The terms assault and domestic assault are both commonly used today. If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic assault, you may be confused about what the exact charges are and potential sentences you may be facing and what the difference between domestic assault and assault may be. 

In this article, we’ll cover the difference between domestic violence and assault so you can better understand what charges you or your family member may be facing.

The Difference Between Assault and Domestic Assault

There is no specific offence in the Criminal Code for domestic assault. Domestic assault is when any of the various types of assaults within the Criminal Code occur in the context of a domestic relationship. Even though there is no distinct offence for domestic assault, criminal charges that arise in a domestic situation are considered more serious than those that arose outside domestic situations.

The legal definition of a domestic relationship is quite broad. A domestic relationship is when two people (either opposite or same sex) are in an intimate relationship whether as boyfriend/girlfriend, spouses, common law partners, children and parents, or children and legal guardian.

Is simple assault the same as domestic violence?

Someone facing domestic assault charges could be charged with simple assault, but domestic violence can also result in any number of different charges other than simple assault such as aggravated assault or assault causing bodily harm. Each case of domestic violence is unique and a particular case will result in different charges than another instance of domestic violence. We explore these charges in more detail below.

What are some of the criminal offences that can arise in the context of a domestic violence incident?

When domestic violence occurs, a person may be charged with any number of offences including: 

  • Assault
    • Section 265(1)
    • Without the consent of another person, a person 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.
  •  Assault with a weapon
    • Section 267
    • In committing an assault, a person:
    • (a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation thereof,
    • (b) causes bodily harm to the complainant, or
    • (c) chokes, suffocates or strangles the complainant.
  • Assault causing bodily harm
    • Section 267 
    • (a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of one; or
    • (b) causes bodily harm to the complainant.
  • Aggravated assault
    • Section 268 (1) 
  • Uttering threats
    • Section 264.1 (1) 
  • Criminal Harassment
    • Section 264 (1) 

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What is the sentence for domestic assault?

The sentence for domestic assault can range from a conditional discharge all the way up to 10 years imprisonment if the assault involved a weapon or caused bodily harm. Take a look at our article regarding the potential sentences for domestic assault to learn more.

Can the alleged victim withdraw domestic assault charges?

Once a domestic assault charge has been laid, only the Crown Attorney’s Office can request that the charge be withdrawn. The charge cannot be withdrawn at the alleged victim’s request. This means that once a call to the police is made and a domestic assault charge has been laid, the complainant completely loses control over the proceedings and the police and the Crown Attorney’s Office take over.

The policy of the Crown in Ontario, as highlighted in the Crown policy Manual, advises crown counsel to exercise caution when dealing with requests from the complainant to withdraw domestic violence charges as they may “be under intolerable pressure to withdraw.”

Crown Attorneys in domestic violence cases are usually knowledgeable in such criminal charges, as they are typically specialized Crowns assigned to domestic assault cases only. Furthermore, the Crown Policy Manual mandates that domestic violence cases should be prosecuted vigorously and scheduling and assigning domestic violence cases should be given priority in scheduling.

What should someone charged with domestic assault do?

If you have been charged with a domestic assault charge, it is in your best interests to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer. If you are convicted of domestic violence, you may face serious consequences such as imprisonment, fines, probation, counselling and a criminal record. 

Please contact Toronto Defence Lawyers for advice regarding your assault charges. We are happy to sit down with you to review your case and offer a free consultation. An experienced domestic assault lawyer can ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case.

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