Domestic assault involves any abuse or violence that occurs between individuals in an intimate or domestic relationship. This includes spouses, domestic partners, girlfriends, boyfriends, and family members. Domestic assault is not limited to acts of physical violence, it includes aggressive behaviour such as stalking.
It is a very serious offence in Canada, and those found guilty of any assault will receive a more severe penalty if that assault has taken place in a domestic context. If you believe you are a victim of domestic assault, you should call the police.
If you are facing charges involving domestic violence it is important to speak to a qualified criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible due to the serious nature of these charges and the potential severity of a sentence.
What Is Domestic Assault (Violence)?
Any allegation of assault that occurs between spouses, an intimate partner, or even a family member is considered “domestic assault.” Domestic assault, or domestic violence, involves harmful behaviour that is designed to control an intimate partner or family member. These behaviours can include physical abuse, coercion, threats, sexual abuse, and economic abuse. While “domestic assault” doesn’t exist as a singular charge, the domestic nature of another offence is what makes it a domestic assault and it is considered an “aggravating factor” during sentencing for those found guilty.
In order to successfully convict an accused of domestic violence, a Crown prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that,
- That the accused directly or indirectly applied force to the complainant without consent; and
- That the application of force was intentional through the use of words or actions, or the accused threatened to apply force to the complainant, and had the ability to carry out the threat or the accused accosted or begged the complainant while holding a weapon
This final requirement speaks to the fact that domestic assault is not limited to acts of physical violence, but includes other aggressive behaviours.
It is important for everyone to be able to identify domestic violence and know that domestic assault charges are treated very seriously in Canada. There are several reasons for this,
- Domestic abuse is widespread in Canada;
- Domestic abuse can have devastating impacts on children; and
- There is a high risk that domestic violence will escalate if it is not dealt with quickly and effectively.
Types of Domestic Assault and Battery
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, there does not exist one distinct charge for domestic assault. Rather, most actions that would be considered domestic violence are prohibited in Canada under various sections of the Criminal Code. This means that while a person will not be arrested and charged with domestic assault, they may be arrested and charged with crimes such as the following:
A person commits an assault when,
- They intentionally apply force to another person, directly or indirectly, without their consent;
- They attempt or threaten, by act or gesture, to apply force to another person, or cause the other person to believe on reasonable ground that they have the ability to apply force; or
- They accost or beg the other person while holding a weapon.
Assault causing bodily harm (s. 267)
While committing an assault, a person (1) carries, uses, or threatens to use a weapon, (2) causes bodily harm, or (3) chokes, suffocates or strangles another person.
Aggravated assault (s. 268)
An assault that wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of another person.
Sexual assault (s. 271)
An assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of another person.
Uttering threats (s. 264.1)
Anyone who knowingly, in any manner, utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat to (1) cause death or bodily harm to any person, (2) burn, destroy or damage real or personal property, or (3) kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person, can be found guilty.
Criminal harassment (s. 264)
Conduct that causes the other person to reasonably fear for their safety, or the safety of anyone they know, given all the circumstances. This conduct includes,
- Repeated, unwanted communication
- Watching places a person frequents
- Engaging in any directed threatening conduct
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Assault?
Being convicted of domestic assault can result in a variety of penalties including,
- A prison sentence as per section 266 of the Criminal Code. The maximum jail sentence for domestic assault and domestic violence is:
- Five years if no weapon was involved;
- Ten years if a weapon was involved;
- Ten years if you caused bodily harm;
- Ten years if you choked, suffocated, or strangled the other person;
- Fourteen years if you wound, maim, disfigure or endanger the life of the other person.
- A suspended prison sentence (no time spent in jail but you must abide by conditions under a term of probation)
- A conditional sentence (a jail sentence served in the community, like house arrest, with strict conditions)
- Restitution (an amount to be paid to the victim as compensation for the harm caused)
- A criminal record
- Order for your DNA
- A weapons prohibition order
The type of sentence you receive will depend on the specific facts of your situation. A sentence can become more or less severe based on the nature and context of the domestic assault. A skilled lawyer will be able to help identify any possible mitigating factors that may reduce any potential sentence.
The potential consequences of being convicted of domestic assault are not limited to those ordered by a judge. Having a conviction of domestic assault on a criminal record can limit future employment opportunities, cause irreparable reputational harm, strain personal relationships, and even impact any family court proceedings an accused is involved.
However, it is possible to negotiate sentencing options with the Crown prosecutor to avoid a criminal record or ensure an accused’s freedom is minimally restrained. It is important that if you’re facing domestic assault charges you speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer to assist you in navigating these charges.
Finding Help With Defending A Sexual Assault Charge
If you believe you are a victim of domestic violence it is important to do what you can to remove yourself from the situation and contact the police. There exist resources to assist victims of domestic violence including Ontario Legal Aid, which has a 24/7 domestic abuse hotline, and the Ontario Victim Services hotline available for those seeking shelter from domestic violence in the Toronto area.
If you yourself have been accused of domestic violence, it is important you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to provide guidance and assist in having charges reduced or dropped. In situations where charges cannot be reduced, a lawyer will fight for your rights in court and will work to get you a sentence which provides you with the most freedom possible. Potential defences include demonstrating that the complainant consented or that your actions were in self-defence. While it is important to take each accusation of domestic violence seriously, a criminal defence lawyer knows that every report has two sides and they will work to ensure that the truth of the matter comes out in court.
It is strongly recommended that if you are facing domestic assault charges you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. The team at Pyzer Criminal Lawyers is skilled at navigating these types of charges. They will be able to help you determine all your options and achieve the best possible result. For a free evaluation of your case call 416-658-1818 or visit our website at https://www.torontodefencelawyers.com/