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?
- 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.
- Sexual assault: Sexual assault is a completely different offence, despite the name. For more information about sexual assault charges visit our sexual assault page.
- 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:
- No alcohol consumption allowed
- An imposed curfew (the accused must remain at home during certain hours)
- 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:
- Contact the Crown’s office to speak to the Crown prosecutor
- 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)
- 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.