What Usually Happens in a Domestic Violence Case?

by | Jan 17, 2022 | Assault, Domestic Assault

Have you been charged with domestic violence? Below, we outline what you can expect over the coming days, weeks and months.

If you need a lawyer to represent you, please contact us at Mickelson, Whysall, Moore & Forhan Law Corporation.

Domestic Assualt Case Process in Canada
1.  Arrest

The first thing that happens is that you will be arrested and taken to a police station for questioning.

You have the right to speak to a lawyer at this stage.

  • This can either be a lawyer of your choosing – such as one of the lawyers here at Mickelson, Whysall, Moore & Forhan.
  • Or, it can be the duty counsel. These are lawyers paid by the Legal Services Society. They help those who are in custody but do not have legal representation.

Sometimes, the investigation police officers will not pursue taking a statement from the accused. Instead, they release him or her on a promise to appear in court with conditions to ensure the safety of the complainant and the public.

2. Bail hearing

If the police decide a promise to appear is not the appropriate form of release, you will be kept in custody – meaning a police cell – until a bail hearing takes place.

This should happen as soon as possible, and will normally be the next morning or later on the day of your arrest. However, delays are possible in the evenings or over the weekend. A judge will decide whether or not to grant you bail, which is when you are released from custody, provided you can follow certain conditions of release.

What happens if bail is refused in domestic violent offence cases?

Bail might not be granted if there is an unacceptable ongoing risk to the complainant or the public. If bail is refused, you will be detained in custody until your case concludes.

Bail conditions

Bail is usually granted on the condition that you do not:

  • Contact the complainant (meaning the person accusing you of domestic violence, victims of domestic assault)
  • Go within a certain distance of the complainant’s home or place of work
  • Contact your children
  • Go within a certain distance of your children’s school
  • Consume alcohol or take drugs
  • Break the curfew that has been imposed
  • Possess firearms
  • These conditions are set out in a document called a recognizance.

You will likely have to report to a bail supervisor on a regular basis during bail. It is essential that you do not break the terms of the recognizance or you could face further criminal charges.

Variation of bail conditions

If you want to change your bail conditions, then you can make an application to the court for a variation of bail. This is something our lawyers can help you with.

This often happens in domestic assault cases where the accused and the complainant wish to reconcile. However, the complainant cannot drop the charges. Only the police or Crown Counsel can do that.

If the complainant contacts the accused while the accused is bound by a condition restricting contact with the complainant (contact order), then the accused is in a very difficult position as it amounts to a breach of recognizance if the accused responds. So, if either party wants to vary the bail conditions, a court application is necessary before contact occurs.

Can a domestic assault charge be dropped? Why would a domestic violence case be dismissed?

What happens next really depends on the nature of the case.

If there is little evidence to prove that domestic violence took place, then the charges will be dropped. Sometimes, the breakdown of a relationship becomes spiteful. Allegations can sometimes be motivated by emotions or revenge, rather than truth.

If it is a first offence, which is not serious, then it may be possible to divert the charges. This is when you agree to attend counselling or another approved program. You may then be given the option of entering into a peace bond. This ensures you avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction.

3. Court hearings

If the case proceeds and we cannot divert the charges, then you must decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.

If you plead guilty, there will be a sentencing hearing. The judge will decide what sentence is suitable in the circumstances. In Canada, you might be facing jail time up to 10 years in prison.

Often in domestic violence cases, the emphasis is on rehabilitation. For this reason, you may be ordered to attend counselling and other such programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Domestic violence is also punishable by imprisonment.

If you plead not guilty, there will be a trial before a judge or a judge and jury. The complainant must appear as a witness, but sometimes this happens via video link.

Read more about what to do when you are charged with domestic assault

Do you need domestic assault lawyers near you? Contact us, Vancouver criminal defence lawyers

If you have been accused of domestic violence in British Columbia, please contact us at Mickelson, Whysall, Moore & Forhan Law Corporation. We have acted in a wide range of domestic abuse cases between family members, ranging from allegations of very serious repeated violence (such as assault causing bodily harm) to less serious momentary lapses of character.

You can read about Mickelson, Whysall, Moore & Forhan recent domestic assault cases here and find out how our lawyers can help you speak with complainants or crown attorneys.

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