Domestic violence is a crime that sadly cuts through all social, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds. Though rates of abuse are higher for certain income levels or ethnic backgrounds (for example, indigenous women are more at risk than others), anyone, man or woman, can be a victim. British Columbia’s rate of domestic assault charges is much higher than our nation’s average, and we applaud the efforts of our province’s Provincial Domestic Violence Plan launched in 2014 to make the homes of our citizens safer.

It is challenging for police to navigate the complex terrain of domestic violence. Sometimes, quick decisions are made in an effort to keep the household safe and resolve the situation, but errors in judgement ensue as a result. Here are some frequent questions that our clients ask regarding domestic violence in BC.

Q: What is the maximum penalty for a domestic violence charge?

A: The penalty will vary greatly depending on the charge; however, the maximum penalty under the Criminal Code of Canada is 5 years imprisonment for assault. There are also varying penalties in the way of fines or probation. This should only serve as a guide, though, since the details of your charge will ultimately determine the sentence.

Q: What charges can be considered domestic assault?

A: Violence against a partner or spouse is never cut and dry. There are a lot of very complicated and nuanced variables that come into play, including family, children, hidden details, and the participant’s histories. The most common charges that will fall into this category are common assault, threats of violence, and forced confinement.

Q: Can I be unfairly charged with domestic assault?

A: Yes, it is possible. We’ve found that a common scenario our clients find themselves in is when there is a form of dispute between them and their partner, and either the partner or a family member contacts the police to calm the situation down, only to see the police take a “no nonsense” approach to the matter (an approach we fully understand—this is a serious crime and police have no prior knowledge of what is actually occurring inside, so they must assume the worst). It isn’t unheard of for a person to be taken to the police station only to find out that they’ve been charged with a crime, can’t go home, and can’t contact their partner, even if the partner or spouse doesn’t want to continue with the charges.

In the end, the major question that all of our clients have is how a BC domestic violence lawyer can help them deal with the justice system. The goal of any attorney is to represent their client with their full rights within the law, and that means helping to defend them in court, if necessary, or negotiate a lighter sentence than proposed by the Crown.

Often, a lawyer can even have your charges dropped. A criminal record will affect your life long after you’ve served your sentence, so coming in for your free consultation with our lawyers is the best move for anyone who is dealing with this serious charge.