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Assault Charges & Domestic Assault

Criminal law textbooks, Toronto Assault & Domestic Assault Lawyer

Assault Charges & Domestic Assault

Toronto Assault & Domestic Assault Lawyer

Assaults and assault cases take many forms. There are many different assault provisions in the Criminal Code that address conduct ranging from acts or gestures suggesting the intention to apply force to another, to acts that inflict serious bodily harm. The different types of “assault charges” include:

• Simple Assault (also known as Assault Simpliciter)
• Aggravated Assault
• Assault with a Weapon
• Assault Causing Bodily Harm
• Torture
• Assaulting a Peace Office
• Sexual Assault
• Aggravated Sexual Assault

What is an Assault?

Section 265 of the Criminal Code defines the general offence of assault. The section provides:

265. (1) A person commits an assault when

(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

The most basic type of assault is captured in section 265(1)(a). Here, an assault occurs when an individual intentionally applies force to another person without their consent. There does not have to be a finding of any injury before one can be convicted of assault. A light shove or punch, if intended, is sufficient to ground a conviction for assault.

What is Assault Causing Bodily Harm?

The charge of “assault causing bodily harm” involves an assault that meets the definition of “bodily harm” under s. 2 of the Criminal Code. Here “bodily harm” is defined as: “any hurt or injury to a person that interferes with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely transient or trifling in nature.” Charges of “assault causing bodily harm” typically involve cases where there are visible or documented injuries that are less severe.

What is an Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault charges are very serious. Section 268 of the Criminal Code defines aggravated assault and an assault who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the lift of the complainant. Aggravated assault charges are straight indictable charges, and carry a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment.

What is Domestic Assault?

The Criminal Code does not specifically contain the offence of “domestic assault.” However, Ontario Courts and Crowns treat assaults that occur in a family or domestic situation differently. Where an assault occurs in the family context, or where there is an intimate relationship between two individuals, the Crown’s Policy is to treat the matter very seriously. Certain courthouses have special teams of prosecutors that specialize in domestic assault prosecutions. Under the Crown Policy Manual, prosecutors are directed to pursue domestic assault cases aggressively, and will very rarely withdraw a domestic assault charge.

In domestic assault cases, it is common for the prosecutor or the Court, when fashioning bail conditions, to refuse to allow any form of contact between the accused and the complainant while the case is making its way through the court system. This can be especially difficult upon the family where there are children, custody issues, or where there may be the prospect of reconciliation at the end of the case.

What if the Complainant Does Not Want to Press Charges?

In assault or ‘domestic assault’ cases, the victim or complainant of the assault might initially contact the police only to later decide that they do not want to ‘press charges.” In some cases, the initial police report or 911 call may have been made in the heat of an argument, or may have been overstated. As a general rule, in a domestic assault situation, once a 911 call is made, the police will pursue the matter. In some cases, the police will even have the complainant make a sworn statement either immediately or shortly after the alleged assault before the complainant has a chance to reflect on the impact that the charges might have upon their family or relationship.

Generally, the victim or complainant cannot dictate whether the police continue their investigation, or whether the prosecutor continues with the prosecution of an assault matter. However, experience has shown the wishes of complainants may be taken into account by the Crown in particular cases. The position of the complainant might also be relevant to the Crown’s determination as to whether they still have a reasonable prospect of conviction in the matter.

Can I Change My Bail Conditions to Allow My Spouse and I to Have Contact With Each Other?

Potentially. It is the Crown’s general policy not to consent to a bail variation to allow contact between the accused and the complainant or victim while the case is ongoing. In some circumstances, the Crown may consent to a variation to allow for contact where the accused agrees to participate in any number of treatment and counseling programs, such as anger management counseling.

Moreover, the defence and the Crown may be able to come to an agreement whereby the case is resolved by way of a “peace bond.” Typically, the Crown will only consent to this type of resolution of the case where the accused agrees to participate in the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program. Where this type of agreement is reached, the Crown will typically allow for contact and communication between the parties, subject to the victim’s “written revocable consent.”

What is a Peace Bond?

A Peace Bond is a type of recognizance that may be imposed upon the accused where their actions caused the victim to fear for their personal safety. It also consists of a promise to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of time.

There are two types of peace bonds. Common Law peace bonds are not contained in the Criminal Code. Rather, a Judge has the authority to issue a peace bond where there is a reasonable apprehension of a breach of the peace. This type of peace bond is not as common.

The more common form of peace bond is known as a “section 810 peace bond.” This is because it is contained in section 810 of the Criminal Code. This type of peace bond may be issued for up to 12 months, and compels an accused to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour” during this period of time, and to follow any other conditions imposed upon them by the Judge.

Importantly, Peace Bonds are not “findings of guilt” and therefore do not result in a criminal conviction. However, entering into a peace bond does not mean that there will not be a record of the order. Local police forces, such as the Toronto Police Service, will keep their own records of peace bonds and all police interactions. This may influence the way that the police handle any future 911 calls or allegations. Second, a peace bond can appear at border crossings into the United States. Entering into a peace bond may also impact your and may limit your ability to travel. Finally, the Crown will have access to records of prior peace bonds, in the event that you find yourself before the Courts in the future.