What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence entails criminal charges that involve either a family member or a current/former romantic partner. Criminal charges that arise out of a domestic situation are taken more seriously by the Crown and the Court than the same criminal charges in non-domestic contexts.
According to the Department of Justice, approximately half of domestic violence complainants are spouses and ex-spouses. The other half are children, siblings, and other extended family members. Statistics Canada suggests that 3 out of 4 reported allegations of intimate partner violence are allegations of common assault with little to no injury to the complainant. The same report highlights that Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
The Crown Prosecutor is more likely to seek jail time 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 individuals in a domestic relationship are in a position of trust with one another, 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 domestic settings include:
Investigation of Domestic Violence Charges in Regina & Saskatoon
An investigation of an allegation of domestic violence in Saskatchewan is typically initiated by the alleged victim (or a relative/neighbour/witness). They contact the local RCMP or the Saskatoon or Regina Police Services and report it. The police will request a written, audio, or video statement from the complainant or any other witnesses, then will launch an investigation.
Police will typically interview all witnesses, review surveillance videos, seize any weapons involved, photograph the scene, and obtain medical documents to prove the type and extent of the alleged victim’s injuries. After the police have gathered their evidence, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
However, the police may also arrest you right away. In fact, all they need in order to charge you with domestic violence is the complainant’s testimony. No further physical proof is required.
Even if a complainant makes an allegation of domestic violence that they later withdraw, it’s up to the Crown Prosecutor to decide whether to pursue the charges against you. The complainant can be subpoenaed to appear in court in domestic violence cases, even against their wishes.
Bail Process and Conditions for Domestic Violence Charges in Regina & Saskatoon
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for domestic violence charges in Regina & Saskatoon?
Where charges arise out of a domestic situation, you will likely be kept in custody and will require a formal bail hearing to secure your release.
The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the Police station or Courthouse.
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 information 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 the district office where you are being held, or the Courthouse if you have been transported, 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 your 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?
Due to the serious nature of the charges, you can expect to be placed on very strict conditions. 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 your lawyer 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 be difficult in a domestic violence case, but not impossible.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown Prosecutor in charge to let our clients out. Moreover, we will work to secure your release on conditions that are no more than necessary. 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 though a Bail Review. Such reviews are conducted at the Court of King’s Bench of Saskatchewan.
Where can I pay for bail for domestic violence charges in Regina & Saskatoon?
If you or a loved one are charged with domestic violence in Saskatchewan and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. You can pay bail at any court registry (courthouse) in Saskatchewan. If you live outside of Saskatchewan, the payment can be made by wire transfer.
The Regina court registry is open from 8:30 – 4:30 (closed from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.), Monday to Friday.
The contact details of the registry office at the Regina Courthouse are as follows:
Regina Provincial Court Office
1815 Smith St.
Regina, SK S4P 2N5
The Saskatoon court registry is open from 8:30 – 4:30, Monday to Friday.
The contact details of the registry office at the Saskatoon Courthouse are as follows:
Saskatoon Provincial Court Office
220 19th St. East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0A2
For other Court locations and sitting times across Saskatchewan please see here.
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so. In Saskatchewan there are a myriad of ways to pay bail, including by money order, certified cheque or debit card (in person). Some courthouses in Saskatchewan also accept electronic payments via wire transfers. We recommend you contact the appropriate courthouse to get wire transfer details.
How do I change my release conditions for domestic violence charges in Regina & Saskatoon?
Release on bail with domestic violence charges will almost always require a surety, cash, or a no-cash promise to pay. A promise to pay means that you do not have to post bail upfront to secure your release, but if you breach your conditions or fail to attend court, you may be required to pay the prescribed amount.
Release on bail for domestic violence charges may include restrictions that impact your day-to-day life.
This could include conditions to refrain from:
- Interacting with the alleged victim,
- Attending the alleged victim’s home or place of work,
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest),
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew),
- Breaking any laws,
- Using drugs or alcohol,
- Possessing weapons,
- Possessing firearms,
- Visiting certain places,
The Judge may also impose some additional conditions such as:
- Residing where approved,
- Reporting to probation,
- Attending counselling, and/or
- Maintaining or seeking employment.
The most onerous conditions that are almost always imposed in domestic violence cases are a restriction on:
- Your place of residence, and
- Your ability to contact the alleged victim and/or other family members (like your children).
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 domestic violence,
- The likelihood that you will flee,
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage,
- Whether you have stable employment,
- Whether you have stable living arrangements, and
- Whether you have ties to the community.
