Your Guide to Assault Charges by Assault Lawyers in Toronto
Table of Contents
- What is an Assault Charge?
- Investigation of Assault Charges in Toronto
- Bail Process and Conditions for Assault Charges in Toronto
- Penalties for Assault Charges in Toronto
- Defending Assault Charges in Toronto
- What Next?
- Assault FAQs
What is an Assault Charge?
Assault covers a wide variety of violent offences but they all have one thing in common: conviction will have a major impact on the rest of your life.
According to the Toronto Police Service’s Public Safety Data Portal, assaults in Toronto increased by almost 25 percent between 2014 and 2019.
In 2019, there were over 20,000 assaults in the city. While the downtown areas see the highest rates of assault, the problem affects the entire city. The Toronto Police Service, therefore, takes the offence extremely seriously.
Section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines the crime of assault in the following way:
By far the most common way of committing an assault is through “the intentional application of force to a person without their consent”. This can range from the act of grabbing someone to much more serious actions, like kicks, punches, and choking.
However, notice that even gesturing to hit someone or confronting someone while carrying a weapon can constitute an assault.
Many assaults occur in the Domestic Violence context. If your matter involves violence in the context of a domestic situation i.e. a child, parent, sibling, wife, girlfriend, or common-law spouse, please review the content under that section as it will likely be more applicable to your case than this general review of assaults.
Also, if your matter involved a more serious assault, such as Assault with a Weapon, Assault Causing Bodily Harm, or Aggravated Assault, please refer to those sections of the website, as the content there will be more applicable to your situation.
Investigation of Assault Charges in Toronto
An investigation into an assault allegation in Toronto is typically started by the alleged victim (or relative or witness). They contact the Toronto Police Service and report it. The police will request a written/video statement from the complainant or any other witnesses, and launch an investigation.
Assault is a serious offence and will require a thorough police investigation with witnesses interviewed, CCTV reviewed (if applicable), and appropriate medical evidence obtained to prove the type and extent of the alleged victim’s injuries.
There is no specialized police unit to deal with these types of charges but the Toronto Police Service is the largest in the country and well-equipped to conduct these investigations. In fact, the TPS is one of the largest municipal forces in North America, with 16 divisions manned by 5,500 officers serving the city area. As such, considerable manpower is invested into tracking down the perpetrators of serious offences like assault.
Once the police have gathered their evidence, they will track you down and arrest you, if you are the alleged perpetrator. You will be taken to a Police District Office for questioning and processing. The police will then decide whether or not to press assault charges against you.
Even if a complainant makes an allegation of assault that they later withdraw, it’s still up to the Crown Prosecutor to decide whether to pursue the charges against you. In general, charges are only dropped if:
- There is insufficient evidence, or
- It would be contrary to the public interest to prosecute
If charges are pursued, the complainant becomes another witness in the case and can be subpoenaed to appear in court, even against their wishes.
Bail Process and Conditions for Assault Charges in Toronto
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for assault charges in Toronto?
For most common assaults, the police will generally release you with paperwork to attend court and for fingerprinting, and a formal bail hearing will not be necessary. Where more serious circumstances are involved, like if the charges are domestic in nature, a formal bail hearing may be necessary to secure your release.
In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be taken to the Toronto Police Service Division that is responsible for the alleged crime. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours. Note that the 24-hour period starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the Division.
The phone number for each division is 416-808-[Division Number – 00], so for example, the number for 52 Division is 416-808-5200. The addresses for each division of the Toronto Police Service can be found here.
Alternatively, the accused may be held at the Toronto South Detention Centre:
160 Horner Ave,
Toronto, ON M8Z 0C2
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on details about your whereabouts, if requested.
Because of these difficulties while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, if that happens, stop questioning you.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail. We will immediately do the following:
- Call in to the appropriate Toronto Police Service Division or the Toronto South Detention Centre and speak to you
- Contact the prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the court about why you should be released on bail
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure our client’s release
When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider the following factors:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
Although it is unlikely that you will be denied bail for this type of charge, tight restrictions may nevertheless be applied to your release.
Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release but also ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit) possible.
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public. This may sometimes be difficult in an assault case, but not impossible.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the Court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a Bail Review.
Where can I pay for bail for assault charges in Toronto?
If you or a loved one is charged with drug trafficking in Toronto and granted bail, you can pay bail at any bail hearing office (courthouse) in Ontario. Even if you live in Ottawa, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Toronto.
Bail hearing offices in Toronto are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The simplest way to pay bail is usually to pay it at the courthouse where the bail hearing was held. For instance, at Old City Hall, you can pay the cash deposit at Room 7 on the ground floor.
If you are held at the Toronto South Detention Centre, bail can also be paid there.
