What are the Potential Sentences for a Domestic Assault Charge?

August 7, 2021

As experienced domestic assault lawyers, we see that domestic assault and sexual assault charges are very common in our practice. Domestic assault and intimate partner charges are so common that there are, in fact, specialized courts that address criminal offences stemming from domestic violence incidents. These domestic matters are held together on specific days at specific times at Domestic Courts in downtown Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.

Domestic violence cases are serious and an individual facing these charges needs to find an experienced lawyer who understands domestic violence law to obtain the best outcomes in the case. In this article, we'll describe what sentences may be imposed in a domestic violence case and what an accused or one of their family members should do if they are facing domestic violence charges.

See Also: Domestic Assault Lawyers Toronto

What is the sentence for domestic assault?

Depending on the nature of the assault, such as a sexual assault or an assault with a weapon, the sentence could be an absolute discharge, all the way up to 10 years jail time if the assault involved a weapon or caused bodily harm. Sentences for domestic assault are dealt with under Section 265 and 266 of the Canadian Criminal Code. When an individual is facing domestic assault charges, it will appear simply as an assault charge.

The sentence imposed depends on whether the Crown decides to proceed by way of summary conviction or by indictment.

Let's review these two options:

Domestic Charge By Way of Summary Conviction

Summary convictions are generally reserved for more minor assault cases. The Crown attorney may opt to proceed by summary conviction as the trial may be less complex and the charge can be dealt with in a faster way. You cannot be fingerprinted for a summary conviction offence, and the Crown must file charges within 6 months of the alleged offence if they are proceeding by summary conviction.

Unless a different penalty is specified, a charge proceeded by summary conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or six months' jail time or both.

Domestic Charge By Way of Indictment

An indictable offence is more serious than a summary conviction offence. Conviction of an indictable offence exposes you to greater penalties.

If the Crown proceeds by indictment the sentence for the individual found guilty of domestic assault ranges from a minimum sentence of an absolute discharge to a maximum sentence of a five-year custodial jail sentence.

If you are prosecuted by indictment, you are entitled to a trial by jury or a trial by judge alone.

What is the minimum sentence for assault in Canada?

If an accused is found guilty of assault, the minimum sentence that can be imposed is an absolute or conditional discharge This is a finding of guilt without a criminal record for the accused.

All Available Sentences for Domestic Assault

The below sentences can be imposed on a charge related to assault, whether the Crown has proceeded by way of indictment or by way of summary conviction:

  • Discharge (absolute or conditional)- a finding of guilt without a criminal record for the accused.
  • Suspended sentence- a sentence given that the accused person is not required to serve, the implementation of the sentence is order suspended by the trial judge .
  • Fine alone- a criminal record and a monetary fine that the accused must pay.
  • Fine, probation, prison- a monetary fine, a length of a prison sentence and a length of probation to be served following the prison sentence.
  • Prison and probation- a length of a prison sentence and a length of probation following the custodial sentence.
  • Prison and fine – a prison sentence is served and a monetary fine is imposed, but no probation for the accused following their prison sentence.
  • Intermittent sentence- a prison sentence served over the weekends
  • Fine, probation and intermittent- a prison sentence served on the weekends, with probation following and a monetary fine imposed as well.
  • Victim surcharge- once found guilty of a crime all individuals are subject to a victim fine surcharge.
  • Conditional Sentence: house arrest, a sentence served within the community.
  • Maximum Punishment: Indictment: 5-year prison term, Summary: 6-month custodial term or $5000 fine.

It is always in the best interest of an accused person facing a domestic charge or any other criminal charge to do everything that they can to avoid a finding of guilt and the consequences that accompany a conviction.

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General Consequences of a Criminal Record:

Not only does a criminal record carry a number of negative consequences for the accused, with domestic assault cases there can be additional conditions imposed on an individual while on bail and once they're found guilty of domestic assault.

  • Possible Jail Time
  • Possible Conditional Sentence  (house arrest)
  • Restrictive probation conditions
  • Fine(s) levied against the convicted individual
  • Employment, education and volunteer opportunities are significantly compromised as individuals with criminal records are often overlooked
  • Limited travel ability, specifically into the United States of America

Additional Consequences Associated with a Domestic Assault Conviction:

Bail conditions before a resolution has been reached and probations conditions once the accused has been found guilty, can be imposed restricting the convicted individual from contact with their partner or their children for the duration of their sentence and probation.

The complainant in domestic assault cases is someone with whom the accused has had a serious relationship with, whether it is boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, parent and child, or same-sex partner.

Often it is devastating to their family and/or romantic relationships to have strict conditions imposed by the courts. Even if the complainant does not desire to proceed with criminal charges against the accused it is not their choice to stop the criminal proceedings.

Even with the desire to be in contact, the courts can impose a restriction preventing the complainant and the accused from having contact if they deem that there is a serious risk of a future domestic incident.

What To Do If You Are Charged With Domestic Assault

If you or one of your family members are facing criminal charges, you should contact Toronto Defence Lawyers. Hiring an experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer is the key to ensuring the best outcome in any criminal law case. At Pyzer Criminal Law, we have the experience in criminal law to help you fight your domestic assault charges and obtain the best outcome for you and your family members.

Jonathan Pyzer
Written By:
Jonathan Pyzer
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan is a highly skilled and sought after criminal defence lawyer who represents clients charged with criminal offences all over the Province of Ontario. He is a member in good-standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Toronto Lawyers Association.
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