As practicing lawyers in Toronto, we come across situations when a person comes through our doors charged with domestic violence. It should be noted that there is no special provision in the Criminal Code of Canada that relates to “domestic violence”. The terms “domestic assault” and “domestic violence” are derived from the set of circumstances where the alleged offence took place, for example where one spouse allegedly assaulted the other. Domestic violence is a serious offence in Canada. According to recent statistics, there were approximately 30,000 cases of domestic violence in Ontario in 2019. Out of those cases, at least 24,000 victims were female, and the remaining 6,000 were male.
These shocking statistics prove that domestic violence is still a major problem in Ontario. In fact, the province registered the highest number of domestic violence cases in the country in 2019. To put things into perspective, Ontario had at least 7,000 cases more than second-placed Quebec, according to the study.
What is the Punishment for Domestic Violence in Canada?
If found guilty, the perpetrator of domestic violence can serve up to five years in jail. However, this sentence varies depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, such as the severity of the assault.
What Counts as Domestic Violence in Canada?
Domestic violence refers to any abusive action that occurs between individuals in an intimate relationship, including:
- Opposite sex partners
- Same-sex partners
- Current or former spouses
- Dating partners
- Parents and their children
- Guardians and their children
- Common-law partners
Cases of domestic violence fall under the Criminal Code of Canada. For this reason, individuals charged with assault are subject to the same punishment as any violent criminal would.
Common examples of assault cases include:
- Threatening or hitting a spouse
- Assaulting a spouse with a weapon, causing them bodily injuries
- Kidnapping and forced confinement
- Sexually assaulting a spouse
- Harassment, such as stalking a spouse
- Uttering threats to a spouse
- Making indecent and harassing phone calls to a spouse
Domestic Violence Legal Process
Depending on circumstances surrounding the arrest, a person will be usually released on bail with an appropriate surety. Once on bail, a person cannot have any contact with his spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend. If that person shares household responsibilities with his significant other who is often the complainant, that person is no longer there, and there is no way of contacting him or her, except through legal counsel. There are situations when a person charged with domestic assault is a sole breadwinner at the house and where others depend on him or her. Therefore, it is important to retain a lawyer at the outset of your case in order to make sure that the criminal charge that you are currently facing does not interfere with other aspects of your life.
It is important to note that there are also issues that need to be considered if the couple decides to split up or file for a divorce after the incident that resulted in a criminal charge. Here comes into play a family law perspective that is often intertwined with criminal proceedings. Although criminal and family proceedings are considered to be separate, they are nonetheless connected to each other.
A victim of domestic violence can keep the abuser away by obtaining a court order. Here are different court orders that could apply in this situation.
Victims of family violence might obtain Protection Orders to protect themselves from a wide range of violent behaviours. Examples of family violence include:
- Actions that cause injury or property damage and intimidates or injures a family member
- Actions that injure or intimidate a family member or creates a reasonable fear of injury or property damage
- Sexual abuse
- Forced confinement
Who is a Family Member in a Domestic Violence Case?
In this context, a family member could be:
- a guardian or trustee;
- your children or other children under your care;
- individuals you are related to by marriage, blood, adoption, or an interdependent relationship;
- a parent of your children regardless of whether you are in a relationship or live together;
- your current roommate;
- current or former spouse; or
- current or former interdependent partner.
When applying for an Emergency Protection Order, the victim of domestic violence might be eligible for:
Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs): Granted during emergencies and is usually available 24/7.
Queen’s Bench Protection Orders (QBPOs): Granted in non-emergency situations.
Exclusive Protection Orders
A spouse might seek an exclusive protection order against the other spouse to prevent them from gaining access to their home or being found anywhere near the home. This order requires the other spouse, usually the abuser, to vacate the home within a specified period. The spouse obtaining this order might also retain family assets such as vehicles, either permanently or temporarily.
A restraining order is a court order that protects a person from certain dangers, in this case, domestic violence. In Canada, one spouse can obtain a restraining order against the other to protect themselves from domestic violence. While a restraining order might seem similar to an EPO or QBPO, the main difference is that it takes longer to process, usually two weeks, and is restricted to family members.
Elements of a Protection Order
A protection order mentions specific actions the recipient of the order must follow or risk facing certain legal consequences. Some examples of such actions include:
- Staying away from the other party’s home, school, workplace, or any other place they often spend their time together
- Avoiding any contact with the other party, including their children or family members believed to be in danger
- Avoiding the possession of any kinds of weapons
- Not following the other party, including their children or family members
However, the alleged abuser might also be allowed to return to the other party’s home to collect their personal belongings with the help of the police. If they refuse to leave the home, the police can forcibly evict them.
What Happens When Someone Disobeys a Restraining Order?
When someone breaches a restraining order, it is the same as disobeying the court. In most cases, they could be charged with a criminal offence and serve jail time as a result.
When Does a Restraining Order End?
A restraining order usually has an end date printed on it. If the end date does not exist, the order lasts for a year.
How to Choose the Best Toronto Domestic Violence Lawyer
Whether you want to defend yourself from a false assault claim or file a charge against an abusive spouse, it is important to work with a lawyer. But given that there are many family law firms in Ontario, it is always advisable to consider the following factors when looking for the right lawyer for you.
Experience: You need a lawyer with proven experience handling assault cases. Find out if they have any references you may want to reach out to.
Knowledge: Pay close attention to how they communicate with you about your case. Do they sound knowledgeable?
Availability: If you live in Toronto, you want to work with a lawyer based in Toronto. Also, avoid lawyers who take several business days to return your calls or emails.
Understanding: Does the lawyer seem to understand your situation? Do you feel comfortable talking to them about your case?
Lawyers at Bykov Law have the necessary experience and proven track record of success dealing with cases that involve both criminal and family law. We represent clients not only in the GTA, but across all southern Ontario. We are devoted to providing you with a vigorous defense in your criminal case and fighting to protect your rights in family court. We specialize in criminal and family law, so if you are in need of representation, call us today for a free consultation. We are Toronto family and criminal lawyers who understand your needs and who can help you in this difficult situation in your life.
How the Toronto, ON Lawyers at Bykov Law Can Help
At Bykov Law, we tick all the right boxes when you need an experienced lawyer specializing in domestic violence. Whether you are the victim or alleged abuser, you deserve to talk to someone who understands. So contact us today at 416.519.3259 to talk to a domestic violence lawyer.