Toronto Domestic Assault Lawyer
Domestic assault related charges are taken very seriously, so having an experienced criminal lawyer at your side is critical.
Ontario Domestic Violence Charges at a Glance
Domestic assault charges in Ontario can turn an ordinary life completely upside down. From one moment to the other, one phone call can change everything; with the first domino falling, it begins a whole chain of reactions that can plunge your life into chaos. The police start to get involved; charges are laid. You get arrested and have to spend the night in custody; the bail hearing may be difficult due to the nature of the charges. A criminal case is on the horizon that may lead to a criminal record. It is a nightmare in the making.
Arman Farjoud is an experienced domestic assault lawyer who knows how quickly domestic assault charges can derail a life and a relationship.
It doesn’t matter how long the relationship has been or how peaceful and loving it was; even if the allegations have been minor or were a misunderstanding, the moment domestic charges are laid, the legal machinery is in full motion. You get arrested. If you can make bail, its conditions will prohibit contact with your partner even if you want to reconcile. You are ordered to stay away from home, even if the title or lease is in your name. And if a child is present, the Children’s Aid Society will get involved, leading to additional stress.
And from there, it continues to spread. Suddenly friends and family become aware of the troubles and might be asked to help. It feels like you have lost control of your life with remorse, guilt and the feeling of helplessness when facing police and court-ordered conditions.
In Ontario, policies now mandate the police to lay domestic charges as soon as they have reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed. This is a fairly low threshold. They are not left with a choice, regardless of the complainant’s wishes, the seriousness of the allegations or the family’s best interests.
This inflexible policy may have resulted in true victims of domestic abuse no longer being overlooked or forgotten by police, but in turn, has now led to a wave of “complainants” that never wanted to see charges laid in the first place but now are forced to go through the despair, pain and cost forced upon the family without being able to do anything against it.
This makes domestic assault cases a very delicate affair that requires a careful and effective approach to defend. An experienced domestic assault lawyer knows how to combine skill, persuasion and strength to find the right balance between laws, policies and human emotions involved in a domestic case.
Arman Farjoud has successfully defended countless accused persons across the province, carefully reviewing the facts to determine the validity of the charges. He knows the stress a domestic violence case can put on you and will get you the best possible outcome in less time and with less anxiety.
Call Farjoud Law today at 647-606-6776 to speak directly to a domestic assault lawyer who personally answers all calls 24 hours/day – 7 days/week, or fill out our convenient online form.
Domestic Assault Penalties
Domestic assault related charges take place in the context of a domestic relationship, including a spouse, relative or family member, and can include a variety of offences such as assault, assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault, uttering threats of death, mischief and more. These types of charges are taken very seriously in Ontario, with severe penalties for those who are found guilty and convicted. These penalties may include the following:
- Criminal Record: A conviction for domestic assault results in a criminal record. Such a record can lead to significant consequences related to employment or limitations on travel.
- Jail Time: A domestic violence conviction can lead to imprisonment, with its length depending on the incident’s severity, the nature of the assault and the offender’s potential criminal record.
- Probation: The offender may be placed on probation up to a maximum of three years. This may have various conditions, such as therapy, counselling or staying away from the victim.
- No Contact or Attendance: A standard condition of a peace bond or probation order generally prohibits any contact with the victim or family or returning to the family home.
- Community Service: A sentence may include community service as part of the terms of a probation order.
- Counselling or Treatment: As part of the probation orer, a judge may order the offender to attend counselling sessions or treatment programs to address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the crime.
The type and severity of the sentence are based on the circumstances of the case and are at the judge’s discretion. A domestic assault conviction may result in a criminal record that can have wide-reaching consequences far beyond the case itself.
If you have been charged with domestic assault, contact Farjoud Law today at 647-606-6776.
Must Arrest for Domestic Assault
If police have reasonable grounds to believe that a domestic assault has occurred, mandatory charging policies state they MUST make an arrest and lay a charge. They are required to arrest the accused, remove them from the premises and take them into custody. The victim has no control over the arrest and cannot withdraw the complaint.
A victim of a domestic assault allegation cannot ask the police or the Crown to drop the charges. Regardless of the severity of the assault, if there is a domestic violence accusation, the police MUST:
- Arrest the accused and take the accused into custody;
- Lay formal charges;
- Release the accused from the police station or hold the accused for a bail hearing
Police Lay the Domestic Assault Charge, not the Victim
While it is a widespread belief, it is essential to remember that domestic assault victims don’t lay the criminal charges against the accused. The police is the only authority laying criminal charges based on information received from a victim or witness. In any allegation of domestic abuse, the victim becomes a witness.
