You get into a heated argument with your spouse. Overhearing this, your neighbour calls the police to report a domestic disturbance. The officers arrive. The next thing you know, you’re back at the police station getting booked on domestic assault charges. How did things escalate so quickly? It was all one big misunderstanding, and now you are facing jail time. The best course of action is to hire a skilled Ontario domestic violence lawyer. They can advocate on your behalf and build a strong defence.

silhouette of arguing couple

Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence in Ontario

In Ontario, the police have a formal zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. Even if the accuser no longer feels threatened, officers are required to follow through on the call. This means the accused is often arrested for a domestic violence charge and taken to the police station for processing, despite the fact the accuser does not want to press criminal charges.

If a neighbour hears you fighting and calls the police, you may be charged with domestic violence. If your spouse calls in the heat of the moment but later changes their mind, the officers may still arrest you. In Ontario, domestic assault charges are not up to the victim. You may be held for bail and placed on strict conditions.

This zero-tolerance policy means certain actions can be easily blown out of proportion. Voicing an angry sentiment may be construed as uttering threats. Shaking a fork that accidentally scratches an arm could be assault with a weapon. A simple misunderstanding can lead to dire consequences, including jail time.

The Danger of a Broad Definition

Ontario police have a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. An assault becomes “domestic” when it involves an “intimate partner,” and the courts may look more harshly at spousal assault than an assault on a stranger. How the courts proceed may also differ compared to an assault on an acquaintance or stranger.  The penalties may be stiffer. Other factors come into play, including whether children are involved.

Cases commonly involve husbands and wives, but domestic assault cases extend beyond spouses. They may involve short-term boyfriends and girlfriends, and common-law partners. What’s more, many actions can fall under the broader definition of domestic violence. Examples may include:

    • Physical assault, with or without a weapon
    • Verbal abuse, like threatening to cause physical harm
    • Harassing behaviour such as stalking, repeated unwanted  texting, phone calls, or emails.
    • Mischief is defined as intentionally damaging a person’s property
    • Sexual assault

Possible Domestic Assault Penalties and Consequences

A domestic assault conviction in Ontario can carry harsh penalties. Sentencing depends on the severity of the crime and past history. More serious offences, such as those involving property damage, a weapon, or sexual assault, carry much heavier penalties.

Legal Penalties for Domestic Violence

Even if it is your first domestic assault offence, you may face time in jail if you are found guilty. The length can depend on the extent of the crime and your background. Examples include the following:

    • A minor  domestic assault offence may result in the crown electing summarily. This has a sentence of up to two years in jail.
    • An indictable offence has a sentence of up to five years.
    • If the charge is sexual assault or assault causing bodily harm, the jail sentence may be up to ten years.
    • Aggravated assault or sexual assault of a child under 16 years old can result in up to 14 years in prison.

Sentences may come with a criminal record. This can impact future employment opportunities and travel out of the country.  It can also affect other areas of your life where background checks are standard practice.

Lasting Impact on Children and Families

Ontario domestic violence cases can get very emotional. They can disrupt and even break families apart. Even while on bail awaiting trial, people accused of domestic assault may not be able to visit their children. Working with a skilled domestic assault lawyer, you may be able to negotiate visitation privileges. The courts are concerned about the child’s well-being.

The court may impose conditions on these visits. A third party may have to supervise. You may need to attend anger management classes. The visits may have to take place outside the family home. Anyone who is charged with domestic assault is not allowed to return home while the case is still open.

This means that you are forced to live elsewhere. You will have a no-contact order.  If alcohol or drugs were involved, you will have a condition not to consume the same. You may even have a curfew. Even if you are found not guilty later on, this experience can have a lasting effect on the relationship you have with both your spouse and children. The emotional damage can be devastating.

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