If you share a home with the alleged victim, you are unlikely to be allowed to return home until the matter is addressed again in court. Even if you are paying the rent, are on the lease, or own the home outright.
It is critical that you make arrangements to abide by any conditions you’re given as soon as possible, until they can be changed.
One short term measure that the Crown Prosecutor may agree to, even without counsel input, is to allow a one-time attendance at the home with a police escort to retrieve personal belongings. There are several other measures that can be taken to grant 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.
If the alleged victim of domestic violence is a spouse or intimate partner, it is quite common for the no-contact condition to include not only the spouse but also the children of the relationship. This condition means you cannot send the named person(s) any messages either personally or through other people/mediums. This often places significant emotional and financial strain on all parties. Moreover, when children are implicated, Child Welfare Services 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 it known that they want contact. However, even if the alleged victim wants contact, the Ministry of Child and Family Services and the Crown Prosecutor may refuse to change those conditions.
There are typically no quick or certain measures that will guarantee contact. However, one step you can take is to enrol in counselling as soon as possible. There are numerous domestic violence programs available. If alcohol is involved, enrol in alcohol counselling. Participating in these programs is not an admission of guilt; rather, it will most likely address some of the concerns the Crown and Child Welfare Services may have about enabling contact with the parties involved.
If you are in Regina, Saskatoon or Battleford you will attend a Domestic Violence Court (DVC). The DVC is a therapeutic court that addresses domestic violence matters and offers the DVC Treatment Option. More details can be found on the Saskatchewan Court’s website. In this Court, you are not sentenced until after you have had a chance to complete the DVC Treatment Program. If you meet the requirements of the DVC Treatment Option, you will receive a reduced sentence. Participation is voluntary, and you have the right to plead not guilty, or to choose not to participate in the DVC Treatment Option.
There are many other possible measures to address your release conditions depending on the circumstances of your case. It is important to retain a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to work on reuniting you with your family.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Charges in Regina & Saskatoon
The punishment for domestic violence can range significantly depending on the specific charge. A first-time conviction for domestic assault, for example, can result in anything from a peace bond to 14 years in prison. If you have a previous conviction for intimate partner violence, the maximum sentence for domestic assault is life in prison.
Because the punishment for domestic violence depends heavily on the nature of the offence, circumstances of the offence, and your own personal circumstances, you should talk to one of our Saskatchewan criminal defence lawyers immediately.
While you do face a high likelihood of receiving a harsh penalty in the event of a conviction, being charged with this offence does not necessarily mean that you will receive a criminal record.
A large number of domestic violence charges are resolved outside of court through pre-trial resolution discussions between defence counsel and the Crown Prosecutor. One of the most effective ways we resolve some of the more minor domestic violence charges (like domestic assault) is by negotiating with the Crown for a peace bond.
If you are granted a peace bond, you will have to comply with some basic terms for the period of one year, such as no contact with the complainant, no weapons, and attending probation and court as directed. Once you sign the peace bond, the Crown will withdraw the charges against you, and you will not receive a criminal record. It is important to know that if you agree to a peace bond, you have not been found guilty of the offence.
If a peace bond is not appropriate in your circumstances, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the Crown 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 FAQ on resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Domestic Violence Charges in Regina & Saskatoon
What are the best defences to domestic violence charges in Regina & Saskatoon?
In domestic violence cases, the defences that may be available to you depend on the facts of your case.
In general, the best defences are:
- Factual innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, causing the domestic violence, or other basic elements of the case.
- Violation of constitutional rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence.
- Consent: The burden is on the Crown Prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who was allegedly assaulted did not consent to the application of force. However, an important limit to this defence is the fact that there is no such thing as consent to bodily harm.
- 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 domestic violence 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 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 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).
The burden of proof remains high for this kind of prosecution. This means that there are many successful defence strategies that our experienced defence lawyers can utilize.
Even if the charges proceed and you are found guilty, a good defence can significantly reduce the severity of the consequences (for instance, assault causing bodily harm may be reduced to a simple assault conviction).
Our lawyers will conduct a thorough examination of the police actions and the evidence against you. We will also call upon medical evidence and witnesses if beneficial.
How can I help defend domestic violence charges in Regina & Saskatoon?
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Saskatchewan, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
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 for building an effective defence (or convincing the Prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against domestic violence charges in Regina & Saskatoon?
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, including:
- 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’ reliability (e.g., they were drunk and/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 “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.
Domestic violence cases are very 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 Domestic Violence Lawyers. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.
Domestic Violence FAQs
- What is domestic assault?
- What is an emergency protection order?
- What are the best defences to a domestic assault charge?
- How can I get my domestic violence charges get dropped?