If there is an allegation of domestic assault, the police have the following responsibilities:
- Ensure the safety of all parties involved
- Prevent a breach of the peace
- Make arrests if there are reasonable grounds
- Continue the investigation, regardless of the victim or spouse, wishing not to make any further complaints.
Even if the victim feels the situation is under control, the police are obligated to investigate the incident thoroughly. If there are reasonable grounds that a domestic assault has occurred, the police have to arrest the accused person and take them into custody.
Crown Attorney’s Office & Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is considered a very serious issue across Crown Attorney offices throughout Ontario, with a “Zero Tolerance” policy.
Police Services and Crown Attorney offices have implemented measures to ensure domestic assault guidelines are strictly followed. These types of cases will generally be prosecuted by a specialized team of Crown Attorneys who only deal with domestic violences cases.
So, even in cases where evidence may not be strong enough to lead to a conviction, prosecutors and police make every effort to ensure the safety of the complainant and/or witnesses.
These measures include:
- Arrests: Where credible evidence of a crime is present, regardless of the victim wanting to press charges, the police have to make an arrest to protect them and prevent further escalation.
- Charges based on one person’s account of events: Even without physical evidence, a person may be charged with domestic assault if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed. This information can simply be based on the statements made by the complainant or witnesses.
- Emphasis on the protection of victims: The Canadian legal system heavily emphasizes the protection of victims of domestic violence. The authorities and justice system have to take all measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the alleged victim, including removing the accused from the home or issuing a no contact order.
The ultimate goal is to ensure the safety of victims and to send a clear message that the justice system does not tolerate domestic violence.
When a Crown attorney is assigned to a domestic assault case, they will only know the information from the police file, so they generally assume that the complainant fears for his or her safety, unless otherwise indicated.
Assessments & Counselling
In certain domestic assault cases, the accused may want to complete an assessment and/or counselling program with various approved service providers.
These programs have several benefits, such as:
- Gaining insight into the allegations (including tools for conflict resolution)
- Improving their mental health and learning how to maintain healthy relationships
- Addressing any potential alcohol or drug addictions
A report related to the assessment or counselling may potentially be helpful in securing a more favourable result for an accused person, including :
- The charges can be withdrawn
- Changes of bail conditions to allow for contact with the victim or to return home
- Resume a relationship with the complainant
- Mitigating factor which may lead to a reduced sentence
Bail Hearings for Domestic Assaults
After an arrest on charges of domestic assault, the police will generally take the accused into custody at the police station. Here, the accused will be processed and placed in a cell until they are either released on an undertaking or until they appear in court for a bail hearing.
At a bail hearing, the Crown Attorney will take a position on the accused’s release. At this court hearing, the judge decides if the accused should remain in custody, waiting for trial or be released on conditions.
An experienced bail hearing lawyer, well-versed in domestic assault cases, can be a significant benefit in a bail hearing to ensure the accused’s release and avoid unrealistic conditions imposed by the court.
Domestic Assault Bail Conditions
Common bail conditions in a domestic assault related cases include:
- No direct or indirect contact with the complainant (this includes text messages, social media or mutual acquaintances)
- Not to attend at any location the complainant is known to be (home, work, school, etc.)
- Not to possess any weapons
It is at the judge’s discretion to impose additional conditions based on the allegations.
If the accused agrees to the conditions set by the court, they will be released on some form of a release order (undertaking or recognizance), which is a promise by the accused to abide by the conditions. If the accused fails to comply with these conditions, they can be arrested, charged for breaching and held in custody until the trial date.
Given that a trial could take place a year or even more from the date of arrest, having an experienced lawyer by your side is critical to ensure your release and that the imposed conditions are not unjustly burdensome.
Crown Attorney’s Office & Domestic Charges
The Crown Attorney’s office plays a crucial role in prosecuting domestic assault cases on behalf of the provincial government when there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction.
The Crown attorney must carefully evaluate any requests from a complainant and their domestic assault lawyers to discontinue a domestic violence prosecution. The court believes there could be “intolerable pressure” on a complainant or the victim to have the charges withdrawn.
The Ontario Crown Policy Manual states that for domestic assault, the recommended practices in regard to withdrawing and resolving charges are the same as for all other types of charges.
Whether to continue domestic assault charges, the Crown must carefully weigh if there is a “reasonable prospect of conviction” and whether a prosecution would be in the public interest.
However, the policy manual notes that in domestic violence cases, public interest factors should be “weighed in the light of the predominant need to protect the victim.”
