There is no part of the criminal code that creates an offence of domestic violence. However, if you are faced with domestic violence charges, the courts, police and prosecutors take a very strict approach.

Because of the nature of the romantic relationship, domestic violence charges are taken extremely seriously. Sometimes people are rather surprised that an assault against their partners results in very serious consequences even before they are found guilty of the offence.

An accused person will be prevented from having any contact with an alleged victim upon being charged. He/ She will also be forced to live separately from the complainant in such a case.

Domestic Violence charges do not always require physical violence

Sometimes people are surprised to be charged with a “domestic violence charge” when there was no violence or threat of violence to the victim. Mischief to property is a non-physically violent charge that is handled as a domestic charge even when there is not actual physical harm or a threat of physical harm to the victim.

Generally speaking mischief to property is damaging another person’s property or interfering with its use. If you are charged with this offence in a domestic situation, you will be under similar strict conditions to a person charged with uttering threats or assault in a domestic situation. As a lawyer, I have seen people charged with this charge for damaging cell phones, and punching holes in walls. Even the smallest most insignificant damage to property can result in this charge.

Uttering threats is another domestic charge that is not physically violent, but is prosecuted strictly. In addition to threats of harm, threats to damage the property can result in a domestic charge. Saying “I will slash you tires” or something similar will result in a domestic charge.

Criminal harassment charges are another type of domestic charge that are laid for non-violent behaviour. If you repeatedly communicate with a victim in a way that makes the victim reasonably fear for his/her safety you can be charged with criminal harassment. Stalking and following someone can also lead to criminal harassment charges if the behaviour makes the victim reasonably fear for his/her safety. Police will often warn the person before charging them with Criminal harassment charges.

Police can charge based on an accusation alone

Accused people are often surprised to find that they are charged based on another person’s word alone. The law allows police to lay charges if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe an offence has occurred. Additionally, in domestic cases, police have a zero-tolerance policy where they must lay charges. This means that any allegation of any domestic charge will always result in an arrest. This is the case even if the victim does not want charges laid. There is a common misconception that assault charges can be dropped or withdrawn by the victim of the offence. This is not the case. Once charges are laid, only the prosecutor can withdraw them. Even in cases where a victim is uncooperative with the police or recants it is still only the prosecutor that decides whether or not the charge will be dropped.

Everyday physical contact can result in domestic charges

Because of the zero-tolerance policy that the authorities take to domestic assault you can be charged for actions that are not violent or aggressive. In my experience as a lawyer, I have seen people charged with assault for holding their partners hand while trying to reason with them, I have also seen domestic violence charges laid for unwanted hugs and other non-violent behaviour that would not ordinarily be considered assaultive or abusive. The law states that any unwanted non-consensual physical contact is assault. If an alleged victim ever complains of this, the police have no choice but to lay charges.

Zero-Tolerance Policy is Historical

People can be charged for crimes that took place many years before the date they are reported to police. There are no limitations for charges that proceed by indictment. Sometimes police are called to a non-violent disturbance. While they are investigating that disturbance, they will ask if there has ever been domestic assault, threats or mischief. They will also ask when these took place. If anyone makes a complaint of domestic crime that took place at any time in the relationship, the police will make an arrest. Charges that take place in situations like this are commonly referred to as historical allegations.

Sentencing for domestic charges

Different offences will carry different sentences. As mentioned there is no part of the criminal code that creates separate domestic offences. That said, the criminal code states that if the violence takes place against a partner the courts should consider this factor as a negative one in sentencing. If you are convicted of a serious domestic offence, you should expect to serve a sentence of jail. The courts really look to deter others in similar situations and send a message to the community that partner abuse is not to be tolerated. Even in cases where an offender is spared a jail sentence, there could be serious consequences for a domestic assault conviction including a having a criminal record.

Get help now

An experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can mean the difference between a very significant jail sentence and your freedom. If you are charged with any domestic criminal offence get in touch today and I will fight to protect you.

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Lakin Afolabi LPC blog material is screened for authenticity as of the date of posting and accurately reflects the law to the best of our knowledge. Because the nature of the legal landscape is ever-changing we do not guarantee the future accuracy or completeness of this blog material past the date of posting. This material is not a replacement for advice received from our team of legal professionals. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk.