Is It Possible To Drop Domestic Assault Charges In Canada?

PUBLISHED ON June 18, 2021

Toronto criminal defence lawyer

Regrettably, domestic assault charges are not uncommon types of charges.They include charges of assault, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and uttering threats – where the alleged victim is a family member, cohabitant, ex-partner, or spouse. Once the charge is laid, can it be “dropped”? An alleged victim does not have the ability to “drop” domestic assault charges. However, there are circumstances where the Crown Attorney may agree to not proceed with the charges. What follows is some general information on this topic.It is not meant to be legal advice for your particular situation. Should you require legal advice, you will need to contact a lawyer.

Reasons That Can Get Domestic Assault Charges Dropped

When police officers lay domestic assault charges, it is up to the Crown Attorney to decide whether to proceed with the charges. That is, only the prosecutor involved in the case makes the decision on whether or not the case should go to trial, whether a plea to a lesser charge will be offered, or whether there is a solution that can alleviate the need for a trial or a guilty plea. Of course, should the matter go to trial, it is the Judge and not the Crown Attorney that decides the outcome of a case. In determining whether or not to proceed with a charge, prosecutors will consider various things, including:

1 – Lack Of Evidence

While corroboration of a complainant’s allegations is by no means required, it is something that is considered. Obviously, if a complainant tells the police that the alleged incident was witnessed by others, or captured on camera, and those witnesses/cameras show that the alleged incident did not occur – this will factor into the Crown Attorney’s assessment of the case.

2 – Contradictions

Major contradictions in statements made by a complainant may influence the Crown’s assessment.  If what a complainant says in a 911 call contradicts what is said to the police officer who arrives on scene, and these both contradict what the complainant subsequently says in a sworn videotaped police statement – a Crown Attorney may come to the conclusion that the complainant lacks credibility. That assessment can influence the Crown’s decision on whether or not to proceed with the chargers.

3 – Absence Of Visible Injuries

Visible injuries are not required to prove a domestic assault. Again, corroboration is not essential for the Crown to prove a case of domestic assault. However, in situations where the complainant describes an incident that would necessarily cause injuries – and there are no injuries – this, along with other factors, could impact the Crown Attorney’s decision to prosecute.

4 – Minor nature of the alleged assault and circumstances of the alleged offender

At its core, an “assault” is an intentional application of force without the consent of the other person. Thus, flicking another person with one’s finger can in some circumstances constitute an assault. In some situations, based on the nature of the alleged assault and the positions of the complainant and background of the alleged offender, the prosecutor may decide the case is simply not one that warrants a criminal trial.

The Role of the Lawyer

As it is the prosecutor who makes the decision on whether or not to proceed with the charges, the lawyer can advocate with the prosecutor on an accused’s behalf in regard to the factors mentioned above. The lawyer will first receive and review your disclosure (the evidence in the case) and meet with the Crown for a pre-trial where these issues will be discussed. Sometimes the Crown Attorney, before agreeing to withdraw the charges, will want the accused to successfully complete an anger management course. Sometimes the Crown Attorney will want the accused to sign a “peace bond”. These are things with which a criminal lawyer can assist.Most importantly though, the lawyer can review the disclosure and point out the weaknesses in the Crown’s case and potentially convince the Crown that a trial/guilty plea is not in the interest of either party and that the best outcome in the interests of justice – is for the charges to be withdrawn.

CONTACT BRIAN ROSS

A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications. Don't take a chance with an inexperienced attorney. I will fight to get your life back as I have done with countless others before you.

(416) 658-5855

Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

Selected for the 2022, 2023, and 2024 editions of the Best Lawyers in Canada

Inclusion in the Best Lawyers in Canada is based on a rigorous peer-review survey. Recognition by Best Lawyers symbolizes excellence in practice and specifically, high calibre work in criminal defence.

CONTACT BRIAN ROSS

Mr. Ross is a member of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and Legal Aid Ontario’s “Extremely Serious Matters” Panel, consisting of criminal lawyers deemed to have the proven experience necessary to conduct trials in the most serious of criminal matters.

DISCUSS YOUR CASE IN CONFIDENCE

Name(Required)
You will be contacted to discuss the case in confidence.