What is Domestic Assault?

Domestic assault is an assault that takes place between two people involved, or formerly involved, in a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship can be a relationship between a boyfriend and a girlfriend, a husband and a wife, same-sex couples, common-law partners, parents, children, and other relatives.

While there is a legal definition of assault in the Criminal Code, there is no legal definition of domestic assault. Nevertheless, the Criminal Code requires that, when sentencing a person, the judge should consider whether the offender, in committing the offence, abused his or her spouse or common-law partner.

How is domestic assault different from regular assault?

The police and prosecutor’s office deal with domestic assault charges more strictly than they do with other offences. In the event that a person charged with domestic assault is released on bail, he or she will almost always have to comply with strict conditions, such as not communicating with his or her partner, living separately from his or her partner, and not going to any place that he or she knows his or her partner will be living, working, or studying.

What if someone does not want to press charges?

A common misconception surrounding domestic assault is that the complainant can choose whether or not to press charges. This is false. After a domestic allegation is made to the police, the police are responsible for laying charges and the prosecutors are responsible for prosecuting them. The police have a “zero tolerance” policy regarding domestic assault and almost always lay charges, even in the most minor of cases. Once the charges have been laid, the prosecutor will almost always proceed with the prosecution, regardless of whether or not the complainant wishes to proceed with the charges. The prosecutor’s office is often of the view that there is a public interest in prosecuting the case, and this public interest extends beyond the wishes of the complainant.

What is the maximum penalty for domestic violence charges?

The maximum penalty for domestic assault depends on whether the prosecutor proceeds by way of indictment or by way of summary conviction. If the prosecutor chooses to proceed by indictment, the maximum penalty is five years in jail. If the prosecutor chooses to proceed by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

There is no mandatory minimum penalty for domestic assault.



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