One of the first questions a client asks when charged with a criminal offence is if there is any way that they could “get” a peace bond. Of course, in some cases and in most cases of domestic assault, the peace bond is a positive outcome. The charge is withdrawn. The accused avoids a criminal record. Life returns to normal.
In some cases, the parties have reconciled. Often, the relationships that gave rise to the allegations, cannot survive the test of bail orders restricting contact and the fact that the complainant made the accusation to the police.
In this article, we’ll discuss peace bonds and outline what a peace bond is and how an accused might be able to avoid a criminal charge through the peace bonds process.
What is a peace bond in Canada?
Sometimes referred to colloquially as a restraining order, a peace bond is distinct from a restraining order and is issued by a justice of the peace in a Criminal Court. A restraining order, on the other hand, is issued in the context of a Family Court proceeding.
A peace bond is a court order issued under section 810 of the Criminal Code. A peace bond is issued in circumstances in which an individual appears likely to commit a criminal offence, but for which there are no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has actually been committed.
A peace bond may be ordered by a criminal court with the condition that the individual keep the peace and maintain good behaviour for up to one year and impose restrictions on an individual in order to prevent the defendant from committing harm to the person, their spouse or common-law partner, their child, or from committing damage their property.
What conditions can a peace bond contain?
A peace bond issued by a court may contain conditions such as:
- The defendant agrees to keep the peace and be on good behaviour for no more than 12 months;
- The defendant is forbidden from having weapons;
- The defendant must stay away from the person’s home;
- The defendant does not contact the person or their spouse, common-law partner, or child;
- The defendant must abstain from the consumption of non-prescription drugs and alcohol;
- Any other conditions the Court considers desirable to ensure the good conduct of the defendant.
In issuing a peace bond, a could may also order any reasonable conditions to the recognizance that the justice or court considers desirable to secure the good conduct of the defendant.
Failing to enter into or abide by the conditions of a peace bond may result in charges.
Does a peace bond appear on a criminal record?
A peace bond does not appear on your record after it has expired, however, a breach of a peace bond may result in charges and a case being brought against a person. The peace bond will also appear on a criminal record check when it is in force.
As well, certain background checks could reveal the peace bond beyond this period, so it’s important for an accused to obtain legal advice before they sign a peace bond.
What happens if a peace bond is breached?
If the conditions of a peace bond are breached, this can result in criminal charges and a criminal record for the accused. Section 811 of the Criminal Code outlines that a person found guilty of a breach of recognizance may be subject to a penalty of up to four years imprisonment if the Crown proceeds by way of indictment, or on summary conviction for up to 6 months imprisonment.
As well, if a peace bond is breached, the court and the justice of the peace could go after any monies pledged during the peace bonds process by the defendant.
When a person is required to enter into a peace bond, it is important that they understand all of the terms as failing to do so could result in a criminal offence being committed.
How long does a peace bond last?
A peace bond may be issued by a court for a period of time of up to 12 months. If the threat persists beyond this one year period, a court may reissue the peace bond beyond this period of time. When you sign a peace bond, it’s important to understand the conditions and duration of the peace bond.
How often are peace bonds granted?
In the present criminal justice system, peace bonds are very hard to obtain in the context of a domestic assault allegation. In some jurisdictions, it is almost impossible to obtain a peace bond prior to a trial date.
On the trial date, where the prosecutor is of the view that the evidence in support of the allegation is not strong enough for a court to convict, the client may be offered a peace bond. The nastier the allegation, the more likely that the prosecutor is going to let the court make the call rather than be criticized later if the peace bond creates a controversy.
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In what kinds of cases are peace bonds available?
Generally speaking, a peace bond is only available in the most minor cases. Threats of violence without any violence, or history of violence, may qualify, This is especially true if the allegation is of a “he said she said” nature, and unsupported by corroborative evidence. In these cases, the prosecution is aware of the fact that a conviction is unlikely.
A peace bond may also be available if the nonconsensual touching is viewed as very minor, and there is no history of violence between the parties. A push. Sometimes a slap. The fact that the accused has some indication of bruising can also be a factor which may influence a prosecutor to exercise their discretion to agree to a peace bond. The accused’s bruises would advance his defence that the complainant was the aggressor and he was acting in self-defence.
An accused must consent to enter into a peace bond, generally in exchange for the charges against them being withdrawn. This means that while they do not admit the allegations that are against them they do not wish to contest the facts. A defence lawyer and the Crown will negotiate the terms of the bond, with the lawyer seeking the least restrictive terms for the accused by the court. Ultimately, it's up to a judge and the court to determine whether a peace bond is an appropriate resolution to the charge.
However, a peace bond hearing could also be conducted in which the court orders that the accused enter into a peace bond.
If a peace bond is not granted, how do cases typically proceed?
In domestic assault cases, most courthouses in the Greater Toronto area have one or two domestic assault court days wherein those individuals charged with domestic assault-related offences appear. Individuals charged with domestic assault are generally offered a quick exit from the justice system. Where there is no history of domestic violence, and so long as there is no significant injury to the complainant, the average accused person is offered a conditional discharge (a guilty plea which is not technically a criminal record).
The bail is varied to allow the parties to reconcile (with the complainant’s written consent). After the person completes the four-month one night per week Partner Assault Response Spousal programme (anger management in a spousal context), they are placed on Probation.
What should a person charged with an offence do?
If you or someone in your family is facing criminal charges, or you’re wondering whether you should enter into a peace bond, your first step should be to obtain legal advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer. Receiving the right legal advice and representation can mean the difference between a conviction and a much better outcome for your case. While a peace bond is typically favourable, if an accused can prove their innocence, it may be better to proceed with the case rather agreeing to a peace bond.
At Toronto Defence Lawyers, we are well informed, experienced, and familiar with the circumstances underlying a section 810 peace bond and the court system. We will review your case and advise you on what steps we would recommend based on our experience. We can’t promise that we can have you enter into a peace bond, but we can advance a strong argument that one should be available in the particular circumstances of your case.