Peace Bonds for Domestic Charges
One common resolution in some domestic assault cases is known as a Peace Bond. A Crown Attorney may decide to offer a resolution of a peace bond after considering all the circumstances, including the victim’s views and public safety.
A peace bond would require the accused to complete counseling, either through a court-approved program such as the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program or similar programs offered privately by approved services providers.
It’s important to note that enrolling is not an admission of guilt but a sign that the accused understands the severity of the allegations. It can also go a long way when your criminal defence lawyer speaks with the Crown attorney about your case.
In some cases, upon enrolling into the PAR program, the Crown Attorney may also consider varying any conditions that prohibit contact or attendance with the complainant.
Depending on the severity of the assault and your progress in the enrolled program(s), there are some possible outcomes:
- Have your charges withdrawn
- Enter into a peace bond
- Plead guilty but avoid a criminal record.
To learn more about the options available in your matter, please contact Farjoud Law today at 647-606-6776.
Reference & Good Character Letters
Suppose you want to further increase your chances of being viewed favourably in court, outside of enrolling in private counseling. In that case, it is advisable to collect letters of reference and good character from other family members, friends, neighbours, employers and more. These letters can be shared with the Crown attorney for review during a Crown or judicial pretrial.
Another good idea is to get involved in a community volunteer organization unless you are already part of one. Often, community service is looked upon very favourably in court if your lawyer can tell the judge and Crown attorney that you are involved. It may even be applied toward the resolution of your case.
Factors affecting Domestic Assault Charges
Various factors are taken into consideration when assessing domestic assault charges, including but not limited to:
- the nature of the allegations– was the assault minor or severe in nature
- any history of previous domestic assaults
- any history of police involvement
- what is the background of the accused
- is the accused employed or in school
- any particular position or role in the community, and
- what is their reputation
- what has the accused done since the assault in terms of upfront work
- e.g. alcohol or anger management counseling
- what are the wishes of the victim
- e.g. does the victim want to have contact with the accused or does the victim have ongoing safety concerns
A domestic assault lawyer will consider the above factors and assess your options in terms of how to proceed in the case, including:
- What is the strength of the Crown’s case against you;
- Whether it is in your best interest to resolve the matter;
- Is this a case where you have been wrongly accused; and,
- Do you dispute the allegation, and should the case go to trial.
Three Profiles in Domestic Violence Cases
What kind are you Facing?
Every domestic assault case has a history, a cause; every charge has a story that goes with it. This is why an experienced domestic violence lawyer is highly skilled in combining a deep knowledge of the law with good storytelling. They know how to simplify this story into a compelling narrative that will create critical context.
While every case is unique, they can be roughly categorized into specific profiles. Now, these profiles are not official definitions, nor are they part of the Criminal Code of Canada. However, they are beneficial to glean the range of possible outcomes, a time horizon for how long the case will take and the complexity and costs of the file.
So let’s have a look at the three main profiles.
Mild Domestic Cases
The majority of domestic assault cases fall into this category.
Generally, the accused has no previous criminal record, whether assault or otherwise and is often a contributing member of society that has hit a rough patch in their relationship.
As the category title suggests, the severity of the conduct also falls into the low end of the spectrum. Examples of this conduct include:
- Restraint of hands or arms during an argument
- An open-handed strike or slap
Typically, there are no injuries to the complainant or minor injuries (light scratches or redness ).
It can happen that both sides in an argument may make claims of domestic violence against the other. In cases like this, the police may be unable to determine the “primary aggressor”, especially if both parties show visible marks. They will often charge both sides and leave it to the courts to figure out.
As in most cases, there is no previous history of violence, and the charges are mild, often the complainants do not want the case to be prosecuted; they mostly didn’t want the other side to be charged in the first place. Usually, such complainants may try to get the charges dropped by writing letters to the Crown Attorney’s office. Unfortunately, without sound legal advice, these attempts may worsen matters.
Intermediate Domestic Cases
The next step up is more serious domestic violence charges which will attract the attention of prosecutors and may lead to prison time, even for first offenders.
While there are no set-in-stone guidelines on what puts a case into the intermediate category, there are some characteristics that an experienced domestic assault lawyer considers part of it, such as:
- The use of a weapon
- Non-trivial injuries
- Concurrent allegations of child abuse
- The existence of past domestic charges within the couple
- A long-term pattern of escalating controlling or harassing behaviour
A successful strategy must be crafted to the specific facts and issues in these types of cases. It is critical to know exactly what to expect, how to prepare for an eventual trial, and how the court process works, so the guidance of an experienced domestic violence lawyer is crucial.
