Domestic Violence Lawyer Calgary
Criminal charges that arise out of a domestic situation are viewed more seriously by the Crown and the Courts than the same criminal charges arising from non-domestic contexts.
The Crown prosecutor is more likely to ask for jail for a crime involving a domestic relationship than for a crime involving a stranger, and the Court is more likely to grant a harsher sentence. This is because people in domestic relationships are in positions of trust toward each other, and it is considered aggravating when one of the parties abuses that trust.
It is therefore important to determine whether the Crown has in fact designated your charges as involving domestic violence.
Some of the more common types of offences that occur in a domestic setting include the following:
- Assault with a Weapon
- Assault Causing Bodily Harm
- Break and Enter
- Unlawfully in a Dwelling
- Unlawful Confinement
- Sexual Assault
- Criminal Harassment
- Various Breaches of Conditions
Criminal charges are deemed to be Domestic in nature if they involve either a family member, or a current/former romantic partner. In metropolitan areas such as Edmonton and Calgary, there is a special court room designated for domestic violence cases called “domestic court”. In Calgary specifically, this is courtroom 508. If you are scheduled to appear in one of those courtrooms, you can presume the Crown will argue that your case involved domestic violence.
Upon being charged with an offence involving domestic violence, you can expect to be placed on very strict conditions. The most onerous of these are possible restrictions on your place of residence, and on your ability to contact the alleged victim, and other family members (like your children).
If you share a home with the victim, you will most likely not be allowed to go back home until the matter is addressed again in court. Even if you are paying the rent, even if you are on the lease, even if you own the home, you will not be able to return home. At least for the short term, make alternate arrangements as soon as possible until this can be changed. One short term measure that the Crown prosecutor may agree to, even without counsel input, is to allow an exception of a one-time attendance at the home to retrieve personal belongings with a police escort. There are several further measures that can be taken to get you access to your residence, such as hiring a family lawyer to remove the other party from the residence, or making a court application for access to the residence should the appropriate circumstances warrant such a remedy.
If the alleged victim of domestic violence is a spouse, it is quite common for the no contact condition to include not only the spouse, but also the children of the relationship. The ‘no contact’ condition means you cannot send the named person(s) any messages either personally or through other people or mediums. This often places significant strains on all parties involved, both emotional and financial. Moreover, when children are implicated, child welfare services also become involved, making changing conditions to allow contact even harder.
Sometimes the alleged victims of domestic violence take it upon themselves to contact the Crown Prosecutor, or the domestic violence victim assistance unit to make known that they want contact. However, even if the alleged victim wants contact, child welfare and the Crown Prosecutor may refuse to change those conditions.
There are typically no quick or certain measures that will guarantee contact. However, one thing you can do as the accused person is to engage in counselling as soon as possible. There are numerous domestic violence programs available (see under resources). If alcohol is involved, do some alcohol counselling. Participating in such programs is not an admission of guilt. Rather, it will most likely address some of the concerns the Crown and child welfare workers may have about allowing you contact with the parties involved.
Although some measures you can take with respect to your release conditions have been identified above, there are numerous other avenues to pursue depending on the circumstances of your case. It is important to retain counsel as soon as possible to first and foremost work on reuniting you with your family.
How to Defend Your Domestic Violence Case
Once the conditions are relaxed, you can focus on dealing with the substantive charges. As with most cases, it is important to write down as much as possible as soon as possible. You have to remember that the other person(s) involved in the incident likely wrote down what occurred right away during an interview with police. In order for your version of events to be most credible, you need to put it on paper while the memories are still fresh in your mind. Think about drawing a diagram of the area where the incident occurred to provide a better account of what happened.
Beyond writing down what happened, think of peripheral evidence that will support your case. If you were injured, take pictures and obtain a medical report. If you had further discussion about the matter, or prior discussions shedding light on the incident, save the emails, text messages, voicemails, etc. that support your case.
Keep these documents and records together, and have them ready to provide them to me when we meet.