In Ontario a no contact order is legally binding document issued by the court or police that prevents the accused from contacting the victim/witness in a case and/or their immediate family and friends. There are many instances when a no contact order may be put in place with respect to the Criminal Code of Canada.
When do police issue no contact orders?
Believe it or not, a no contact order may be issued by police or the courts at any stage of the criminal justice process. Usually this is at the start as a condition of the accused being given bail or at the end as part of the sentencing if convicted. This can include any time between the defendant being accused, up until having served their full sentence (if found guilty). Often if the person is released following their arrest instead of waiting for a bail hearing, police will impose conditions on the accused until the matter has been completed. With violent crimes such as assault cases, this will almost always include a condition to not contact the victim directly or via a third person. Even in cases where a bail hearing is conducted, the police will still issue the no contact order for the time being, until a verdict is reached by a judge and the file is concluded. Additionally, as of 2014, all conditional sentences (community service or house arrest) or probation cases, require a mandatory no contact order to be issued upon trial conclusion if there is a finding of guilt.
Why was I issued the order?
Within the Criminal Code of Canada there are specific guidelines that outline when to issue a no contact order on behalf of a victim. Police or a judge will often look at 3 specific requirements when determining if an order should be issued…
- The victim will take the stand as a witness against the accused at trial;
- The charge is one that involves violence or threats made towards the victim;
- The victim expresses legitimate concern based on reasonable grounds about being contacted by the defendant.
Along with these basic guidelines, the prosecutor in the case will take many other factors into account when deciding if the no contact order is appropriate. Factors like the severity of the crime in question, previous criminal history, uttering of future threats, current family dynamics (if case is domestic) and more.
Types of No Contact Orders
As stated above, no contact orders are conditional promises to keep the peace before, during or after a trial. Since offences and aggravating factors differ greatly between any two crimes, several no contact orders have been formulated to respond to the different types of crime that occurred. The most common types of no contact orders in Ontario are…
- No contact whatsoever with the victim. This is the most common type of no contact order and entails no direct or indirect communication can occur between the two parties. This includes phone calls, texts, emails, notes or third-party attempts to communicate.
- No contact whilst consuming alcohol or drugs. This is another common no contact condition that is often applied when the crime was heavily influenced by the consumption of drugs or alcohol.
- No contact, with exception of child custody arrangements. This is another common type of no contact order that is applied when the victim and accused share custody of a child together. As a result, third party communication is permitted in order to organize the care of the child between parties.
- No contact, unless granted by bail supervisor or probation officer. This condition is common in domestic assault cases when the accused has agreed to take part in Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court. This type of order grants the bail supervisor or probation officer full discretion on whether contact between the two parties can be made.
- Do not go to workplace or residence of victim. This type of no contact order is issued to prevent harassment of the victim where they spend much of their time.
Consequences of failing to comply with order.
Many people are unaware that when someone is found to be in breach of their no contact order they will be charged with failure to comply. A failure to comply charge can have serious impacts on your current case, not to mention the additional fines and jail time you may receive. In Ontario if you are found guilty of failure to comply, the maximum penalties are as follows.
Summary Conviction: Fine of up to $5,000
Indictable Offence: Fine of $5,000 and up to 2 years imprisonment.
At this stage, the accused has not only been hit with additional penalties, but the courts will now perceive the suspect as disrespecting the court’s authority. This will often result in the revocation of one’s bail, where they will be forced back to jail until they face their trial or other disposition of their cases. In addition, any prospective deals the defence was looking to make with the prosecution with regards to conditional sentencing may now be off the table entirely. Jail is very common, if convicted.
As you can see something as simple as sending a text message to see if you can pick up your belongings could land you in a whole lot of extra trouble if it breaches your no contact order. If you have been charged with this offence, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defence attorney. The Aitken Robertson team has had decades dealing with cases involving this offence and will help work with you extensively in order to strategically develop your defence. Remember, pleading guilty to this offence often means jail time, and up to $5,000 in fines and another mark on your criminal record. If you are curious as to how the Aitken Robertson firm can help with these additional charges do not hesitate to call us for a free 30-minute consultation if you are a new client. If the breach is accidental this would be a good defence. Other defences are also available.