Domestic Assault

What is domestic assault?

Domestic assault is a criminal charge of assault against a domestic partner. Domestic assault is not specifically in the Canadian Criminal Code; however, domestic assault is often considered a unique form of assault by the Crown Prosecutors and the Courts. Domestic assault charges are taken incredibly seriously in the court of law, and as such your actions after an alleged domestic assault must be performed carefully.  Domestic Assault charges are unique as they contain elements of breach of trust, as well as the fact that domestic assault is a very common occurrence in society.

What are the consequences of domestic assault allegations?

Domestic assault allegations are often followed by restrictive release conditions.  It is very common in almost all allegations of domestic assault for the police to release the accused with conditions that they are not permitted to have any contact whatsoever with the complainant.  It is also extremely common for the release conditions to not allow the accused to attend at the residence of the complainant.  If the accused and the complainant reside together, as is almost always the case, this will mean that the accused must vacate the residence and will have to find somewhere else to live. 

It is not unusual for the complainant to have a change of heart following a charge of domestic assault.  The complainant may wish for the charges to be dropped, but In Canada, the complainant does not have the power to drop charges.  Normally, charges are laid by the Police and can only be Withdrawn by the Crown Prosecutor’s office.  Because the Crown knows that it is common for a complainant to change their mind they will not take lightly the decision to drop a charge if they feel that an assault has occurred. 

While waiting for these charges to work their way through the court system, the accused will remain on the restrictive release conditions.  These circumstances can be very stressful for all parties involved.

What is the punishment for domestic assault?

Domestic assault charges can lead to a variety of punishments, including fines, jail time, and probation. Depending on the what is alleged, the charge may be an elevated form of Assault, such as Assault Causing Bodily Harm, Assault with a Weapon, or even Aggravated Assault.

What should you do if you’re charged with domestic assault?

If you’re charged with domestic assault, it is important to remain calm and civil the entire time. Acting in a way that could be perceived as violent will only further the case against you. As soon as you are able, contact a lawyer to advise you on all your further actions. Once charges have been made and a court date decided, you will likely be released on the condition that you promise to appear before a judge on your court date, as well as not to contact the complainant or go to his or her residence. This is often called a no-contact condition or order.

What happens at your domestic assault trial?

As with any charge, it is important to remember that Assault or Domestic Assault is only an allegation and must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court before there can be a conviction. 

The first step is to obtain legal advice from experienced trial counsel.  Your lawyer will obtain your full disclosure material from the Crown Prosecutor’s office and review that with you to determine the best strategy. 

Your lawyer may be able to apply to vary the restrictive bail conditions that have been placed on you, in certain circumstances.  This could only possibly be accomplished if the Complainant consents and normally would have to receive Independent Legal Advice.  In many cases the release conditions will not be changed and you must always obey all Court Orders and Release conditions.  Any type of breach can quickly lead to jail

What should you do if charged with domestic assault?

Domestic assault is a very serious charge, and the most important thing you can do to mitigate the consequences is call a qualified defence lawyer. Contacting an Alberta defence lawyer is your best bet for a positive outcome, if charged with domestic assault.

Brian McGlashan is a criminal defence lawyer with over 25 years of experience in navigating the Alberta criminal courts. Contact McGlashan and Company if you’re charged with a criminal offence. We’re here to help.