Domestic violence charges have the power to turn peoples’ lives upside down, especially when the complainant is their long-time partner or when they have children together. On top of the stress and stigma attached to the accusation itself, the conditions imposed (moving into a new apartment, prohibiting communication, etc.) can upend lives and often add insult to injury. 

We know that most people faced with domestic violence charges want their lives to go back to the way they were and that it can often feel as though the duration of the ordeal alone is a punishment. It can feel particularly frustrating when the complexity of a long-standing relationship is reduced down to words on a police report that are devoid of context and that paint only one side as an aggressor. We understand that there are two sides to every story and we’re committed to fighting for you.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged with a Domestic Violence Offence

Remain Silent and Speak to a Lawyer

If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence offence, it is absolutely vital that you exercise your right to consult with a lawyer immediately. More importantly, you should invoke your right to remain silent, and refrain from incriminating yourself by making any statements to the police.

You should not be providing any evidence to the police that can (and will) later be used against you at trial.

The role of the police officer is not to be judge and jury; they are not there to hear your side of the story and evaluate it on its merits. Their role is to gather evidence of the crime that they’re investigating with the goal of aiding the prosecutor in securing a conviction. Therefore, you should not be discussing this matter with anyone other than your lawyer.

Mentally Prepare Your Defence

Generally speaking, if you have a good recollection about the events in question, it is usually a good idea that you reflect upon your version of events, and especially take note of:

  • Potential witnesses who can corroborate your account
  • Text messages exchanged (or any evidence that may be useful down the line)
  • Evidence regarding your whereabouts that can provide an alibi
  • Injuries that you may have

STEP INTO OUR OFFICE

UNDERSTANDING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENCES AND WHAT TO EXPECT

What is domestic violence?

While domestic violence is not a particular crime within the Criminal Code, it essentially entails any violent offence against an intimate partner. Domestic violence charges typically takes the form of: assault (s. 266), assault with a weapon (s. 267(a)), assault causing bodily harm (s. 267(b)), choking (s. 267(c)), aggravated assault (s. 268), uttering threats (s. 264.1), forcible confinement (s. 279(2)), criminal harassment (264(1)), etc.

What happens if you breach your conditions?

If you fail to follow your conditions, you could be arrested for breach of conditions and given additional charges; this could result in you even being detained pending trial or viewed as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Can my conditions be modified?

If the complainant wants your conditions changed and/or there has been a material change in circumstances since your initial arrest so as to render your current conditions either oppressive or obsolete, you can certainly attempt to have your conditions modified. This can be done either with the consent of the prosecutor or by an application to the Superior Court.

What happens if I’m convicted of a domestic violence offence?

Section 718.2(a)(ii) of the Criminal Code explicitly lists domestic violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing, making lenient sentences more difficult to obtain (although, not impossible). While there are no mandatory minimum sentences for assault (so discharges are available), the sentencing directives tend to act as de facto mandatory minimums, as serious or lengthy instances of domestic violence can result in harsher sentences.

What defences are available for domestic violence offences?

Generally speaking, given the nature of the allegations, the most common defences in this context are that the events in question never took place (they were fabricated by the complainant) or that you were acting in self-defence.

I’ve been charged with a sexual offence, how can this file be resolved?

The method of resolution for domestic violence files will almost entirely depend on your relationship and future with the complainant. Given the extremely messy (and often traumatic) nature of a domestic violence trial, we try to resolve these files via negotiation virtually every time.

Facing criminal charges in Montreal or surrounding areas? Contact us now—we’re here to help!

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