Every year we resolve numerous domestic violence and spousal assault cases as criminal defence lawyers for clients across the Lower Mainland.
Whether your objective is to prove your innocence of all charges and end your marriage or to reconcile with your spouse and resolve the charges without a trial, we can help you.
Repercussions of Domestic Violence Charges
If you have been charged with assaulting or threatening your spouse or a member of your family, you should seek legal advice and representation immediately. A good Vancouver criminal lawyer can usually negotiate more favourable terms of release than you can on your own. Prosecutors and police are usually unwilling to speak directly to an accused person. If the Crown is seeking your detention pending trial, a skilled criminal lawyer can certainly present a stronger and more compelling argument for your release than you can by yourself with no legal training or knowledge.
More Information on Domestic Violence Laws
Usage of Terms – Spousal Assault and Domestic Violence
The terms “spousal assault” and “domestic violence” do not actually appear anywhere in the Criminal Code. They are, however, used commonly by prosecutors, social workers, and the public to refer to threats of physical harm and death made to spouses, and acts of violence committed against spouses or family members.
Definition of Assault and Prosecution of Assault
Section 265(1) of the Criminal Code states that an “assault” is committed when a person:
- applies force intentionally to another person, directly or indirectly, without the consent of that person
- attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, and either has the ability to carry out the attempted or threatened act or causes the other person to believe that he or she has the ability; or
- accosts or impedes another person or begs while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or imitation thereof
Assaults are generally prosecuted under section 266 of the Criminal Code, whether committed against one’s spouse, a family member or a total stranger. Where an assault involves the use of a weapon or causes bodily harm, it is prosecuted as “assault with a weapon” or “assault causing bodily harm” under section 267 of the Criminal Code. Where an assault wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the victim, it is prosecuted as an aggravated assault under section 268 of the Criminal Code.
In the eyes of the law, the relationship between an accused person and the victim of an offence is relevant only for the purposes of sentencing. Under section 718.2(a)(ii) of the Criminal Code, assaulting or threatening a spouse, including a common-law partner, is an “aggravating circumstance” and can justify a harsher sentence. Similarly, under section 718.2(a)(ii.1) of the Criminal Code, assaulting or threatening someone under the age of 18, including your own child, is an “aggravating circumstance” and can justify a harsher sentence.
Maximum Imprisonment / Jail Sentence for Assault
The maximum sentence for assault ranges from 6 months to 14 years. Assault, assault with a weapon, and assault causing bodily harm are hybrid offences under the Criminal Code, meaning they can be prosecuted as summary conviction offences or indictable offences at the option of the Crown. If they are prosecuted summarily, the maximum sentences of imprisonment or jail are 6 months for assault under section 267 and 18 months for assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm under section 267.
The maximum sentences of imprisonment or jail for the same offences prosecuted by indictment are 5 years for assault under section 266 and 10 years for assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm. Aggravated assault under section 268 is strictly an indictable offence and carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment or jail of 14 years.
Definition of Threats and Threatening, Prosecution of Threats and Threatening
Under section 264.1 of the Criminal Code, it is an offence to knowingly utter, convey or cause another person to receive a threat to:
- cause death or bodily harm to the person receiving the threat or to any other person
- burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or
- kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person
Threatening under section 264.1 of the Criminal Code is a hybrid offence, meaning it can be prosecuted as a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence. The maximum sentences for threatening to kill someone or cause bodily harm are 18 months if the offence is prosecuted summarily and 5 years if the offence is prosecuted by indictment.
Bail in Spousal Assault and Domestic Violence Cases
As long as there is no history of either domestic violence or violence of any other kind, a person charged with assaulting or threatening his or her spouse can usually satisfy the court that it is safe and appropriate for him or her to be released from custody pending trial.
The problem for the accused person is avoiding restrictive conditions that tend to be imposed in connection with his or her release.
Contact a Professional Legal Representative
Without the benefit of legal representation, one of the likely consequences of being charged, let alone convicted, is that you will not be allowed to have any contact with the person you allegedly assaulted or threatened, and will not be allowed to return to your home if the person you assaulted or threatened lives with you. It is usually a “condition” of your release, even if the alleged victim does not want such a condition imposed on you. If you have young children, the “no contact” order will likely prevent you from speaking to or visiting your children pending trial or resolution of your case, which may not occur for several months. You need the assistance of a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer to deal with these issues.
Another and perhaps more important reason for retaining legal counsel is to minimize your risk of conviction. A criminal record can affect your employment prospects, your ability to travel to the United States and other countries, and your access rights as a parent.