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Defend Assault Charges

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Our Experience

The Criminal Code contains a variety of different assault charges including simple assault, assault – choking, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and aggravated assault. When an assault occurs, the accused will be charged with one of these offences depending on the nature of the assault. Different assault charges warrant different penalties, with aggravated assault garnering the most severe penalties on average.

Donich Law has experience defending a variety of assault charges, from minor simple assaults to serious, violent assaults where a weapon is used or where the complainant is seriously injured. Given the violent nature of the offence, a large number of those convicted of assault are sentenced to a period of incarceration. The more severe the assault, the longer the period of incarceration will be.

The 2022, the Firm successfully defended a client charged with assault with a weapon in the context of a domestic relationship in R. v. S.Y. [2022]. During the breakdown of their relationship the parties got into a heated argument at the complainant’s place of employment. During the argument the accused was alleged to have pushed the complainant and struck him in his upper arm while holding her cell phone. Police were called by a third party and the accused was charged with assault with a weapon because she had been holding her phone at the time of the assault. The Firm and the accused both completed up front work before engaging in Crown discussions, ultimately securing a withdrawal of the charge.

In R. v. M.R. [2019], the Firm represented a client charged with domestic assault as a second time offender. As outlined above, those convicted of domestic assault for a second time may face an increased penalty upon sentencing which may be more severe than the maximum penalty noted in the Criminal Code. The Firm engaged in pre-trial discussions with the Crown, successfully resolving the matter without a criminal record.

In 2021, the Firm represented an individual charged with forcible confinement, two counts of assault, assault with a weapon, and uttering threats in R. v. B.W. [2021]. The complainant in the case alleged that the accused had assaulted her including slapping her and putting a towel over her face and pouring water on it. It was further alleged that the accused had prevented the complainant from leaving his residence and had threatened her. While there were not alleged injuries, the domestic nature of the incident and the number of charges resulted in the Crown being unwilling to negotiate for a favourable plea deal. The accused set the matter down for trial. At trial, much of the complainant’s testimony was found not to be credible. The Firm outright defeated four of the five charges and resolved the remaining charge without a criminal record.

In addition to assaults resulting in only minor injuries, the Firm also has experience defending cases where the injuries are more serious. In 2019, the Firm represented an individual charged with assault causing bodily harm in R. v. S.G. [2019]. The accused was charged after getting into an altercation with another individual and punching the individual in the face, fracturing his jaw. Given the seriousness of the injury, the Crown initially took a hard position on the case, screening the file for a possible custodial sentence. The Firm launched an investigation of its own, uncovering video evidence that the complainant had provoked the attack to some degree. Utilizing this information, the Firm resolved the case without a criminal record.

Jail Sentences for Assault Charges in Canada

Donich Law - Assault Punishments

Assault is a serious crime that can result in jail time of up to five years. The London Police reported 2,411 cases of assault in 2020, which increased to 3,142 cases in 2021. Over five years, the cases for assault have increased dramatically, by near 1,000 cases since 2017. Given how dangerous assault is, the police generally respond very quickly to assault cases. When being charged with assault in London, Ontario, it is important to know your rights and retain a lawyer as soon as possible.

Assaults occurring in the context of domestic relationships are quite common in Canada. While there is no separate offence in the Code pertaining to domestic assault, the Code does contain sections specifically related to assaults occurring in the context of a domestic relationship. Section 718.201 of the Code indicates that where a sentencing court is sentencing an individual for an assault on their intimate partner, the court must consider the increased vulnerability of female victims of assault, giving special attention to the circumstances on Indigenous females. Section 718.3(8) of the Code stipulates that where an offender has been convicted of an indictable offence involving violence against a domestic partner for a second time, the Court may impose a sentence longer than the maximum penalty stipulated in the Criminal Code.

In the Firm’s 2023 case of R. v. J.S. [2023], the Firm secured a withdrawal of one count of assault and one count of choking. The accused individual was charged after getting into a heated altercation with his partner in a parking lot. The altercation was witnessed by patrons of a nearby restaurant, and law enforcement was called. The Firm negotiated with the Crown for over a year and a half, exploiting various issues with the case before resolving it without a criminal record for the accused.

How to Defend Assault Charges

In R. v. M.R. [2019], the Firm represented a client charged with domestic assault as a second time offender. As outlined above, those convicted of domestic assault for a second time may face an increased penalty upon sentencing which may be more severe than the maximum penalty noted in the Criminal Code. The Firm engaged in pre-trial discussions with the Crown, successfully resolving the matter without a criminal record.

In cases involving charges of a domestic nature, clients are often charged with assault in addition to other charges including mischief of criminal harassment. In 2016, the Firm represented an actor charged with criminal harassment in R. v. A.C. [2016]. The accused was arrested after he repeatedly contacted the complainant after a breakdown in their intimate relationship. It was alleged that the accused had sent repeated messages and left voicemails on the complainant’s phone after she had ceased communication. The Firm engaged in an analysis of the disclosure material, completing up front work with the client and ultimately securing a withdrawal of the charges.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will the Complainant Be at the Court Appearance in London?

If you have been charged with assault or domestic assault in London, the complainant may attend court appearances if they choose. Courts are public forums where anyone is free to observe, except in rare circumstances. While the complainant may attend court as an observer, they do not have an active role in the regularly scheduled court appearances leading up to trial and are not permitted to interject in the proceedings.

