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Assault & Domestic Violence

Have you received notice that you’ve been charged with a crime like assault or domestic violence? If the police want to talk with you about an assault or domestic violence offence it is extremely important to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer before discussing any details with the police. Contact us right away if you are waiting to speak to the police.

What is the Definition of Assault?

Assault is defined as the touching or threat of touching of another person without their consent. Charges can be laid for incidents ranging from implied verbal threats to altercations involving serious injury. For example, assault could be a bar fight, schoolyard fight, physically disciplining children, a neighbour threatening another swinging around a sharp garden tool, and more.

What are the different types of assault charges?

  1. Assault with a weapon: Everyone who, in committing an assault, carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of one. A weapon can be anything used to commit an assault, and is not limited to things we think of as weapons — for example, a shoe, fruit, coat hanger, wire, cable, rope, could all count as a weapon.
  2. Sexual assault: Sexual assault is a completely different offence, despite the name. For more information about sexual assault charges visit our sexual assault page.
  3. Aggravated assault: Everyone who wounds, maims, disfigures, or endangers the life of the complainant commits aggravated assault. The definition for different aggravated assault charges can be complex, but basically, if the assault causes breaking of the skin, a permanent injury, a broken bone, or the risk of death, it is an aggravated assault.

What is the Definition of Domestic Violence?

What makes an assault charge “domestic” is not a simple question. There is no specific charge of “domestic assault” or “domestic violence” in the Criminal Code of Canada. Instead, the domestic nature of the relationship is considered as an aggravating factor during sentencing (under section 718.2 of the Criminal Code). Many cases of assault involve domestic situations: they take place in the home or between relatives or romantic partners.

A “domestic” relationship can mean a relationship between a husband and wife, a parent and child, intimate/common-law partners, or siblings. For the purposes of sentencing, it is ultimately up to the Court to decide whether a crime is “domestic” or not. Other charges where “domestic” can be a factor include mischief to property, intimidation, unlawful confinement, and more.

It is our experience that police forces in Alberta lay charges in nearly all cases where a complaint of domestic violence has been made. Similarly, it is the policy of the Alberta Prosecution Service to prosecute these cases. However, not many of these cases reach the trial stage because they are resolved before trial by way of guilty plea or peace bond, which results in a withdrawal of charges provided the Accused enters into a court order. Sometimes the complainant does not want to proceed with the prosecution or there are evidentiary issues which mean the matter does not proceed to trial.

What Are No-Contact Conditions?

A no-contact condition means you are not allowed to communicate either directly or indirectly with the complainant. Even if the complainant makes attempts to contact you, you are unable to communicate back.

No contact conditions are usually set in place when a case is classified by Crown Prosecutors as domestic in nature. There is increased care and concern for safety in how the file is handled, prohibiting the accused from returning to the family home or workplace of the complainant. This usually means that the accused has to immediately find another place to live.

Other domestic violence bail conditions include:

  1. No alcohol consumption allowed
  2. An imposed curfew (the accused must remain at home during certain hours)
  3. No contact with children (if applicable)

Obviously, domestic violence charges can be life-altering. However, these cases are unique in that the complainant is in a relationship with the accused and often wants that relationship to continue. It is possible that with the cooperation of the complainant, conditions can be changed or lifted entirely.

Indeed, the complainant in a domestic violence case can significantly influence the process and the outcome of the prosecution. The complainant can:

  1. Contact the Crown’s office to speak to the Crown prosecutor
  2. Attend the first court date to speak with the “Nalah Centre” (a group of social workers, police, etc. that assist complainants with changing conditions on the accused and on having their wishes made known to the Crown)
  3. Speak with a lawyer like us, to have a lawyer do this work on their behalf.

As a complainant, the best option is to speak to a lawyer. Contacting the Crown directly or attending the Nalah Centre could put you at risk of incriminating yourself (in certain unique situations) or harming the interests of your partner. A lawyer can take into consideration your rights and wishes and advocate on your behalf with the Crown.

It is important for the accused to follow all conditions given to them by the police, attend all court dates, and if they are on a no-contact condition with the complainant, they must follow it — even if the complainant contacts you first. Usually, no-contact conditions include direct or indirect contact (through a 3rd party) and via phone, internet, social media, etc.

How Can I Avoid or Remove No-Contact Conditions?

