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Defending Assault Charges

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Our Experience

In 2021, the Firm defended a client facing various domestic charges, including two counts of assault, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon, and uttering threats in R. v. B.W. [2021]. The client was accused following allegations made by his ex-girlfriend, who claimed he had assaulted her after spending a night at his residence. The complainant left the accused’s home and reported the incident at the police station, providing a formal statement. Despite extensive pre-trial discussions with the Crown, the Firm opted for trial as a mutually acceptable plea deal could not be reached. During the trial, the Firm exposed numerous inconsistencies in the complainant’s narrative, leading to the successful dismissal of four out of the five charges. The remaining matter was resolved without a criminal record for the client.

Donich Law possesses expertise in representing clients facing assault allegations within the context of domestic relationships and has played a role in facilitating communication restoration when desired by both parties. In the case of R. v. J.D. [2021], the Firm provided legal representation for an individual accused of assaulting their live-in partner. Although the assault was deemed minor, a no-contact order was imposed, despite objections from the complainant. The complainant enlisted independent legal counsel to aid in re-establishing communication. The Firm collaborated with the complainant’s legal representative to present a unified defence, successfully reinstating contact between the parties and ultimately leading to the withdrawal of the charges.

In 2021, the Firm undertook the representation of an individual facing charges of domestic assault in R. v. A.R.[2021]. The complainant claimed that, during a heated argument with her partner, he had pulled her hair and struck her in the face. Subsequently, the accused was apprehended, and a no-contact order was issued. The complainant sought legal counsel to modify the no-contact order, enabling communication between the parties. The Firm collaborated with the complainant’s legal representative to successfully restore communication, leading to the eventual withdrawal of the charges.

In R. v. H.T. [2019], the Firm defended a client charged with assault causing bodily harm after it was alleged that he and his domestic partner became involved in an altercation and he split her lip. After fifteen months of litigation the Firm was able to secure an absolute discharge. Avoiding a criminal record for assault bodily harm charges is very difficult because there are often photographs of the injuries and medical documents. Once the Crown or judge sees these injuries, it becomes increasingly difficult to recommend a sentence without a conviction. Positive medical updates and victim input can often help achieve a resolution without a record.

In R. v. E.T. [2018], the Firm represented an individual charged with 1 count of assault and 4 counts of assault with a weapon after allegedly assaulting a young child. After engaging in negotiations with the Crown, the Firm was able to secure the withdrawal of all charges. The accused was the parent of the child and was trying to discipline the complainant. The incident was report to Children’s Aid Society by the child’s teacher who then investigated and helped law enforcement lay the charges. After significant upfront work and time, the family was once again reunited.

Jail Sentences for Assault Charges in Canada

Donich Law - Assault Punishments

In R. v. W.V. [2017], the Firm represented a client charged with assault with a weapon after allegedly becoming involved in an argument with her domestic partner and throwing a burnt pizza at him, causing a laceration. After months of negotiation the Firm was able to secure the withdrawal of the charge. Any object used in the context of domestic violence can be treated as a weapon. During a heated dispute, it’s not uncommon for one party to use or throw an object which the police will treat as a weapon when laying the charge. The Crown will review injuries before determining how to proceed and whether to offer any type of favourable resolution.

In R. v. P.T. [2016], the Firm represented a client charged with assault with a weapon after allegedly threatening his domestic partner with a kitchen knife during an argument. The Firm was ultimately able to secure the withdrawal of the charge. This was achieved by challenging the underlying evidence in the case and credibility of the complainant. The defence produced its own exculpatory evidence in the case which impacted the Crown resolution position. Having a good theory of the case with defence evidence is how weapon charges are defeated in the context of a domestic dispute.

In 2022, the Firm provided legal representation for an individual charged with assault with a weapon in R. v. S.Y. [2022]. The accused allegedly struck her domestic partner while holding her cell phone during a heated discussion at the complainant’s workplace concerning infidelity. Nearby witnesses contacted the police, claiming that the accused had hit her partner in the upper arm with her phone. The Firm strategically addressed weaknesses in the Crown’s evidence, particularly the witness statement, ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of the charge.

How to Defend Assault Charges

In R. v. A.C. [2016], the Firm represented a client charged with criminal harassment after allegedly sending hundreds of text messages to his ex-partner after their relationship ended. The Firm ultimately secured the withdrawal of the charge. During the breakdown of a relationship parties can become emotional and make poor decisions. Getting legal advice early can sometimes help avoid criminal charges altogether, especially where the arguments are done in writing which can later be used as evidence in court proceedings.

In 2022, Donich Law defended a client charged with assault after pulling on the arm of a child in her care in R. v. G.S. [2022]. The amount of force used by the accused caused the young child to fall, injuring her face. Due to the age of the complainant, the Crown was originally seeking a jail sentence. The Firm had the client undergo a forensic risk assessment to demonstrate the low risk she posed to the community. After more than two years of negotiations with the Crown, Donich Law resolved the matter without a criminal record for the client.

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6 Tips for Defending Assault Charges

1. Gather Witnesses

In criminal cases, one of the most common types of evidence is witness evidence. When an assault occurs and police are called to the scene, they will interview anyone who was there and may have witnessed the incident. Witness accounts are important as they can help corroborate what occurred. Depending on where the alleged assault occurred, there could be witnesses who are known to the accused and the victim, or there could be witnesses who are strangers. Where the witness is a stranger, it is important to get their contact information before they leave the scene. This will allow the accused to contact this individual for information in the future, as well as call them as a witness at trial to provide testimony if necessary.

