Domestic assault is a serious criminal charge in Ontario that can result in up to two years in prison. Even before the accused is tried, however, they could be slapped with a no-contact order by the arresting officer or the court. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, a no-contact order could profoundly impact your life.
No-contact orders can be a big source of emotional and financial harm, straining your relationships and adding a great deal of stress to your life. Working with a skilled domestic assault lawyer, you may be able to get a no-contact order lifted so that you can see your family again. It takes time, patience, and a strong advocate to convince the court to make this exception.
What Does a No-Contact Order Do?
In nearly every type of domestic violence case, a no-contact order is enacted against the accused. The order can last for months or even years. If the case continues to drag on, the no-contact order can remain in place the whole time. It may even extend after the court renders a verdict. So, what does a no-contact order do, exactly?
Under a no-contact order, the person charged with domestic assault cannot see or communicate with the victim at all. The restriction could be part of the release conditions for the accused.
The accused cannot contact the victim directly or indirectly, either over the phone or internet, or in person. They cannot send text messages, social media messages, email messages, or postal mail. There is to be no contact whatsoever. This includes trying to communicate through a third party. The accused cannot ask a friend to pass along a message for them.
Often, the no-contact order extends beyond the complainant too. They may not be able to contact their children. They may also not be able to contact any witnesses in the case. Under a no-contact order, the victim may have the right to change the house locks to keep the accused out.
Five Types of No-Contact Orders
No contact orders come in five main types:
- Condition of release. This most common type of no-contact order is part of the list of bail conditions before trial. The condition remains in place until the trial is over. A qualified domestic assault defence lawyer can try to get this lifted before the trial starts.
- Condition of probation. This is similar to the first type, except it is after the trial is over. The judge may sentence a guilty party to probation instead of jail time. As part of their probation, they must not contact the victim for a period of time. This can be for up to three years.
- Conditional sentence. Like probation, a person found guilty of domestic assault may be able to serve their sentence in the community. While they may not serve jail time, they will need to abide by certain rules. One of these can be a no-contact order for up to two years less a day.
- Peace bond. The accused may not be found guilty of domestic violence, but the court may order a peace bond to keep the complainant and their children safe. There is no criminal record, but there may be a no-contact order for up to a year.
- Family law protection order. The complainant may apply for this in family court. It is separate from the domestic assault charge, but it can still include a no-contact order, among other restrictions. The court can decide how long the family law protection order lasts.
Possible Penalties for Violating a No-Contact Order
Trying to navigate a domestic assault charge in Ontario is stressful enough. You may be eager to reconcile with your partner and wonder what harm a simple text message could have. Before you hit send, you should know that violating a no-contact order is very serious too. If you breach a no-contact order, you can be arrested. This criminal offence is on top of the domestic assault charge. It doesn’t matter what was the underlying reason for contacting the victim. The police are simply enforcing the law. Failure to comply can result in severe penalties, including:
- A summary conviction can have a fine of up to $5,000.
- An indictable offence can have a fine of up to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
It gets worse. Failing to comply with a no-contact order can impact the domestic assault case too. The courts now have reason to believe the accused does not and will not follow the rules. Bail may be revoked, putting the accused back in jail until their trial date. Conditional sentencing deals become far less likely, if not downright impossible. Even experienced domestic assault defence lawyers will have a hard time shining a more positive light on the situation.
What If the Victim Tries to Contact Me?
In nearly all cases, a no-contact order is absolute. The accused cannot communicate with the victim in any way whatsoever. This means that even if the victim attempts to initiate contact, the no-contact order is still in place. The accused can still get charged for violating it. This can be a very difficult and emotional situation. It is highly advisable to work with your domestic assault defence lawyer to discuss possible options.
Are No-Contact Orders Common in Ontario?
Yes. With rare exceptions, domestic assault cases in Ontario almost always have no-contact orders. It doesn’t matter whether the victim supports the charges or not. If the accused has been arrested and charged, the police or court will most likely impose a no-contact order. With spousal assault, the terms of a no-contact order typically extend to children and witnesses too.
Why You May Have a No-Contact Order
After an arrest, police perform a domestic assault risk assessment (ODARA). This tool helps them determine the likelihood that the accused may assault their partner again. The ODARA scoresheet considers factors like a prior criminal record and victim concerns.
The outcome of this assessment can have some bearing on how the case proceeds. The court may consider the ODARA result when deciding on bail and bail conditions. Even so, nearly all domestic assault charges have a no-contact order in place. The rationale is that it can help keep the victim safe. Even if the victim doesn’t want a no-contact order, one may be put in place.
With a no-contact order in place, the accused cannot return home to get their belongings without the permission of the court. They need to seek a court order to do this. The same is true if the accused wants to see their children. A domestic assault lawyer can help negotiate conditions under which this may be possible. One example is parenting time ordered by a family court. Supervision may be needed.
How to Remove No-Contact Orders
It is possible for a no-contact order to be dropped or modified. A knowledgeable domestic assault defence lawyer can explain these options more fully. While victims can say something, they ultimately cannot decide if a no-contact order is lifted. Their desire in no way guarantees that the order will be lifted. They can’t drop charges, either. A no-contact order is never reversed without the full support of the complainant.
The most common way to lift a no-contact order is to wait until the court case is terminated. The accused may be acquitted of the charge or found guilty. The case is also terminated if they plead guilty or the charges are withdrawn for any reason. This can take several months, if not years, to resolve.
Bail Variation Application
Another option is for both the Crown Attorney and the accused’s lawyer to agree to a bail variation. This may be contingent on the accused joining the Early Interventional Program (EIP) or the Partner Abuse Response (PAR) program. Arriving on consent can take up to four months after the first court appearance.
If the Crown denies this request, the accused has the option to pursue litigation. Their lawyer can apply for a court review. A judge will then review the conditions imposed by the police and decide if they are necessary. The accused’s lawyer can provide reasons for why the no-contact order should be lifted. In this instance, the complainant should have their own legal representation too.
Reasons to Drop a No-Contact Order
Dropping a no-contact order is not a right. Rather, it is an exceptional request. The vast majority of Ontario domestic assault cases have one in place. It has become a standard legal rule that the accused cannot speak to witnesses or victims. As such, removing or modifying the order is completely at the discretion of the Crown and the court.
In consulting with your lawyer, you may offer several reasons why you may want to have a no-contact order dropped.
- To see or care for your children
- To manage co-owned properties
- To run co-managed businesses
- To provide financial support
- To reconcile with the complainant
Especially if the victim also wants to reconcile, a no-contact order can be frustrating. Sadly, an emotional appeal to the Crown is not enough. It takes a skilled lawyer who can navigate the system and do what is needed.
How a Toronto Domestic Assault Lawyer Can Help
Throughout the whole process, it is crucial to have a criminal defence lawyer in your corner. At Kruse Law, we offer a free meeting and quote for all new clients. During the initial meeting, we can assess your specific case and discuss possible options. This may start with talking about whether it is possible to lift a no-contact order.
Legal proceedings are complex and nuanced. Applications and forms can be difficult to understand. Putting together a compelling case for removing a no-contact order is no small feat. The skilled domestic assault lawyers at Kruse Law have years of experience in exactly this specialized area of law. The potential penalties for domestic assault in Ontario can be very harsh. You need a skilled team on your side.