If you have been charged with domestic assault, you must contact an experienced domestic assault lawyer as soon as possible to discuss this very serious charge.
Being charged with domestic assault is a terrible and traumatic experience for anyone, but the stress involved in these cases is magnified when the alleged victim is your spouse.
Police and Crown Attorneys are directed to apply a rigorous “zero tolerance” approach to allegations of domestic violence. Even when the complaining spouse does not want to see charges laid or requests to have charges and bail conditions dropped, prosecutors are often extremely reluctant to agree. Although domestic assault counseling programs are often recommended by Crown prosecutors in exchange for leniency and improved bail terms, defendants are usually required to enter early guilty pleas to avail themselves of these options. A domestic assault lawyer will review the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
We can connect your spouse with an independent lawyer to advise them on their options while referring you to respected counseling programs that can help smooth the path to a withdrawal of the charges. When settlement is not an option, our domestic assault lawyers have the sensitivity, training, and skills to ensure that your case is meticulously prepared and scrupulously defended.
Domestic assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon another person who you are either currently or formerly in a relationship with. This includes dating, common law, and marriage.
In Canada, police are responsible for laying domestic assault charges and Crown attorneys prosecute them.
While domestic violence is unfortunately a common charge, it has dangerous consequences and puts individuals and families in a vulnerable situation. Because of this, Crown attorneys will usually decide that is in the public interest to proceed with the case even if you want the charges dropped.
Domestic assault is a very serious charge and requires you speaking with an experienced criminal lawyer to discuss your case.
Once the report of domestic violence is received, the police will be dispatched. Even if another party or the same party calls back to say it was a mistake or that nothing happened, the call will be followed up by the police.
When they arrive, the police will separate people and begin their investigation. In our experience, it’s very unusual for them to question anyone other than the person who they think is the “victim” of the domestic violence. There is, in Ontario, a zero tolerance policy regarding domestic assault. If an allegation of domestic assault has been made, police must lay a charge and Crown Prosecutors must prosecute the charge. Once the charge is laid and the arrest is made, in the vast majority of domestic assault cases, the police will not exercise their discretion to release the person without a bail hearing.
Normally, the police determine whether this is a kind of offence that requires that a person be held in custody for a bail hearing. For most simple criminal offenses and for most first offenders, police officers will typically either release a person directly from the scene after having given them effectively a summons to come to court, or they will bring them back to the police station, request that they sign some additional documents known as an undertaking with some fairly simplistic conditions on them and then release that person again later that evening.
However, the domestic assault system includes a policy that removes almost all discretion from the arresting police officers and indicates that a person charged with a domestic violence offense should always be held for a bail hearing. The effective consequence is that, at the very least, the accused is going to be spending one night in jail. Unless this incident occurs very early in the morning and by some miracle the accused is brought to court on time that day, he is most likely going to be spending one night in jail. He will have a limited opportunity to call his lawyer and probably no opportunity to call family members or a friend.
We advise all persons charged with criminal offenses, including domestic assault, not to give any statement to the police. They have a right to silence and they should exercise it. The police are going to charge someone at the scene and speaking to them will not change what is going to happen after a domestic assault charge. It is to the person’s benefit to stay silent.
Another issue is to be in a position to document, as much as possible, what occurred in the incident. For example, if there is a history where the accused has actually been the victim of domestic assault violence on many occasions in the past, those incidents would be documented by previous calls to the police. Or, if there were no calls to the police, they could be documented by reports to physicians that there were physical injuries. Or there might be the statements of other family members. The accused should gather this material very early on to show the history behind this particular scenario.
If there is a Family Law Court case and there is some acrimony involved in that, the accused should gather together those Family Law papers and advise the family lawyer, in addition to any criminal counsel of what has happened.
If accused persons suffer any injuries during the assault, it is very important that they indicate those injuries to the police immediately and demand that they be documented and, ideally, photographed. If the police decline to do that, we advise people as soon as they are released from custody, to go and have an independent third party photograph the injury and also go to a doctor’s office in order to get them treated and documented. Injuries need to be photographed when they are at their most serious. Days later after they have partly healed, the photographs won’t show the severity of the injury or be taken with as great a weight by the court. If they have photos that the police have been asked to take showing that they were freshly injured, that goes a long way towards bolstering their credibility and indicate that they weren’t the aggressors in whatever scenario has resulted in these charges.
Domestic assault charges apply in any case where a person is alleged to have assaulted someone that they have a spousal relationship with. This clearly applies to husbands and wives (even if they are separated and not living together) but can also include boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, same-sex relationships, common law marriages, and any relationship where a couple shares a child. The crown attorney and police treat domestic assault allegations very seriously and apply a zero tolerance approach to their enforcement and prosecution. Once a spouse has called police to report an assault, no amount of explaining or pleading will prevent a charge from being laid. In almost every case, the spouse alleged to have committed the domestic assault will be arrested, held for a bail hearing, and not be permitted to return to the family home or have any contact with the other spouse and children, until after the trial is completed. These harsh actions will be taken even if the complaining spouse later claims that nothing happened and even if he / she does not want to ‘press charges’. Crowns will not drop these charges nor will they consent to conditions allowing the family to get back together. In domestic assault cases it is vital that you retain a good criminal lawyer immediately. In many cases, it is wise for both spouses (even the one not charged with the offence) to hire a criminal lawyer. Our Toronto domestic assault lawyers have a wealth of experience conducting bail hearings and trials for people in these difficult circumstances. Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman Criminal Law Firm has had great success convincing Judges and Justices of the Peace to allow families to live together for the many months it takes for a case to come to trial in our backlogged justice system.
Articles on Domestic Assault Law – By Edward Prutschi
Domestic Assault Podcasts
A domestic assault lawyer will make every effort to answer your questions promptly and personally – you will not be shuffled around through layers of staff. When our domestic assault lawyers are in court, our office staff will respond to your concerns immediately and professionally. Bytensky Shikhman welcomes the opportunity to be your Toronto Criminal Lawyer. Don’t waste time, call now to consult with us.
The partners and lawyers at Bytensky Shikhman Barristers are regularly called upon by the media to provide commentary and legal opinion. Mr. Bytensky and Ms. Shikhman are the official legal analysts for CTV News and Newstalk 1010.
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If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic assault, you are invited to contact us to arrange for an initial client interview.
One of our experienced domestic assault lawyers will sit down with you to discuss your case.