How do I get domestic assault charges dropped?


Domestic assault is one of the most commonly charged crimes in Canada. In Calgary, there is a designated Domestic Violence Courtroom that hears matters involving a domestic relationship when charges arise. If you have been charged with an assault offence in a domestic setting, contact me immediately. I have been successful in having these charges dropped or I have been able to get the penalty reduced.

What is a Domestic Assault?

A domestic assault occurs in a relationship between two or more people. They may be married, dating, living common law or have a family relationship. Domestic assaults can include:

  • threatening words
  • a gesture or an action meant to intimidate
  • a physical assault on another person
  • implying physical harm or a threat against another person

According to information from Statistics Canada, domestic abuse – more recently renamed intimate partner violence – ranges from emotional abuse to repeated physical or sexual assaults and even homicide. While there is no charge in the Criminal Code called domestic assault, some of the common charges laid after police are called to a residence include aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, sexual assault, uttering threats, theft or mischief to property.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer with These Charges?

The judicial system allocates significant resources to prosecuting those charged with this crime. If you have been arrested for any form of assault in a domestic setting, you need an experienced defence lawyer at your side to help navigate the legal process and present your case in the best way possible. The penalties can be severe, including jail time, not to mention the impact on your family life, social standing and employment opportunities.

Is There a Chance of Having the Charge Withdrawn?

Some of my clients may admit they committed a domestic assault but that it was an isolated incident, perhaps brought on by the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have no previous involvement with the police and there were no children in the home, plus there is no evidence of stalking or controlling behaviour, there is a chance the crown may be willing to drop the charge. The court may attach the condition that you have to enroll in a counselling program. These programs are designed to enhance victim safety while holding offenders accountable.

What is a Peace Bond?

If you admit to the domestic assault but want a chance to prove that you can be trusted not to reoffend, I may be able to convince the court that a peace bond is appropriate. A peace bond is “a protection order made by a court under section 810 of the Criminal Code. It is used where an individual (the defendant) appears likely to commit a criminal offence, but there are no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has actually been committed.” It is up to the crown prosecutor if they will agree to offer you a peace bond.

With any peace bond, the court may impose specific conditions to ensure that the complainant does not feel threatened. Those can include that you:

  • keep the peace and be of good behaviour;
  • not contact or visit the person, their spouse or family members;
  • abstain from using non-prescription drugs or alcohol, and be willing to provide bodily samples to ensure compliance; and
  • not own any weapons.

You may also be asked to pay, or promise to pay, a refundable surety (cash bond) to the court that could be forfeited if you breach any conditions of the peace bond. The charges will be dropped upon you entering into the peace bond and the peace bond will expire after the term, usually a year.

What if the Complainant Wants to Drop the Charges?

Any decision about dropping charges will be made by the crown attorney, not the complainant. While the complainant’s wishes are taken into account, they will not necessarily result in charges being dropped. The reasons for that were spelled out in 2001 by Alberta’s Court of Appeal when it was asked to decide whether victims of crime have the authority to decide whether a prosecution should proceed. The judgment notes: “that responsibility can only be discharged by qualified prosecutors who have the training, judgment and courage to make the necessary decisions inherent in every prosecution … many times these decisions will be difficult and even unpopular, but the responsibility for making them must always rest with the Crown and not with victims of crime, or other interested parties. Abdication of this prosecutorial responsibility to others who are interested in the outcome of the case, but have little or no understanding of the complexities, or even the basic tenets of our justice system, is wrong, and represents a serious threat to the fair administration of criminal justice.”

What is a No-Contact Provision?

When there is an allegation that one family member has committed an assault against another, a no-contact condition is invariably put in place. They prohibit the accused from having any contact or communication with the complainant and bar them from returning to the family home. If they need to retrieve property, such as clothing, that has to be done in the presence of a police officer.

A no-contact order prohibits both contact in person or by using a telephone, email or other electronic methods. It also bars the accused from using a third party to pass messages to the complainant. If you violate a no-contact order you could be placed in custody.

It is possible for me to ask a court to remove or modify your no-contact order. In making that decision, the court will consider issues such as:

  • The nature of the allegations.
  • Does the complainant want to have contact with the accused?
  • Does the accused have a criminal record involving domestic abuse charges?
  • Does the accused have a history of assaulting, threatening, or stalking a domestic partner or anyone else?
  • Are there any alcohol, drug or mental health issues?
  • Does the accused have access to firearms or any other weapons?
  • Has the complainant received advice about their rights?

What If I’m Falsely Accused?

False allegations of domestic assault are made to police for various reasons. Sometimes the complainant is feeling vindictive and knows they can tarnish your image by giving a statement alleging abuse. This vindictive behaviour can emerge during divorce and child custody battles.

In 2017, Statistics Canada reported that more than one in 10 incidents of violent crime were classified as unfounded. The report explains that the “unfounded” means that it was “determined through police investigation that the offence reported did not occur, nor was it attempted.” Physical assault, the most common type of violent crime, accounted for the highest volume of unfounded criminal incidents among violent crimes.

Contact Me for Assistance

Any accusation of domestic assault can cause lasting damage, which is why you need experienced legal counsel to represent you. Arrange for a free consultation and let me advise you on your options.