Domestic assault laws

You might be surprised to learn specific offences categorized as “Domestic assault,” “spousal abuse,” “intimate partner violence,” or “domestic violence” in Ontario are not defined by Canada’s Criminal Code. Instead, our legal system addresses domestic violence cases under the purview of the Code’s Sections 265-268 (1) definition of assault.

We trust this does not make you ask, “Is domestic violence a crime,” because it very much is, and police and the courts take a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to domestic abuse in Ontario. Police automatically arrest anyone for domestic assault charges based on accusation or the slightest evidence. Crown prosecutors aggressively prosecute those arrested on domestic abuse charges. And judges will factor any domestic relations in the context of an assault as an aggravating factor that requires handing down harsher punishment than a similar, non-domestic assault.

Thus, if you’ve been arrested for domestic violence and are wondering how to get domestic assault charges dropped in Ontario, secure the services of an experienced domestic abuse lawyer. Read on to learn how our legal system addresses domestic assault and what to expect if you’re arrested for the offence.

Domestic Assault in Context with the Criminal Code

While an arrest for domestic assault is charged as a Criminal Code Section 265-268 (1) offence, police and the courts will characterize it as “intimate partner violence,” which has become the preferred governmental term for domestic abuse. From a legal standpoint, an intimate partner is anyone the offender has or had a close, personal relationship with. This is characterized by an emotional connection, ongoing physical contact, living together, or sexual relations. Thus, spouses, ex-spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, ex-girlfriends and boyfriends, partners, sexual partners, and friends with benefits are intimate partners. The intimate nature of the relationship plays a role in the legal handling of the assault, from the initial police response to the disposition of the case by the courts and even after depending on any relevant court orders.

Section 265 of the Criminal Code defines the lowest level of assault as:

  • Direct or indirect application of intentional force against another person without their consent.
  • An attempt or threat by act or gesture to apply force to another person if the alleged victim reasonably believes that the offender can commit the action.
  • Accosting or impeding someone while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or imitation of one.

The punishment on conviction for this level of assault ranges from probation to five years imprisonment. Few first-time assault offenders receive prison time, but when it’s a domestic assault conviction, the aggravating factor comes into play. Judges are more likely to add conditions to the sentence — probation or otherwise — that can include no-contact orders, not drinking alcohol, and taking anger management and/or substance abuse counselling.

The higher-level Section 267 assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm and Section 268 (1) aggravated assault offences carry harsher penalties that max out at 14 years imprisonment. Those convicted often face prison time, especially with the aggravating factor of an intimate partner’s involvement.

Whatever level of assault, a conviction comes with a life-changing criminal record. Thus, you should always consult with a skilled domestic assault defence lawyer if you’re facing charges.

What Happens If I’m Arrested for Domestic Assault in Ontario?

If you’re arrested on domestic assault charges in Ontario, police will first bring you to the police station for processing. Based on the level of assault, they will either release you after processing or hold you for a bail hearing. Police usually release most first-time, low-level assault offenders. However, with domestic assault, the release is generally conditioned on not having contact with the alleged victim. Higher-level assault offenders are typically held in custody unless they can secure interim release at their bail hearing.

Your Rights If Arrested for Domestic Assault

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides you two distinct rights that you should avail yourself if arrested. They are:

  • The right to keep silent — though you should provide police with basic information like name, address, and date of birth. If you choose to speak to the police, anything you say can be used as evidence against you.
  • The right to speak to a lawyer — police must inform you of this right upon your arrest and offer you a telephone to contact one or refer you to free legal services.

Potential Outcomes for Those Arrested for Domestic Assault

We’ve already highlighted the worst-case outcome for a domestic assault arrest — conviction and imprisonment. An experienced criminal defence lawyer can usually secure a much more favourable outcome, especially for first-time, lower-level assaults. These include:

  • Dropped charges
  • Withdrawn charges with a peace bond
  • Reduced charges
  • Pre-trial Diversion
  • Suspended sentence
  • Absolute discharge
  • Conditional discharge

If the police have charged you with domestic assault, secure skilled legal representation from the Vilkhov Law defence lawyers in Barrie, Newmarket, Mississauga and the Greater Toronto area. For expert defence on your domestic assault charges, contact us for a free, confidential consultation.

By |2024-05-01T15:34:23+00:00April 28th, 2024|Domestic Assault|

5/5 - (3 votes)

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Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
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