Case Study: Withdrawn for Peace Bond – Mischief Under $5,000
Mr. H. had no criminal record at the time the incident occurred. The complainants, Ms. C. and Mr. D.H. were in bed around 2:00 a.m. when they heard a noise coming from their front door. They found Mr. H. on their porch attempting to pull the door open. Mr. H. was intoxicated at the time which was causing confusion and he had mistakenly approached the wrong house.
Ms. C. and Mr. D.H. told Mr. H. he was trying to enter the wrong house, but he was unresponsive to this. Ms. C. later claimed in her statement to Peterborough Police Service that she believed he was unlikely to even remember the address in the morning, given his intoxication at the time.
When Mr. H.’s attempts to pull and kick the door open continued to fail and caused damage to the door itself, Mr. D.H. left the house and held Mr. H. on the ground until police arrived. Mr. H. was charged with mischief under $5,000 for the damage and brought to the police station.
He was read his rights on arrest and requested some clarifications, which the police provided. He refused to speak with counsel and was released the following morning on a promise to appear.
Mr. H. was not acting maliciously. He had no prior criminal offences on his record, and this small offence took place while he was intoxicated, confused, and tired. Ms. C. admits in her police statement that he was intoxicated enough that he was unlikely to remember where he was at the time of the incident the following morning. We did not want to see Mr. H. end up with a criminal record when he was acting out of confusion and intoxication, and so we would seek to have the Crown withdraw the charges in favour of non-criminal diversions.
The Crown considers two things when choosing to pursue a charge: the likelihood of a successful conviction, and if that conviction would be for the good of society. The former is a matter of resources; if the Crown has a minimal chance of success, they are unlikely to waste time and resources pursuing it. The “good of society” consideration is often especially useful for criminal defence lawyers to focus on when someone is charged with a minor offence with no prior record.
If Mr. H. was convicted of an offence the record would alter his life, both personally and professionally, and could do more harm to both him and society in the future.
Direct Accountability Programs (DAP) is an option for non-criminal penalties that the Crown is often happy with for lesser offences. It requires the accused take some responsibility for their actions, through restitution payments, apology letters, counselling, community service, etc. The accused is also typically happy with this option because it involves no criminal record and no prison sentence. A few counselling sessions or a one-time payment for damaged property, and the charges are withdrawn.
Phil Stiles began negotiations with the Crown, suggesting that because Mr. H. was a first-time offender who acted out of confusion and intoxication, DAP would be a good route.
The Crown was agreeable with our suggestions. Mr. H. was required to make a restitution payment and in exchange, the Crown agreed to a common law peace bond. A peace bond is an agreement that binds Mr. H. to be of good behaviour for one year and once signed the charges were dropped. Mr. H. kept his clean criminal record, the complainants were able to repair their door, and the whole situation was resolved civilly.