Domestic Violence Lawyer Edmonton
Domestic Violence is a serious and prevalent crime in Edmonton. In 2016 alone, the Edmonton Police Service reported that there were 8,715 incidents related to domestic violence. Because Domestic Violence is such a common and serious crime, Edmonton courts take these charges very seriously and will often grant a harsher sentence following a conviction.
Domestic Violence refers to a range of assaults that are inflicted on a person with whom you have an intimate relationship. This includes individuals like your common-law partner, husband, wife, children or boyfriend or girlfriend. In order to be convicted of this crime, the Crown prosecutor only needs to prove that you intentionally applied some amount of unwanted force against the complainant (victim) without the complainant’s consent. The assault does not even need to result in lasting physical injury and can be something as little as a slap or a shove.
The Investigation of Domestic Violence in Edmonton
Following an allegation of domestic violence, the Edmonton Police Service will interview the complainant and get their version of events. After the complainant tells the police that you assaulted them in some way, the police will initiate an investigation against you. This might involve gathering further evidence from other witnesses or medical evidence from the hospital, or they might simply arrest you right away. In fact, all they need to charge you with domestic assault is the complainant’s own testimony. No further physical proof is required.
If you are charged with domestic violence, you will be arrested and brought into custody. The amount of time that you spend in custody will depend heavily on the severity of the assault, and whether or not the Crown prosecutor is opposed to your release. If the assault was minor, you will likely be released shortly after your arrest by the police. If the assault was on the more serious end of the spectrum (for example, aggravated or sexual assault), the Crown will oppose your release from custody. Should that be the case, you will require a formal bail hearing in order to secure pretrial release.
In Edmonton, the Domestic Abuse High Risk Team (DAHRT), also plays a role in the investigation of domestic violence allegations. DAHRT works in partnership with the Edmonton Police and will gather information about the alleged incident from the complainant. They will use this information to determine the risk of future violence against the complainant, and they will make recommendations for the Crown and court about your bail and your sentence. As such, DAHRT can play an important part in the Crown’s decision to release you on bail and will help determine appropriate conditions for your bail should you be released.
After the police have decided to lay a charge for domestic violence, the matter is passed over to a special prosecutions unit called the Domestic Violence Unit at the Edmonton Crown Prosecutor’s office. The DVU is a group of Crown prosecutors that deal exclusively with the prosecution of domestic violence cases. Once they receive your case, they are the ones that decide to prosecute or withdraw your matter. So even if the complainant changes his or her mind and decides that they no longer wish to press charges against you, it does not mean that the charges will be withdrawn. If the Crown prosecutor decides that they want to continue to prosecute your case, your matter will go forward notwithstanding the wishes of the complainant.
Bail Conditions for Domestic Violence in Edmonton
How you get bail following a charge for Domestic Violence in Edmonton will depend heavily on the nature of your charges. For more serious charges, like aggravated assault or sexual assault, you can expect that the police and the Crown will want to keep you in custody. Following your arrest for more serious charges for Domestic Violence, there is a very high likelihood that you will be held in the Arrest Processing Unit (APU) until you can have a bail hearing. The APU is located in the basement of the Edmonton Police Headquarters at 962-103A Avenue, Edmonton AB, T5H 0H7. If you are being held in custody, you should have a bail hearing within 24 hours of your release. The bail hearing will take place at the Edmonton bail hearing office on the Main Floor, SW exterior entry of the Brownlee Building at 10365 97 St NW. At your hearing, you will appear either over the telephone or over CCTV before a justice of the peace. If you are denied bail at this stage, your next chance to obtain bail will be at a hearing before a judge in the Edmonton courthouse. While bail hearings are conducted 24 hours a day at the Edmonton bail hearing office, you will have to wait until normal business hours to go before a judge in court. Without proper representation, this could become a very long process that will keep you in custody for a significant period of time. To ensure that you are released as quickly as possible, contact one of the criminal defence lawyers in our Edmonton office immediately. We have considerable experience conducting bail hearings in the Edmonton area and can use our knowledge, skills, and experience to secure your release as quickly as possible.