Serious Domestic Cases
In these cases, victims suffer serious harm to their physical and/or psychological integrity, and charges carry a very high risk of severe penalties, including long-term imprisonment. Typically, all domestic charges that include offences of a sexual nature fall into this severe category, regardless of the form of non-consensual contact.
In the vast majority of very serious domestic violence cases, the accused may already have a previous criminal record and, in many cases, for previous domestic violence. There are some common markers across cases of this category, such as mental health and substance abuse problems, childhood trauma and poverty.
Common charges that fall under this category are:
- Aggravated assault
- Sexual assault
- Use of a weapon
- Administering a noxious substance
- Child abuse
Domestic Assault Charges in Detail
s.266 of the Criminal Code of Canada sets out the most basic form of assault, also known as assault simpliciter, which is the most commonly laid charge in domestic violence cases in Ontario.
This section is not dedicated to domestic assault but to all types, which includes a wide variety from neighbour disputes to barroom brawls. So the context of a relationship between the two parties makes a charge “domestic.” If this relationship goes one step further and involves an “intimate partner,” an additional layer of laws, policies and procedures unique to domestic violence cases is added.
The Criminal Code defines an “intimate partner” as a current or former spouse, common-law or dating partner. However, it leaves some flexibility in this definition.
Police, prosecutors and courts will treat a case as domestic or spousal if an alleged assault, as per s.266, has been committed against an intimate partner. This applies to any kind of domestic charge, whether it is mischief, threats or sexual assault and homicide.
s.266 Domestic Assault
s.265 of the Criminal Code expands on the basic assault description of s.266 by defining the actual crime:
265 (1) A person commits an assault when
(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
The three essential elements of common domestic assault are intention, application of force and lack of consent. Any reasonable doubt on one or more of these elements is enough for an acquittal at trial.
It is important to note that to be considered assault, the accused does not have actually to engage in physical contact with the complainant; the attempt or threat of force that leads the intimate partner to believe that the accused has the present ability to do so is enough to constitute assault.
Penalties for s.266 Domestic Assault
The range of penalties for domestic assault is vast. While there are maximum sentences, they rarely reflect the realistic outcome of a case, as each case’s individual circumstances are unique.
And while possible prison time, fines and probation are of concern, clients often worry about many other potential consequences of a possible conviction on domestic assault charges, including:
- Whether they will have a criminal record;
- Whether a criminal record check will disclose their domestic charges;
- Whether they will be able to travel for business;
- Whether their immigration status will be adversely impacted;
- When they will be able to reunite with their family; and
- How the criminal case could impact related family court proceedings.
The maximum penalty for assault is 5 years in prison if the offence is indictable and 6 months if summarily convicted.
More Serious Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic Assault Causing Bodily Harm
While the basic principle of assault, as defined by s.266, is the same for assault causing bodily harm, this category is determined by the presence of a notable injury.
Section 267 of the Canadian Criminal Code defines assault causing bodily harm as a situation in which applying force to another person without consent results in bodily harm. It also defines bodily harm as hurt or an injury to an individual interfering with the health or comfort of that person that is more than transient (so scratches or soreness don’t fall under this definition). Examples of injuries considered ‘bodily harm’ are black eye or lacerations.
The maximum sentences for assault causing bodily harm are 10 years if criminally prosecuted and convicted or 18 months if the case is prosecuted by summary conviction.
Domestic Aggravated Assault
The most serious form of domestic violence is aggravated assault, as it involves severe injuries or a risk to human life.
The prosecution must establish wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the complainant’s life due to the alleged assault. Common injuries in cases of aggravated assault are major lacerations, long-term head or tissue injuries, broken or fractured bones, leading to mobility or psychological problems.
In line with the severity of injuries, the maximum penalties for aggravated assault also are higher, with a maximum of 14 years in prison. Aggravated assault also can only be prosecuted as an indictable offence.
The Right Domestic Violence Lawyer for Your Case
What Should You Look For?
Being charged with assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault are serious charges that carry severe punishment. If you have been charged with either type of assault, contacting a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible is critical.
An experienced domestic assault lawyer will not only have deep knowledge of the law and a proven track record with domestic violence cases but also have the necessary understanding of the emotional stress a charge like this will bring with it. They know the perspective and concerns of prosecutors to build the most robust possible defence strategy to obtain a successful outcome.
Just because you have been arrested does not mean that you are guilty. The prosecution must prove all elements of your criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Farjoud Law is not afraid to take your case to trial to prove your innocence.
We have an outstanding track record defending clients charged with all types of criminal offences, from minor crimes such as theft and assault to more serious offences such as robbery and murder. We are dedicated to professionalism, client services and passionate advocacy.