If the accused pleads guilty to their charges, the complainant may attend the guilty plea hearing and provide a victim impact statement. If the accused goes to trial, the complainant will be required to attend court and provide testimony about the alleged offence(s). If the accused is convicted at trial, the complainant will be given an opportunity to provide a victim impact statement at sentencing.

As the Complainant, Do I Have to Testify?

The complainant is almost always required to testify, given that they do not bring hearsay evidence in. If there is no other evidence (as is common with assault cases), the complainant’s statement will be the primary evidence for the Crown. In this case, the complainant becomes the Crown’s star witness. The conviction depends on the complainant’s testimony, and if it is credible and reliable, it is sufficient for a conviction. In rare circumstances where the complainant is unwilling to participate, there are other avenues for the police to get evidence such as police statements previously provided by the complainant.

What Are the Penalties for the Various Assault Charges?

There is a spectrum of sentences for assault, applied to each unique situation. In favour of public interest, the more violent the crime, the heavier the sentence may be. When a person is charged with simple assault and convicted, they may be subject to jail time up to five years. If they are summarily convicted, they may face jail time for two years less a day. Different degrees of assault will result in different penalties. In situations of assault with a weapon, the convicted may face up to ten years in prison. In cases of aggravated assault, the convicted is subject to imprisonment for up to 14 years. In addition to jailtime, the convicted may be subject to weapons prohibition as well as a DNA order.

Are There Any Other Consequences Associated with an Assault Charge?

An assault charge may result in a criminal record. In addition to the stigma and stress of a court proceeding, if a person is convicted with an assault charge, it is on their record. Travel, especially to the United States, can be a problem. Employment opportunities may be compromised, as any work done with a vulnerable sector must go through a vulnerable sector background check, which is extensive.

There are also consequences of a more personal nature to an assault conviction. Situations such as domestic assault may result in a no contact order, which can compromise a relationship. If a child is involved in the assault, the no contact order extends to the child.

Will I Be Ordered to Provide DNA if Convicted of Assault?

An order for the accused to provide deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) can be made. The Court can make a DNA order, but depending on the severity of the case, a DNA order might not be necessary. Offences are categorized either to primary designated offence or secondary designated offence. Secondary designated offences do not have a mandate for DNA. However, any aggravating factors may make the assault a primary designated offence. The Crown may make an application to ask for DNA on file at sentencing. The counsel may make arguments for why it should or should not be taken. Once the DNA is taken, it will be stored in the National Databank for future reference.

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Recent Cases

R. v. Doerr, 2023 ONSC 2525

In the Ontario Superior Court case of R. v. Doerr, the accused was engaged in a bar fight at Jack’s Bar in London, Ontario. After the altercation, the accused was charged with one count of aggravated assault.

Mr. Doerr claimed self-defence. In determining whether or not self-defence was a valid defence for the accused, the court considered a list of factors which includes but are not limited to: the nature of the force or threat; whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force; the person’s role in the incident; whether any party used or threatened to use a weapon; the parties’ histories; the size, age, gender, and physical capabilities of the parties; the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force, etc. In determining the appropriate sentence for Mr. Doerr, the court determined the three requirements for self-defence: (1) reasonable belief that force or threat of force is being used; (2) the presence of a defensive purpose, and; (3) reasonable response. The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one element does not exist.

R. v. Morello, 2022 ONCJ 371

In the Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. Morello, the complainant was the accused’s girlfriend, Megan Charette. They were in an unhealthy intimate partner relationship, full of turmoil, emotional and physical abuse, accusations of criminal behaviour, and mistrust. The altercation started when Charette took Morello’s phone, and Morello threw her to the ground. A camera captured this incident. Charette did not report this assault until two months later, due to a fear of involvement with the Children’s Aid Society, as her youngest son Chase was living with them at the time.

When considering witness testimony, the Court hinged its decision on R. v. W (D), [1991] 1 S.C.R. 742. The framework for determining a witness’ credibility was outlined as such: (1) if the defence evidence is accepted, the accused must be acquitted (2) if there is a reasonable doubt left that the accused could be innocent, the accused must be acquitted and (3) if the Crown “met its high burden and proven beyond a reasonable doubt all the essential elements of the offences against the defendant.”

The complainant’s testimony was called into question, and Ms. Charette was found to have been misleading and dishonest. Upon examination of the video, the Court was left with a reasonable doubt that Morello applied force to Charette intentionally, as she may have fallen on the ground herself. This resulted in an acquittal.

R. v. Nelson, 2022 ONCJ 634

In the Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. Nelson, the accused struck the complainant two times in the face, after which she fell back on the floor, unconscious. After attempting to help her briefly, Nelson left the scene. The complainant suffered a fractured jaw, a broken tooth, as well as bumps and bruises. The defendant was charged with assault causing bodily harm. The Crown sought the maximum summary sentence for assault causing bodily harm: imprisonment of 18 months followed by a two year probation order.

In their analysis, the Court considered several mitigating and aggravating factors. Mitigating factors included remorse, a lack of a prior criminal record, community support, and employment. Aggravating factors included the extent of the assault, the injuries suffered, the duration of the harm caused, and the impact the assault had on the complainant. The altercation happened at a time when the defendant and the complainant were in an intimate relationship, in the complainant’s home; the complainant continues to suffer psychological harm as a result of the assault. The defendant was found guilty, and subject to 12 months’ imprisonment.

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.