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Peace Bonds: Peace of Mind?

What is a Peace Bond?

In simple terms, a peace bond is a promise to abide by certain conditions on threat of criminal prosecution and liability for a sum of money.  Legally, a peace bond is imposed by court order.  The order requires the intended subject of the peace bond to enter into a “recognizance”, which lays out the conditions associated with the peace bond and specifies the maximum amount payable for failure to abide by the conditions.

Common Law vs. Section 810 Criminal Code Peace Bonds

There are two types of peace bonds – common law and statutory.  Common law peace bonds are imposed by a court based on common law powers to make orders to prevent breaches of the peace, while statutory peace bonds are imposed by a court based on the authority of a statute.  In Canada, statutory peace bonds are ordered under s. 810 of the Criminal Code.

Generally, a common law peace bond is preferable to a peace bond under s. 810 of the Criminal Code because a common law peace bond does not require an accused to make any admissions.  By contrast, s. 810 of the Criminal Code requires an admission by an accused that another person “fears on reasonable grounds that [the accused] will cause personal injury to him or her or to his or her spouse or common-law partner or child or will damage his or her property.”

Is a Peace Bond a Good Thing?

Peace bonds are often used to resolve assault, threatening and criminal harassment charges.  In exchange for agreeing to a peace bond, an accused is spared from criminal prosecution and avoids a record of conviction for a criminal offence.  This is clearly a good thing.

Unfortunately, a peace bond is not necessarily consequence-free.  If a peace bond is entered into as a result of allegations arising in a spousal relationship, it can have repercussions for parenting arrangements (formerly known as child custody).  If a “clean record” is needed to travel or immigrate to another country, a peace bond may create problems.

Family Law Consequences of Peace Bond

In British Columbia, new family law legislation was introduced in 2013.  One of the notable features of the new legislation was the broadening of the criteria for determining appropriate “parenting arrangements” (formerly referred to as child custody).

Section 37(2) of the Family Law Act requires the court to consider:

[T]he impact of any family violence on the child’s safety, security or well-being, whether the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member

 As a result, a peace bond entered into by one parent as a result of an incident involving the other parent has the potential to impact the former parent’s parenting responsibilities, including parenting time, even where the allegations have nothing to do with the children of the relationship and where the children were not present when the alleged misconduct leading to the peace bond occurred.

These changes in British Columbia’s family law mean that an accused should think carefully about the family law implications of accepting a peace bond and seek counsel from his or her family law counsel first.  The last thing you want to do is solve your criminal law problem at the cost of creating a family law problem.

Travel and Immigration

Travel to the United States can be a challenge even when you do not have a criminal record.  A peace bond, while not a record of a criminal conviction, will show up on the computer of US immigration and customs officials and may raise questions about admissibility.  At the very least, a person with a peace bond on his record may be called upon to do some explaining.  If travel to the United States is critical in your life, speak to a US immigration lawyer before you enter into a peace bond, common law or statutory.

For the purposes of US immigration law, a peace bond may be construed as a criminal conviction despite the fact that a peace bond is not a criminal conviction under Canadian law.  I am advised by US immigration lawyers that any admissions or findings of fact made on the record at the time a peace bond is ordered can be construed as admissions of criminal conduct for the purposes of US immigration law and undermine a person’s application to immigrate to the United States.  If you are thinking of applying for a green card or seeking US citizenship, be sure to speak to your US immigration lawyer before entering into a Canadian peace bond. Contact N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation today to learn more.