Violent Crime Charges in Calgary
The information in this section is meant to provide a general overview of offences involving violence, and the way these charges generally navigate through the system.
The key factor all violence offences under this category have in common is that they deal with alleged offences between people. The premise behind these offences always involves some kind of violence or harm caused or intended by one individual to another. Although violence can occur between neighbours, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers, a very large proportion of all violence offences involves domestic violence. As such, while most of the information below applies to all types of violence offences, we have also presented what you might expect to happen from the perspective of domestic violence situations.
Domestic Violence is not an offence itself. It is a term used when there has been an incident of violence between family members or romantic partners, such as an assault, or threats. The situation our criminal defence lawyers see most often is one in which a man is charged with assaulting or threatening a girlfriend or wife. Although this sounds like a stereotype, this is the reality.
Whenever any incident of violence is alleged in a domestic context, the level of seriousness of the offence increases. That is, a threat against your spouse is typically treated more seriously than the same threat made against a stranger. This is because when violence occurs in the context of a trusting relationship, the violence is not only unlawful, but is also a breach of that trust relationship. In the same vein, if it is alleged that the violence occurred against a child, the seriousness of the charge increases dramatically.
Whether you are facing an allegation of general violence or domestic violence, it is likely that this is the first time you have ever been charged with a criminal offence, or had to deal with the police. Our lawyers will ensure to walk you through the entire process and explain what you can expect. We will explore every defence, and use all our combined knowledge and experience to resolve the charges to your satisfaction. Not only will we try to get you the right result in court, but our criminal defence lawyers also see it as our role to give willing family members involved in the incident an opportunity to repair their relationship.
Typically, violent offences, and in particular domestic violence charges, often stem from an argument or a physical confrontation between people. When the police or RCMP are called by one of the parties or by an onlooker, they will separate those involved and take separate statements. If there are allegations of violence or threats, the police will charge one or more of the parties with assault or uttering threats. Most commonly domestic charges are laid against a husband/boyfriend who is alleged to have assaulted or uttered threats against his wife/girlfriend.
The Arrest & Release Conditions
If arrested at the scene, you will be placed in handcuffs and questioned. If you have left the scene and are reading this information, there may very well be a warrant out for your arrest, and you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible about how to vacate/execute the warrant. Most minor violence offences result in release right from the scene of the incident on an Appearance Notice or Notice to Appear document, advising when the next court date is. In domestic violence situations, however, the police (at least in Alberta) typically have a policy of taking the accused person into custody to a police station.
If you are not released immediately, you will have an opportunity to convince a Justice of Peace that you should be released at a bail hearing (over the phone), usually within 24 hours of the arrest. Having a good criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible after arrest improves your chances of being released on bail dramatically.
The serious nature of domestic violence, even for minor assaults or threats, is often reflected through restrictive bail conditions that can add significant stress and disruption to an accused’s personal life.
Common bail conditions for someone charged with assaulting a spouse, girlfriend, or family member include:
- No contact with the alleged victim or any of their immediate family members
- Not to attend the alleged victim’s home (even if the accused lives there!)
- No weapons
- No alcohol
- A requirement to report to probation on a regular basis until the case is complete
The most onerous conditions for many of our clients are the prohibitions from contact with the alleged victim, or children of the relationship. Our first priority in many cases is to remove or alter some of these conditions to minimize the hardship on everyone involved, and stabilize the situation.
An organization called HomeFront will contact the complainant and ask them whether they wish to reconcile with you. If the complainant wants to reconnect , our criminal defence lawyers will work quickly to convince the Crown to change your conditions so that you can talk with the complainant or move back home while your case winds its way through the justice system.
Following the police interview of the complainant several things may happen. If there appear to be any physical injuries, they may be photographed by the police. The complainant may be asked by the officer to review and sign a written statement or he/she may be asked to attend the police station to give an audiotaped or videotaped statement. Note that even if the complainant initially called the police, he or she is not required by law to participate any further in the police investigation.
Trying To Get The Charge Withdrawn
Very often our lawyers encounter situations where the complainant only wanted the argument to stop, or for the parties to be separated, but never wanted charges. Even the complainants sometimes tell us that they felt pressured by the police to provide a statement.
Many Canadians are surprised to find that even if they are considered the complainant , they are unable to get the charges withdrawn. Once a statement is given and the police have laid charges, it is only the Crown Prosecutor which gets to decide whether the prosecution can continue. A police call can quickly escalate into criminal charges even if that was not the intention of the person who called them. Once domestic charge have been laid, they will rarely be withdrawn by the Crown.
If you find yourself in this situation it is important to contact one of our criminal defence lawyers to discuss options on how to best prevent your family member from being wrongfully convicted.
The criminal process is not quick. It can often take up to a year for a trial to proceed. Even if we are trying to resolve the charges without trial, by either having them withdrawn or through a guilty plea, this process may take several months.
Too often our criminal defence lawyers see unrepresented people in court walk in and plead guilty right away to get through this process quickly. This rash approach can result in a criminal record, employment difficulties, immigration implications, or simply unwanted conditions that are difficult to live with. Our criminal defence lawyers firmly believe that it is more important to do things right, than to do things fast. We take the time to explore all your options, and time the resolution or trial of your case just right to maximize the chances of success.
If it is necessary to go to trial, one of our lawyers will vigorously defend your side of the story, but we need your help. To prepare for a trial, you should write down everything you remember about the incident as soon as possible. Any injuries you have should be documented and photographed as well. Emails, text messages, voicemails, Facebook messages, etc., should all be saved if they shed any light on the incident. If you have witnesses that can corroborate your side of the story, have them write down what they remember happening as soon as possible as well. Photographs of the scene of the incident are also useful to provide context to what happened. Any attempted communications by the complainant with you should be forwarded immediately to one of our criminal defence lawyers.
Each case is unique and it is our job to find and exploit the nuances of your particular situation at trial. Remember, the complainant and the government will have an experienced prosecutor on their side. You shouldn’t have to go through this alone, and deserve to have an experienced criminal lawyer on your side. In fact, particularly in a domestic violence situation, the Court will not allow you to question the complainant yourself. As such, you will need to have a lawyer in any event, even if for that limited purpose.
One of the most interesting things about proceeding to trial is that you never know what will happen at the last minute. The Crown’s case may fall apart for various reasons. Sometimes the complainant does not even come to court to testify. Alternatively, the complainant’s story might change, key evidence might go missing, other witnesses may show the complainant to be a liar, etc.
At the end of the trial, the judge will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If found guilty, the sentencing process begins. This may or may not result in jail, but will almost always drastically affect your life.
While we have tried to provide a general overview of what you can expect if charged with violent offences (generally and in a domestic context), we have also included specific information on some of the more common types of violence charges, including a review of the essential elements of those offences and the possible sentencing ranges.
Although we hope these subcategories of violence offences provide additional insight into your charges, please remember to contact a criminal defence lawyer to get legal advise about your particular circumstances.
Violent Offences FAQs
- What is domestic assault?
- What are the best defences to a domestic assault charge?
- What is assault?
- What are the best defences to an assault charge?
- Self-Defence Laws in Canada