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How A Criminal Defence Lawyer in Vancouver Can Help Clear Up Domestic Assault Charges Part I: What is Domestic Assault?

Posted on July 18, 2012

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In Canada, assault is considered to be: the use of force or threat of force against another person. Assault is considered to be “domestic” when the parties involved are either in a romantic or familial relationship. In general, most domestic assault charges occur between two members of a romantic relationship (husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend) but domestic assault can also include assaults against parents, children and other family members. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, Section cc. 266., everyone who commits an assault is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction. This means that depending on the circumstances of the charge, a guilty plea to these charges may result in a criminal record or jail time. Often, your best course of action is to immediately contact a Vancouver Criminal Defence Lawyer to help you determine the particulars of your case, and help you plan a course of action to help you avoid both a criminal record and/or jail time.

Domestic assault charges usually arise when either a victim or well-meaning friend or neighbour calls 911 in response to signs of an argument. In these cases, it doesn’t matter if there is actually nothing more than an argument going on, the police can and will arrest a person based solely on the word of a victim, even if no physical evidence such as injuries are present. Due to the risks involved in domestic abuse cases if the abuser is left with the victim, most of the time the person accused of domestic violence is forced to spend at least one night in jail until their bail hearing. The most important thing to remember in this situation is that you should not say anything to the police beyond a simple and direct denial and ask to contact a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer immediately. Remember: the police are not your friends in this situation, they are trying to find evidence to use against you, so not saying anything and immediately contacting a lawyer is your safest course of action.

During the bail hearing, depending on the circumstances (such as whether the person has a history of domestic assault) the judge can keep the perpetrator in jail until the matter is completely resolved in court, or they can release them on bail. Being released on bail comes with (often strict) conditions which can include:

  • Restriction from contacting immediate family
  • Bans from home or family
  • Restrictions on alcohol or non-prescription consumption
  • Restrictions on possession of weapons
  • Restraining orders

In most cases, once a complaint has been filed, it is no longer up to the victim to decide whether to press charges. This is because in many cases victims have been found to drop the charges out of fear of their abuser, resulting in ongoing domestic violence. While this may not be the case in your situation, the Crown takes no chances and prosecutes all domestic assault charges where there is enough evidence to make a conviction possible.

Come back for the second part of this post on how a Vancouver lawyer can help you avoid jail time and/or a criminal record by using their expertise to help defend you against domestic assault charges.