Any person charged with domestic assault should know that Canada takes domestic violence very seriously. Domestic assault cases are a widespread problem in Canada, and they have devastating impacts on victims. Moreover, there is statistical evidence that shows that domestic violence is likely to escalate without prosecution and tough sentences. However, first time offenders may avoid a criminal record and jail time, depending on the circumstances of their criminal offence.
In British Columbia, as elsewhere in Canada, domestic assault charges can carry severe punishments. If you are facing domestic assault charges in British Columbia, an experienced domestic violence lawyer in Surrey, BC can help you navigate the legal process, ensure your rights are protected, and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
About Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is a form of assault taken seriously by the Crown. The Canadian Criminal Code doesn’t define family violence specifically, but violence against a current or former spouse, intimate partner, dating partner, or other family members that involves bodily harm or sexual assault may involve a sentence that involves a lengthy prison term. The Criminal Code labels any violence against an intimate partner as an aggravating factor on sentence. That means an assault against a partner is likely to be punished much more severely than an assault against a stranger.
While certain assault cases may result in an absolute or conditional discharge, depending on the severity of the accusations, domestic assault charges could lead to substantial jail time.
The Criminal Code and Assault
The Crown can proceed in two ways when prosecuting assault charges. First, Crown counsel may proceed by summary conviction. Summary matters are considered less serious criminal proceedings. Second, Crown counsel can proceed by indictment, which is reserved for serious criminal charges. Criminal assault charges that involve aggravated assault, serious bodily harm, and sexual assault typiclaly involve proceed by indictment and can involve jail time and considerable fines.
The Crown can impose the following sentences on someone found guilty of domestic assault:
- Absolute or conditional discharge: the individual is found guilty, but does not result in a conviction, a criminal record or jail time.
- Suspended sentence: the accused will be placed on a period of probation and get a criminal record.
- Fine: the individual will have to pay a fine and get a criminal record.
- Conditional Sentence Order: A serious sentence that is often considered “jail in the community”. The sentence often involves house arrest and other very serious conditions.
- Jail time: A person may face days, months or years in jail. Often short jail sentences will be followed with a probation order, which places the individual on court ordered conditions for up to three additional years.
- Intermittent sentence: A type of jail sentence in which the individual physically reports to a prison and serves their sentence on the weekends. This type of sentence is only applicable to jail sentences of 90 days or less.
- Maximum punishment: the maximum punishment, according to the criminal code, for indicted assault charges involves up to five years prison time. A summary conviction may result in a six-month custodial term or a $5,000 fine. Aggravated assault cases involve steeper sentences–up to 14 years in prison.
One of the most important aspects to understand about the Canadian Criminal justice system and domestic violence charges, is that the charges cannot be withdrawn by the complainant. While their views might be taken into account, once there are charges the Crown can legally proceed with the matter even if the accused’s partner no longer wants criminal charges. This is particularly the case when the criminal offences involve bodily harm, aggravated assault, or sexual assault.
Upon being charged with domestic assault, it is very common that court ordered conditions will be imposed that prevent you from having any contact with your partner and potentially your children. A conviction can also result in court ordered conditions that you have no contact with your partner. A criminal record will also impact their employment, volunteering, and educational opportunities as well as potential travel outside of the country. For non-citizens, a criminal conviction can have devastating impacts on their status in Canada.
First Time Offender and Domestic Assault
If you are facing an assault charge for domestic violence, you need a criminal defence lawyer to support you, helping you navigate the legal process, understand sentences you may face if convicted, and defend you against the Crown’s prosecution.
An experienced criminal defence lawyer may be able to negotiate with the Crown to vary the conditions of your bail to allow you to have contact with your family. Defence counsel may also be able to resolve the matter without a trial with minimal consequences to you such as enrollment in a counselling program (i.e. domestic violence programs or substance abuse treatment).
Your lawyer’s advice will depend on the individual circumstances of your case, including previous domestic violence cases and the nature of the domestic assault–not to mention the particular domestic assault charges brought by the Crown.
Legal Help for a Charge Related to Domestic Assault
Jaswal & Krueger can provide you with a knowledgeable and skilled defence counsel if you are facing domestic assault charges. If you are a first-time offender, you may achieve a lighter sentence, but it’s crucial to have legal support with criminal law expertise and experience in domestic assault charges.
If you’ve been charged with domestic assault, contact our law firm as soon as possible to consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your domestic violence case. We are tenacious in our efforts to support our clients throughout their legal process. We will do our utmost to defend our clients against criminal conviction or negotiate on their behalf for lighter sentencing.