Take a Breath: You Can Fight This
If you’re facing charges for a violent crime in the domestic context in Peterborough, you’re likely at least a little panicked right now. First, take a breath, the charges can be fought. Before you can be sentenced to any penalties the Crown must prove that it is likely, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you did what they’ve accused you of. Beyond a reasonable doubt is no small task, and it is the role of your defence lawyer to create this doubt. If the jury has suspicion that you’re not guilty, even in the slightest, they’re to acquit you of the charges. This is assuming the case even goes to trial, many are resolved prior by making deals with the Crown. Your charges might be lowered to one with a lesser punishment in exchange for you agreeing to plead guilty and could be dropped entirely if you agree to certain non-criminal restrictions like counselling or anger management.
The point is that you have options and it’s the role of your legal counsel to explain these options and fight to get you the best one possible. This blog is meant to explain, in general, which directions we can take your case in to secure a win for you, depending on what you’re seeking. This blog is not legal advice and we recommend you schedule a free 30-minute consultation with the Aitken Robertson Peterborough office if you’ve been charged with a domestic crime.
Dropped Charges and Plea Deals
Having your charges dropped means you’ll have no criminal record, and if a police check is performed your file will only show a withdrawal of the charge. The Crown is also prevented from attempting to try you for that specific incident again. If there is an entirely separate case of domestic violence at another time they can charge you for that, so be aware that this rule (called Double Jeopardy) does not prevent future charges.
To have your charges dropped your legal counsel must negotiate with the Crown. The Crown chooses to prosecute based on two factors: the public good and the likelihood of obtaining a conviction. If prosecuting someone serves no benefit to the public, or a trial is unlikely to result in a conviction, the Crown is less likely to dedicate their staff and resources to pursuing it. Your defence lawyer must therefore convince the Crown to drop the charges based on one or both of these factors.
If your lawyer can demonstrate that you’re taking responsibility for your actions by voluntarily enrolling in counselling services like anger management, or that you and the victim have made amends, they may drop it based on the public good factor. After all, the Crown wants to demonstrate to the public that it’s a good thing when people take responsibility for their actions. Your lawyer might also convince the Crown that the likelihood of conviction is weak by having the Crowns evidence deemed inadmissible. The Crown is required to turn over all evidence that they have in your to your defence lawyer for review (we call this disclosure). For example, if the only evidence the Crown has is the testimony of the victim, if that victim is no longer willing to testify then the likelihood of a conviction is minimal, and the Crown may drop the charges.
The Crown may be unwilling to drop the charges as the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook instructs them to handle domestic situations strictly as a deterrent. In these cases your defence lawyer may seek a plea deal, in which you agree to plead guilty to a lesser offence in exchange for having your charges lowered. If the Crown is unlikely to get a conviction for a domestic assault, instead of dedicating time and resources to a trial they may offer you a chance to plead guilty to harassment or another lesser offence with a lighter sentence. In these cases you’ll still have a criminal record but the penalties and restrictions would be lighter.
Taking it to Trial
If you’d prefer to take it to trial or the Crown is unwilling to make a deal, a trial can still be won. At trial the Crown must prove that you are guilty of committing the act the Crown accuses you of committing, beyond a reasonable doubt. While judges are not to define beyond a reasonable doubt in a mathematical sense, the Court in R. v. Starr held that the standard of proof is “closer to certainty than to a balance of probability,” meaning it’s closer to 100% certainty than it is to 51% certainty.
How your defence counsel wins a trial against charges of domestic violence depends largely on the evidence the Crown has against you and the details surrounding your arrest and charges. Like the high burden of proof on the Crown, the police who arrested you initially are held to extremely high standards and breaching these standards can result in key evidence becoming inadmissible. For example, one of your most powerful legal rights as a Canadian citizen is your right to retain and instruct legal counsel without delay, and to be informed of this right. If you were arrested and the police failed to inform you of your right to legal counsel your lawyer can use this mistake to have evidence deemed inadmissible, since evidence was obtained while violating your Charter protected right. The loss of this evidence can create reasonable doubt amongst jurors and lead to an acquittal.
One Team with One Goal
Aitken Robertson operates as a team of several lawyers, paralegals, and support staff, working collectively with one goal: to achieve the best outcome possible for all of our clients. While you might retain one of our team members, you can be certain they’re receiving support and advice from the rest of their colleagues, including the firm’s founder and owner Richard Aitken. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in Peterborough reach out to our Peterborough office at 263 Charlotte St. for a free 30-minute consultation. We’ll listen to your story, the details of the charge, and give you an idea of how we can reach your desired outcome. We also use block rate fees, so you’ll know up front what the cost of your legal defence will be and don’t have to worry about changing costs throughout your case. If you’re concerned about how you’re going to win against charges of domestic violence contact our office and let us fight alongside you.