Can assault charges be dropped by the victim? The short answer is no. The long answer is kind of but not really. In Canada, police lay criminal charges. With most cases, they have some discretion as to whether or not they will lay the charges. However, in cases of domestic violence, charges must be laid. The police have a zero-tolerance policy and will always lay charges in a romantic relationship.

After the police lays charges, prosecutors decide whether or not they will prosecute the charges. The decision to continue a prosecution is only that of the prosecutor. If there is no “reasonable prospect of conviction” a prosecutor will not continue a prosecution. This means that if there is no real chance of a conviction for the accused, the prosecutor will likely withdraw charges.

Additionally, if prosecuting a charge is not in the public interest, a prosecutor will not continue with the prosecution and the charge will be withdrawn.


As a criminal defence lawyer, I have seen charges withdrawn in assault cases countless times. One of the most common reasons why charges are withdrawn in domestic assault cases is because of a recant. A recant is simply when a victim takes back part or all of what he/ she said in his/her statement to police.

Sometimes victims exaggerate or simply lie. Other times they provided their statement to the police while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Sometimes due to stress or trauma they have no memory of the event and are not sure if it happened. As a result, they may be unsure if they were being truthful to the police when they made a statement. The way a victim feels about the truth of his/her statement at a later time is something that a prosecutor considers when deciding if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction or if the prosecution is in the public interest.

A Prosecutor will not withdraw charges automatically because a victim recants. Often, when a victim recants with a letter in writing that is provided to the police, most prosecutors will drop the charges against the accused person. Sometimes, this is not the case.


Prosecutors usually do not accept recant letters. If a victim provides a recant letter to a prosecutor the prosecutor will often refer the victim to the police. There are many reasons for this. One of the reasons is so that the police can investigate to make sure there is nothing suspicious about the letter. Accused people sometimes forge recant letters. Other times victims write them, but they are false. Still other times the letters come about because the accused is breaching a no contact order that prevents him/her from legally talking with the victim.

Victims sometimes give recant letters to criminal defence counsel. Any victim looking to do this should seek independent legal advice . The victim should also remember that the defence lawyer is the lawyer for the accused and cannot also represent the victim.

There are other reasons to withdrawn domestic violence charges. The circumstances of an accused or victim may cause the prosecutor to decide that there is no public interest in proceed with the charge. A domestic violence lawyer can meet with a prosecutor to discuss the facts of your case and try to help you get your domestic assault charges dropped.