bail is not granted. It is advisable to hire an experienced bail lawyer. Getting bail and favourable bail conditions is important to your personal freedom. It is becoming increasingly difficult to change bail conditions after they are set.
How A Domestic Violence Lawyer Helps
The best domestic violence lawyers understand that the most important goal is to avoid a guilty charge. In addition to the social stigma, a conviction for domestic violence has significant consequences.
A conviction means a criminal record. Having a criminal record affects your future. You can lose out on career opportunities, potentially lose your job, lose the ability to travel and damage your reputation.
Returning to normalcy is often the most immediate concern for clients seeking a domestic violence lawyer in Toronto. They want to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. With the ultimate goal of going back to how things were before the incident.
In part this can depend on the severity of the charges. Returning to normalcy does depend on the ability for both the accused and the victim’s to reconcile. However, once the incident has occurred, nothing can be done to change it. The only proactive solution is to hire a domestic assault lawyer as soon as possible.
Your criminal defence lawyer not only handles your case quickly and effectively, but with discretion. Discretion and speed help to reduce pressure on both the accused and the complainant, reducing stress and making it easier to forward.
The sooner you hire a domestic violence lawyer, the better off you are. They help to prepare you for what is upcoming, including the process and potential consequences. As well, they will fight for the bail conditions that will get you out of jail soonest.
As well, hiring a lawyer immediately gives them more time to prepare their case. This gives you the best chance at a not guilty verdict, and a speedy resolution.
Hiring A Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you or a loved one are facing domestic violence charges, you need to hire a top criminal defence lawyer. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal lawyer who has a proven record of success in defending allegations of domestic assault. To hire an experienced domestic violence lawyer, contact Jaksa today.