In Ontario, because of the prevalence of Justices of the Peace and Judges requiring a surety, various bail programs provide an alternative to a surety.
The contact number for the Toronto Bail Program is 416-314-3765.
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after you appear in front of the arrest processing unit, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for assault charges in Toronto?
Release on bail with assault charges may mean either a surety, cash or a no-cash deposit. It depends on the seriousness of the charge.
Beyond that, you may have tight restrictions applied, including refraining from:
- Interaction with the alleged victim;
- Attending the alleged victim’s home or place of work;
- Staying out beyond a certain time (a curfew);
- Breaking any laws;
- Using drugs or alcohol;
- Possessing weapons;
- Visiting certain places; and
The judge can also impose some additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved;
- Reporting to probation;
- Attending counselling; and
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise restrictions, including:
- Your criminal history;
- Your physical and mental condition;
- The nature of the alleged assault;
- The likelihood that you will flee; and
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is very important that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, so be sure to take these conditions seriously.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or deleting them altogether.
If your court date is still far away and you just can’t wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Assault Charges in Toronto
In cases of common assault charges, the likelihood of going to jail if convicted is relatively minor if there is no criminal record for similar offences. However, the risk of jail time increases dramatically once charges move from basic assault to more serious versions of the offence or if there are prior convictions.
For a standard assault conviction, you can expect:
- Up to five years in jail;
- Up to three years of probation;
- Fines of several thousand dollars;
- A ban from owning or possessing any weapons or firearms for up to 10 years; and
- An order that you give a DNA sample to the national DNA databank.
In addition to the immediate penalties resulting from a conviction for assault, it can affect your future. You may have trouble finding employment, especially in roles that require working with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable sectors of society. The lifelong criminal record that results from a conviction can also cause problems with immigration and travel.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences that stem from a criminal conviction for this offence. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on Resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Assault Charges in Toronto
What are the best defences to assault charges in Toronto?
Because witness testimony is often unpredictable, going to trial can be the best option if you are charged with assault.
We will work with the Crown prosecutors to seek a resolution that does not involve a criminal conviction if at all possible. Our defence is often based around challenging the elements of acting “intentionally,” “recklessly,” or “knowingly.” Other defence strategies focus on the technical steps taken by the police during the investigation and the evidence collection process.
Typically, the best defences for assault charges are:
- Factual innocence: this is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, causing the assault, or other basic elements of the case.
- Violation of constitutional rights: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If they were not followed to the letter by the police, it will aid your defence.
- Self-defence: reasonable force can be used to defend yourself against an unlawful assault, provided you did not intend to cause death or grievous bodily harm. No reasonable person would accuse you of assault if your actions were taken to protect yourself and were not deemed to be disproportionate or “reckless”.
- Defending someone else: reasonable force or the threat of force can also be used to defend someone else against an unlawful attack, provided there was no intent to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
- Defending property: reasonable force or the threat of force can also be used to defend property, though this may be a weaker defence in many situations.
- Accident: an accidental assault should not lead to a criminal conviction if it was unforeseeable (which you have to prove).
- Consent to fight: if both parties agreed to enter into a minor confrontation, neither can be convicted of assault. For example, if both parties consent to a fistfight to settle a grievance. Consent cannot be granted, however, if it is obtained by force, threats, fear, fraud, or the exercise of authority. It is important to note as well that you cannot consent to the infliction of intentional bodily harm.
The burden of proving that an assault was committed remains high for the prosecution. This means that there are many successful defence strategies that our experienced defence lawyers can take, including those outlined above.
Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a good defence can greatly reduce the severity of the consequences. Our lawyers will conduct a thorough examination of the police actions and the evidence against you, and call upon medical evidence and witnesses in your defence if required.
How can I help defend assault charges in Toronto?
If you have been charged with assault in Toronto, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Making a statement about what happened;
- Collecting and maintaining all documents and records about the event;
- Gathering any photographic evidence that you may have; and
- Logging any relevant texts, emails or phone calls.
As soon as you are released on bail, start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer immediately.
If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful to building an effective defence (or convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against assault charges in Toronto?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause. Some of these include:
- Assembling documents, photos, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your version of events;
- Gathering evidence that questions the complainant’s credibility (e.g., they have lied before, or have a motive to fabricate events);
- Gathering evidence that questions the complainant’s or witness’s reliability (e.g., they were drunk or unable to see or recall events);
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches; and
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as with “Jordan delay”, non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.
Most of the information above relates to simple assault cases, which can still be complex and fact-specific.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Assault Lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.
- What is assault?
- The victim of the assault changed their mind and does not want to press charges. Can they have the charges dropped?
- What are the best defences to an assault charge?
- How can I get my assault charges dropped?