What are the sentences for domestic assault?
Domestic violence charges are taken very seriously by the courts and generally carry lengthier sentences than an assault not in the context of a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship is a personal or legal relationship in which the individuals live together or share a mutual domestic life. Generally, these relationships include, marriage, common-law, dating and living together (though not necessarily living together) and children of the relationship. Domestic violence is treated very seriously particularly because it creates a power imbalance and it can often be difficult for the victim to remove themselves from the relationship.
Under the Criminal Code, there is no specific offence of domestic assault. Like any other assault, an accused is charged under section 266 of the Criminal Code regardless of the relationship with the complainant. Though there is no specific criminal offence for domestic assault, allegations of domestic assault are treated much differently and sentences are much more significant.
The penalties for being charged with domestic assault begin immediately after arrest. Depending on the severity of the allegations, the Crown may seek detention. This means, that if the judge agrees to detention, the accused will remain in jail until the matter is resolved or until trial. This detention can last many months or years, depending on when the trial date is set. If an accused is released on bail, there will be a condition prohibiting contact with the victim and the accused will not be able to return to the shared home. Even if the house is in the accused’s name and the complainant just moved in, the accused will be prohibited from returning to the house. These conditions may be amended after release, but often take several weeks to do so.
To avoid a conviction, an accused may be able to 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 Upon signing the Peace Bond, the criminal charges are withdrawn and the accused person is left with no criminal record.
If convicted of domestic assault, either as a result of a guilty plea or finding of guilt after trial, an accused will, in almost all circumstances, receive a criminal record. This record will have a significant impact on employment, travel and the ability to volunteer or coach youth sports.
Sentences for a domestic assault conviction range from conditional discharges, probation and jail sentences. Sentencing is an individualized process in which the facts, background and steps taken since the offence are taken into consideration, among other factors. The more serious the allegations, the greater the punishment.
It is important to consult with a defence lawyer who has significant experience representing individuals charged with domestic assault to properly understand all the defenses available as well as the consequences of a conviction.