If you or a loved one have been charged with domestic assault, do not hesitate to call Farjoud Law at 647-606-6776 to speak directly to a criminal defence lawyer who personally answers all calls 24 hours/day – 7 days/week or fill out our convenient online form.
DOMESTIC ASSAULT FAQ
How much experience does Farjoud Law have defending domestic violence charges?
Arman Farjoud has a proven track record with domestic assault cases, ranging from mild to very severe. The exceptional results include the complete withdrawal of charges without proceeding with trial. Past performance is not indicative of futures results. Arman brings his deep knowledge of the complex domestic assault law to work closely with his clients to devise the best strategy to obtain the best result.
How much will defending a domestic violence charge cost me?
Every domestic assault case is unique; the cost of retaining a domestic assault lawyer will depend on several factors, including the severity and complexity of the case. We work with our clients to find a sensible and fair fee while maintaining the highest level of representation. Please contact our office to schedule a cost-free consultation to discuss your matter further with a criminal lawyer regarding the fees for your specific case.
What will happen if I am charged with a domestic assault?
If you have been charged with domestic assault, you may be detained by police for a bail hearing. If you are released by police or on bail, you will likely have an order that requires you to abide by strict conditions that will prohibit direct or indirect contact with the complainant. Also, as part of your conditions, you may not be permitted to attend the family residence or any known place the complainant would be, along with other conditions. Such strict conditions must be abided by until the criminal charges are resolved. You will be provided with a first appearance court date and possibly a date to attend for fingerprints and photographs. It is crucial to retain a criminal lawyer at the earliest opportunity after you have been charged.
What if the complainant or alleged victim does not want to charge me or no longer wishes to proceed with the charges?
In cases of domestic assault, the complainant (alleged victim) does not decide whether the police will lay charges or whether the Crown Attorney will prosecute the charges. Essentially, a complainant cannot determine whether or not the authorities lay charges. If the police are called, the decision to lay charges solely remains at the discretion of the police.
The same is confirmed once the matter appears in court and is handled by a special domestic assault Crown Attorney. That being said, in some situations, complainants may attempt to influence the prosecutor’s decision to proceed with the prosecution, as victim input in such matters is part of the process.
Can I change my bail conditions?
Bail conditions may be changed to amend or remove a condition depending on the case’s unique facts. In domestic assault cases, most accused persons seek bail variations to contact the complainant (alleged victim) or attend the family residence. Suppose the Crown does not consent/agree to the proposed changes. In that case, the process becomes significantly more complicated as the accused person would only be left with the option of bringing a bail review before a judge in the Superior Court of Justice.
What is a Peace Bond?
A peace bond is a court order or an agreement that an accused person enters into with the court. Generally, after entering into the peace bond, the Crown Attorney withdraws the criminal charges. As part of the agreement, the accused person must abide by certain conditions, similar to bail conditions. Conditions of the peace bond include may keeping the peace and being of good behaviour, not possessing any weapons, not contacting the complainant, etc. Peace bonds are typically 12 months in length and are not considered a finding of guilt or a criminal conviction
What is the PAR program?
The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program is a counselling program designed to help participants stop their violent, abusive and controlling behaviours towards their partners. This is the court-ordered program that many individuals who are charged with domestic assault, even if it’s for the first time, are responsible for not only attending but also actively participating in the 12-session program. Every session is evaluated by instructors who will produce a report card with written comments for the Crown Attorney to review and ultimately decide how to proceed in a matter.
What is the benefit of participating in the PAR program?
There are many benefits to completing the PAR program–beyond addressing the core issues of violence and improving the quality of life for you and your loved ones, accused persons who complete the PAR program are certainly in a better position to get that bail variation, peace bond, discharge or even withdrawal they have been hoping for. It is crucial to understand that when you decide to enroll in the PAR program, you must not be late or miss any sessions and participate in a meaningful way.
How much does the PAR program cost?
There is a fee to participate in the court-approved PAR program. The court-approved service providers determine the fees based on your specific needs and financial circumstances. They generally charge on a sliding scale based on your income and the fees may be negotiated.
Is there a difference between completing the PAR program with a private service provider versus the court ordered service provider?
Yes, it is crucial to note that some private service providers who offer PAR related programs may not be court approved and that you should consult with your lawyer prior to participating in any sort of private PAR program. In some cases, the Crown Attorney may agree to allow you to complete the PAR or equivalent program through a private service provider. While these services may charge higher fees, they often have less of waiting period to enroll and offer an expedited program which can be completed in less time than the traditional 12 week program.
Please note that this article is solely for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a lawyer prior to acting or relying on any information in order to ensure the protection of your rights and interests.