Regardless of whether the witnesses are known to the accused, it is important to let the individual know that they may be called as witness in the case. The accused may wish to ask the witness to make notes about the incident or write down a written statement. This will ensure the witnesses account of the incident is properly preserved while it is still fresh in their memory. It is common for assault cases to take a year or more to reach trial, which can result in eroding recollections of the incident. Ensuring witnesses are available and have recorded their observations right after the incident will ensure the evidence is fresh and accurate at the time of trial.

2. Preserve Evidence

In addition to gathering witnesses, an individual accused of an assault offence should also preserve any other relevant evidence that may assist them in their case. As part of the court process, the accused will receive what is known as a disclosure package from the Crown’s office. This package contains all the evidence related to the case that is in the Crown’s possession. While the Crown and police typically gather all relevant evidence, in some cases they may miss something, may not be able to access something, or simply may not know an item of evidence exists. Further, criminal cases can take several months or more to complete. This means that memories may fade, or evidence may be destroyed. As a result, it is important for the accused to preserve any relevant information they are aware of as soon as possible.

Common types of evidence in assault cases include video footage including cell phone footage or surveillance footage, text messages or other electronic messages, witness statements, photos of potential injuries, photos of damaged property, documentation, or anything else that may be useful later. It may not always be clear right away which evidence will be helpful and which evidence will not. It is always better to preserve evidence and not need it later than to not preserve evidence that would have been helpful.

3. Prepare for Court

When an individual is charged with a criminal offence including an assault offence they will usually be temporarily taken into custody and then released pending trial. After their release, the accused will be provided with a first appearance court date. The first appearance court date is an opportunity for the accused or their counsel to check in with the court and provide an update. Typically, the court will want to know whether the accused has retained a lawyer already, and if not, if they intend to retain one in the future.

To prepare for your first appearance court date it is important to spend some time thinking about whether you intend to hire a lawyer to represent you, or if you intend to represent yourself. If you do intend to retain counsel to represent you, it is advisable to look into potential lawyers prior to the first appearance date. This will allow the accused to have an update for the court on the first appearance.

In addition to preparations related to counsel, an accused may also wish to prepare ahead of time to attend the court on the first appearance date. If the accused is unfamiliar with the courthouse and intends to appear in person, it is advisable to look up the most convenient route ahead of time. If the accused intends to appear virtually by Zoom, they may wish to log into the courtroom ahead of time to ensure the link they have is up to date and active.

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4. Consult with Legal Counsel

The court process can be stressful and confusing, especially for those who are unfamiliar with it. Additionally, those convicted of an assault charge can face serious penalties from the court including jail time and ancillary orders like a DNA order or weapons prohibition that can affect the accused years after their sentence concludes.

A lawyer can be an invaluable asset to an individual charged with an assault offence. Counsel can provide the accused with a better understanding of their rights and obligations throughout the court process. This will help ensure the accused’s rights are protected throughout and will ensure the accused does not do or say anything during the process that will hurt them later.

Legal counsel can also attend the majority court appearances, including the first appearance date, on behalf of the accused. This will avoid the accused having to appear themselves which will help to keep the matter confidential. Legal counsel can assist the accused in getting their disclosure package and then carefully reviewing the disclosure package once it is received. Experienced counsel can analyze the evidence for any weaknesses in the Crown’s case, potential Charter challenges, or any other issues or discrepancies that may work in the accused’s favour.  They can assist the accused in developing a legal theory for the case and can negotiate with the Crown on the accused’s behalf.

5. Review Disclosure

When an individual is charged with a criminal offence in Canada, they will receive something known as disclosure. Disclosure is the evidence the Crown will use to prosecute the accused. The accused is entitled to all relevant evidence related to their matter that is in the Crown’s possession. Disclosure is typically provided to the accused early on in the case. The accused is entitled to substantial disclosure before being required to make any meaningful decisions in their case.

If you have been charged with an assault charge, it is important to review all the evidence in the possession of the Crown. This evidence may be used to weaken the Crown’s case or provide the accused with evidence of a Charter violation. Experienced legal counsel will be able to review your disclosure material to uncover any potential issues with the Crown’s case that the defence may use as leverage. Counsel can also assist in uncovering any potential Charter violations by reviewing police notes and other police records related to the investigation. A thorough review of the disclosure material will give an accused a good idea of the case to meet and how to best defeat the charges.

6. Develop a Defence Strategy

In any criminal case, there are certain defences that are available to the accused. Some defences are full defences, meaning if they are advanced successfully, they will result in the charges against the accused being dropped. Other defences are partial defences which, if advanced successfully, will result in a lesser penalty for the accused. When reviewing any new assault case, it is important to carefully analyze all disclosure material provided by the Crown, as well as any relevant evidence gathered by the accused. Once a full a thorough review of the disclosure has been done, the accused and/or their lawyer can begin thinking about a theory of the case and potential defence strategy.

The appropriate theory and defence strategy will be specifically tailored to the facts of the case. For example, if the accused states that they did not commit the assault and that the allegations are fabricated, the defence will use that as the theory of the case. Typically, where the Crown has some evidence of the offence in the form of a complainant statement, the accused will need to present evidence of their own to indicate that they did not commit the assault. This may include testimony from the accused at trial. Defence counsel can assist with reviewing disclosure to develop the best theory and defence strategy for the particular case.

About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.