Contrary to what many people believe, domestic violence charges will not automatically get dropped if the complaint changes his or her mind and tells the police they no longer wish to charge you criminally. Rather, once a complaint of domestic violence is made to the police and a charge is formally laid, the Crown Prosecutor takes control of the proceedings and the person who made the complaint loses all control over the prosecution of the accused.
In fact, it is possible for a successful prosecution to be carried forward even if the victim will no longer willingly participate in the criminal proceedings. Firstly, the Crown can always subpoena the complainant into court and put him or her on the stand as a witness, even if that person does not want to testify about the offence. Once he or she is on the stand, that person will be compelled by law to tell the truth. Further, if the complainant chooses to ignore a subpoena, under Canadian law the Crown has the power to have that person arrested and brought before the court, or held in custody until they can be brought before the court.
Secondly, in some situations the Crown can seek to have prior statements made by the complainant to the police entered into evidence for the truth of its contents. If the Crown in successful in that application, it may be the case that the statements that the complainant made to the police after the offence can be used to convict you, even if he or she refuses to adopt those statements before the court. Furthermore, the Crown may not even need the complainant’s testimony if they can establish the elements of the offence through eyewitnesses that were present when the crime was committed.
If you do not have a high likelihood of success at trial, there is still a possibility that the charges against you can be withdrawn, or that you can avoid a criminal record with certain resolution options.
How to Get your Domestic Assault Charges Dropped:
A common and effective resolution to a domestic assault charge is a statutory or common law peace bond. A peace bond will require that you abide by certain conditions stipulated by the court for a set period of time. Some examples of the conditions typically included in a peace bond are not contacting or going near the complainant, attending counselling, and keeping the peace and being of good behaviour. If you are able to persuade the Crown Prosecutor to resolve your matter with a peace bond, the criminal charges against you will be withdrawn.
Avoid a Criminal Record with a Discharge:
Alternatively, you may be able to persuade the Crown Prosecutor to join you in an application for discharge prior to trial. A discharge is a sentencing measure that allows you to avoid a criminal record after you have pled guilty to an offence. To get a discharge, after entering your plea you will make submissions to the court that illustrate why you should not receive a criminal record for the offence, and why it would not be contrary to the public interest to allow you to avoid conviction. If granted, you will be ‘discharged’ from the offence as opposed to convicted, and going forward you can always say that you have not been convicted of a criminal offence.
If you are interested in a resolution for your domestic assault charges, you should contact one of our criminal defence lawyers as soon as possible. We have ample experience with domestic assault charges and know what steps to take in order to maximize your chances of securing a favourable resolution.