How do I get my domestic assault charge dropped?
Many people believe that if the complainant recants or indicates they don’t want to proceed with criminal charges, that the charges will be dropped. While this would be of great benefit to an accused, it is rarely the case, especially in a domestic assault context. When criminal charges are laid against an accused, they are between the Crown and the accused, not the complainant and the accused.
In Calgary, domestic assault charges are handled by specialized prosecutors who only deal with domestic violence matters. Complainants recanting or indicating an unwillingness to proceed is a very common occurrence and the Crown view such occurrences with a critical eye. In some cases, it is questionable whether or not the complainant truly wants to recant. The accused, family and/or friends may have utilized control tactics or threats to insist on the request. These are tactics that the Crown Prosecutor’s office are well aware of and as a result, rarely withdraw charges in such a situation.
People are often confused as to why the charges aren’t dropped upon a complainant’s request. The observations of the Alberta Court of Appeal are relevant to this issue and are of great assistance in understanding why charges aren’t so easily dropped. In R. v. Tkachuk, the Court noted that victims of crime do not have the authority or the responsibility to decide whether a prosecution should proceed. The Court held:
“…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.”
A decision to terminate proceedings whether by withdrawing, staying, or calling no evidence is made by the Crown Prosecutor in the interest of the proper administration of justice, including whether there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction and the public’s interest in the effective enforcement of the criminal law. When deciding whether to terminate proceedings, Crown prosecutors also consider the safety of the complainant and certain public interest factors.
While the Crown is very hesitant to withdraw domestic assault charges, they are, in certain circumstances, open to withdrawing the charges if the accused enters into a Peace Bond. Depending on the severity of the allegations, an accused may enter into a Peace Bond in which they are bound by certain conditions such as counselling and abstaining from alcohol. Upon signing the Peace Bond, the criminal charges are withdrawn and the accused person is left with no criminal record. A Peace Bond is not a finding of guilt.