In order to have no-contact conditions changed or removed, it is essential to seek out professional legal advice. A lawyer will likely be more successful in negotiating with the Crown on your behalf. They have the necessary experience to address the Court’s concerns more effectively and ensure that the conditions are appropriate to your personal circumstances.

It is not up to the complainant whether or not charges go ahead, it is the Crown and police who make those decisions. Even if the complainant asks for the charges to be dropped, the Crown may not simply withdraw the charge. It is important to receive legal advice regarding your rights and responsibilities and to follow all conditions strictly.

Possible Outcomes of Assault & Domestic Violence Cases

It is possible for charges to be withdrawn or a Peace Bond imposed, particularly in more minor cases. It is worth noting, however, that Courts do take domestic violence very seriously, and a sentence of jail time is not an uncommon result on conviction.

Looking For An Assault or Domestic Violence Lawyer in Edmonton?

If you’re facing assault or domestic violence charges of any kind, it is important to speak to a lawyer prior to the police questioning you. Contact our criminal lawyers at 780-421-7001. We will fight for you, and we get results.

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How do you prove a domestic violence case? What are some examples of proof used?
  • Domestic violence is typically prosecuted as an assault charge (or sometimes other charges like uttering threats) and is proven like any other criminal case, with admissible evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Many people don’t realize that testimony in court is evidence. All that is required to prove an assault charge is testimony from the witnesses that is believed by the judge. Corroborating evidence like photographs of injuries, medical records etc is not necessary to prove an assault charge. Sometimes text records, facebook posts and other digital evidence are also important.

Can domestic violence be between siblings?
  • Yes, sibling violence might be classified as domestic violence if it occurs in the home. Domestic violence is treated in the courts as any violent offence against an intimate partner. The Criminal Code defines an intimate partner as “current or former spouse, common-law partner and dating partner”. Another way to look at it is to ask whether the relationship involves a trust relationship or not — so parent/child for example.

Can domestic violence charges be dropped?
  • Any kind of criminal charge can be dropped if there is insufficient evidence, or no public interest in prosecuting it. When it comes to domestic violence charges specifically, these types of offences are not usually eligible for things like the Adult Alternative Measures Program (AMP), and therefore it is important to talk to a lawyer about your options.

    There are options for avoiding a criminal record through the court processes, such as stays, peace bonds, or conditional discharges that a lawyer can help you advocate for.

Will domestic violence show on a background check?
  • Any criminal conviction will show up on a criminal record check. In addition, non-criminal convictions like conditional discharges, stays, and peace bonds show up for a specified amount of time. In certain circumstances, withdrawn and dismissed charges may also show up on a vulnerable sector search criminal record check.

    If you have a specific question regarding a criminal record check it is best to contact us, as the rules are highly specific and vary depending on the location in Alberta.

What is the sentence for domestic violence or assault charge?
  • Sentences can vary widely, depending on the severity of the violence. Jail is always a possibility for a conviction for domestic violence. Sentences can vary from non-criminal resolutions, sometimes with probation and other restrictions, up to fines and lengthy jail sentences.

    If you have been charged with assault, uttering threats, or other domestic violence charges, it is best to contact us for further advice.

Can assault be verbal?
  • Yes, assault can be verbal because assault under the Criminal code does not require physical touching. For example, raising your fist at someone and threatening to hit them may be provable as an assault charge. The specific facts are important to a determination of whether the Crown can prove an assault charge, as there may be defences involved such as self-defence or circumstances of a consensual fight. We recommend you contact us to discuss your specific case.

Can assault be unintentional?
  • If an assault is accidental, then it is not a criminal offence. Like all Criminal Code offences, the Crown must prove the “guilty mind” or intention to commit the offence, beyond a reasonable doubt. The law regarding intent is broad and complex however, so it is best to speak to a lawyer to determine whether the Crown can prove the charge.

Can assault charges be dropped by the victim in Alberta?
  • In Canada, the decision to prosecute a criminal offence is generally made by the police in consultation with the Crown Prosecutor’s office. Complainants or victims of violent crimes have the right under the Victims Bill of Rights to have their wishes regarding the prosecution of an assault charge known, but the final determination regarding whether to proceed with a charge lies with the Crown.

    A lawyer can assist complainants or victims in having their wishes known to the Crown prosecutor.