What is a peace bond?
In Canada, a peace bond is an order made by a criminal court that requires an accused to comply with certain conditions for a set period of time. A peace bond can be ordered when an accused has been charged with a violent offence or is likely to commit a violent offence, and the Crown Prosecutor and the court are confident that the peace bond is an effective way of dealing with the accused’s criminal matter. The purpose of the peace bond is to protect the victims of the offence, and to prevent the accused from committing further crimes. In many cases, a peace bond is an excellent way of resolving a criminal matter as it allows the accused to avoid a criminal record without the added strain of running a trial.
Who Can Get a Peace Bond:
A peace bond can be sought by a complainant who has legitimate reason to fear that an accused will commit a violent offence against him or her, or by an accused as a means of resolving his or her criminal matter. Typically people who request peace bonds are victims of violent crimes like assault, domestic assault, or criminal harassment, and who believe that the accused poses a threat to their safety.
If a complainant is the one requesting a peace bond, once he or she has made an application for the order with the police or before the court, a hearing date will be set in Provincial Court. At the hearing a Judge will hear evidence as to why the peace bond should be implemented, and will decide whether it would be reasonable to grant a peace bond in the circumstances. The type of evidence that a complainant can rely on at this hearing includes the complainant’s own testimony, previously recorded altercations between the complainant and the accused, medical records showing injuries that the complainant suffered as a result of the offence, and proof of damage to property as a result of the offence.
If at the hearing, the Judge finds that a peace bond would be justified in the circumstances, you will be compelled to sign the peace bond. If you refuse to sign the peace bond after it has been ordered by a Judge, you could be given a sentence in prison not exceeding one year.
If you do not agree that a peace bond is appropriate in your circumstances, at the hearing you will have an opportunity to present reasons why the order would not be justified in your case. Alternatively, where there are grounds for the peace bond but you do not agree with some of the conditions, you can make submissions as to why one of the terms should not be implemented. Whether or not you are opposing the peace bond, it is ideal for you to have a criminal defence lawyer present at the hearing. A criminal defence lawyer can present evidence on your behalf and make effective arguments as to why it is not reasonable to implement a peace bond in your case. If the peace bond is unavoidable, a lawyer can also help ensure that at least the terms of the peace bond are reasonable for you.
A peace bond is also often sought by an accused as a means of resolving current criminal charges. For example, if you have been charged with assault, domestic assault or another violent offence, depending on the circumstances of your case you may be able to resolve the matter by signing a peace bond. Once you have signed the peace bond, the charges against you will be withdrawn and you will not receive a criminal record.
In order to get a peace bond, the Crown Prosecutor will first have to be persuaded that this is an effective means of addressing your criminal charges, and your counsel will then have to speak to the matter in court and get consent for the peace bond from the judge. Typically the types of offences that are resolved with a peace bond are fairly minor offences which caused little to no damage to persons or property. If you have a pre-existing criminal record with a number of related offences, you will be less likely to be offered a peace bond as a resolution. However, even in difficult cases a skilled lawyer can utilize weaknesses in the case against you to effectively persuade the Crown to resolve the matter with a peace bond.
Peace Bond or Trial? Which One is Better?
It may be the case that you have been offered a peace bond as a means of resolving your charge, but you are wondering if it would be better to proceed to trial. While going to trial will offer you the prospect of being completely acquitted of your charges, it is often extremely advantageous to sign a peace bond instead.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to accepting a peace bond instead of going to trial is that you will have certainty with respect to the outcome of your matter. Even when it seems as though you have a strong case and a high likelihood of succeeding, there is always an inevitable element of uncertainty at trial. It is important to remember that while judges do their best to decide the case fairly and impartially, your case is still being judged by a person, and it is impossible to guess with 100% certainty what that person will think of the evidence that is put before them in court. Further, you can never truly know what witnesses will show up, how they will testify, and whether their evidence will truly support your case until they are actually are put on the stand. As such, there is always a chance of being convicted even in the seemingly clearest of cases.
By contrast, a peace bond eliminates this element of uncertainty and gives you a measure of control over the outcome of your matter. So long as you chose to comply with the conditions of the peace bond, you know that the charges against you will be withdrawn and that you will be able to avoid a criminal record.
The Difference Between A Peace Bond And A Restraining Order Or A Probation Order:
Many people wonder how a peace bond is different than a restraining order or a probation order. Firstly, a peace bond is different from a restraining order in that a peace bond is a form of recognizance issued by a criminal court as a part of criminal proceedings. By contrast, a restraining order is issued by a judge in family court for the purpose of protecting a spouse or other family members after a complaint of family violence has been made. Unlike a peace bond issued in accordance with the Criminal Code, to get a restraining order the complainant does not need to show fear of the accused.
Both a peace bond and a restraining order will impose certain conditions on the person being accused of violence, and the person being accused will have to comply with those conditions for the entire duration of the bond or order. If the conditions are breached, the accused can be arrested by the police and charged with a criminal offence. However, the conditions that will be imposed when you sign a peace bond or when you are given a restraining order will be different.
Generally speaking, if you are given a restraining order the conditions that will be imposed on you will only restrict your ability to go near, or contact the person who sought the order. With a peace bond, the conditions imposed on you will go beyond a no contact order. Specifically, in addition from being precluded from contacting the complainant, you will be directed to keep the peace and be of good behavior, you may receive a weapons or firearms prohibition, and you may be ordered to abstain from drinking or to seek counselling amongst other conditions.
Another common point of confusion is how a peace bond differs from a probation order. While the conditions imposed on an accused by a peace bond can be similar to the conditions imposed on someone on probation, the two are not the same. The most important difference between probation and a peace bond is that a probation order will follow a criminal conviction, whereas a peace bond is not a conviction, nor is it even an admission of guilt. Further, in some circumstances you are free to choose whether you enter into a peace bond, but you have no such freedom of choice when you have been convicted of an offence and receive a probation order. However, even though you are not found guilty of a criminal offence when you sign a peace bond, as with breaching probation, it is a criminal offence to breach the conditions of a peace bond.
Types Of Criminal Charges That Can Be Resolved With A Peace Bond:
Generally speaking, peace bonds are used to resolve violent offences in instances where an accused does not have an extremely lengthy criminal record, and where the offence was fairly minor despite being violent. The most common offences that are resolved by way of a peace bond are minor assaults, minor incidents of domestic violence, criminal harassment, and uttering threats. In some rare cases you may be able to get a peace bond for more serious offences such as child pornography, assault with a weapon, and assault causing bodily harm.
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