For less serious charges like simple assault (for example, minor instances of pushing, slapping, punching), you have a better chance of being released shortly after your arrest without a bail hearing. After you have been arrested and processed by the police, you will be given papers that indicate the conditions of your release and will tell you the date and place of your first court appearance. You will usually be directed to attend the Edmonton Police Headquarters to get your fingerprints done. For your first appearance in court, you will typically be directed to attend courtroom 268, a special courtroom in the Edmonton Courthouse that is dedicated to hearing only domestic violence matters. While this appearance will be set for the purpose of making a plea, do not feel obliged to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty if you have not yet had a chance to speak to a lawyer. At your first appearance, you can explain to the judge that you still need to retain a criminal defence lawyer, and you can request a two to three week adjournment to retain legal counsel. It is very important that you make all of your court appearances until you have hired a defence lawyer to go in your place. If you do not in court as directed, you will likely receive a new criminal charge for failing to appear.
Once you are released, you can expect that your domestic violence charges will continue to impact your life significantly until the matter is resolved. Typically, after you have been released following a domestic violence charge, you will be ordered to comply with strict conditions that usually restrict your ability to contact or go near the complainant. This is often very problematic because the conditions will often prevent you from returning to your residence as that is also where the complainant lives. However, no matter how inconvenient the conditions are, you must comply with them or else a new criminal charge could be laid against you for breaching the conditions. If you are seriously encumbered by the conditions, contact one of the criminal defence lawyers in our Edmonton office as soon as possible. Once retained, we can quickly take action to vary the conditions of your release. That way, you can start the healing process and go back to living with your family (if that is what everyone wants) while we work on to resolving your charges.
Defending Your Domestic Violence Charges in Edmonton
Despite the high number of domestic violence charges that are laid in Edmonton each year, the vast majority of these charges are resolved without trial. At Oykhman Criminal Defence Law, it is our goal to take every step possible to avoid the highly stressful and intimidating process of going to trial but still provide the results our clients are looking for. Once you have retained one of our criminal defence lawyers, it is our practice to review your case and speak to the Crown prosecutor about resolving the matter in a way that you find favourable. Through this process, we resolve a significant number of domestic violence charges without a criminal record. Whether through a peace bond, discharge, withdrawal or a stay of proceedings, we have lots of options for resolving these types of charges.
In order to achieve the best results, it is often helpful for you to take positive actions to address the issues that gave rise to the allegations in the first place. For example, we often recommend that our clients seek some sort of anger management or domestic violence counseling. It is important to know that seeking counseling is not a sign of guilt, but is considered to be an extremely positive action that will be looked upon favorably by the Crown and the Court. This is often a crucial factor in our ability to resolve a domestic violence charge with a peace bond, or to seek a discharge that will allow you to walk away from the charges with no criminal record. An example of a well reputed program that is approved by Edmonton courts is the Changing PathWays program offered by the Edmonton Violence Prevention Centre.
If the Crown is unwilling to provide us with a position that you find favorable, with your instruction we will take your matter to trial. At trial, we will use the experience and knowledge we have gained defending thousands of domestic violence charges to mount a full and effective defence to the allegations against you. To find out what we can do to resolve your matter, or to learn more about the most effective way to defend your domestic violence charges, contact a criminal defence lawyer in our Edmonton office as soon as possible.
The Punishment for Domestic Violence in Edmonton
The punishment for domestic violence can range significantly depending on the specific charge. A conviction for domestic assault, for example, can result in anything from a peace bond to 14 years in prison. Because the punishment for domestic violence depends heavily on the nature of the offence, circumstances of the offence, and the circumstances of the offender, to get a more concrete sense of your criminal liability you should talk to one of our criminal defence lawyers immediately.
While you do face a high likelihood of receiving a harsh penalty in the event of conviction, being charged with this offence does not necessarily mean that you will receive a criminal record. Rather, a large number of Domestic Assaults are resolved outside of court through pre-trial resolution discussions between defence counsel and the Crown prosecutor. One of the most effective ways we resolve Domestic Assault charges is by negotiating with the Crown for a peace bond. If you are granted a peace bond, you will have to comply with some basic terms for the period of one year, such as no contact with the complainant, no weapons, and attend probation and court as directed. Once you sign the peace bond, the Crown will withdraw the charges against you and you will be able to completely avoid a criminal record. It is important to know that if you agree to a peace bond, you have not been found guilty of the offence.
If a peace bond is not appropriate in your circumstances, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the Crown that will either leave you with no criminal record, or that will impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential resolutions please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on Resolutions and other sentencing options.