Domestic violence

What You Need to Know

Domestic Violence charges impact persons charged with violent offences against their domestic partners, spouses, children, parents, or other family members. Domestic violence is taken seriously by the Courts, and a special group of prosecutors is assigned to deal with these offences in the Calgary Crown Prosecutor’s Office. Across the province, Prosecutors are trained to be alert to the unique factors that come into play in domestic matters.

Right from the beginning, bail conditions on domestic matters are often extremely restrictive and can cause significant hardship on the accused.  You will likely be prohibited from returning to your home and may be prohibited from seeing your children, or attending at their school.

Because of these severe and immediate consequences, it is important for you to obtain timely legal advice to potentially remove or alter the conditions, allowing you to carry on with your life while navigating the Court system. Further, getting the right advice early on often leads to speedy resolutions and can help avoid further altercations and charges.

FAQs

Can I return to my home to collect my personal items while my criminal charges remain outstanding?

Most bail orders are accompanied by a clause that allows you to return to your home accompanied by a peace officer to collect your personal items. Should you require an additional opportunity to do so, your lawyer may be able to amend your bail condition to allow additional time for you to collect your belongings

When will I be able to return to my home?

If the Complainant resides in a shared home with you, then you will have to make alternate arrangements for at least a few weeks until your matter is in Court. If the Complainant is agreeable to having your return home while the charges remain outstanding, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a consent variation to your bail, so that you can return home in the interim.

The Complainant does not want to proceed with the charges, what can they do?

A common misunderstanding when it comes to domestic violence charges is that the victim can simply request for the charges to be dropped – this is not the case. However, the Complainant can contact Homefront or Victim Services to let them know about their change in position. They can also provide new information to the investigating officer. Our lawyers can refer Complainants to other counsel so they can receive independent legal advice in this area.

Once a charge has been laid, the victim no longer has a say about whether the charges should be dropped. This decision rests solely on the prosecution.

What are some first steps I can take to preserve my defence?

Most domestic violence cases are not witnessed by anyone other than you and the Complainant. Should your matter proceed to trial, you may have to testify in your own defence. It is important that you preserve your memory of what may have occurred by writing down your statement, containing everything you remember related to the incident. If you sustained any injuries, it is important that you take pictures of your injuries. You should also preserve and back up any email, text message, or telephone communications between yourself and the Complainant leading up to your arrest. These communications may also be important to your defence.

How will these charges affect my child custody proceedings?

Any allegation of family violence will be taken seriously by a family law court dealing with child visitation. An allegation of violence against your children or your spouse, even if not yet proven, can lead to an additional Emergency Protection Order being made against you, which may restrain you from seeing your spouse or your children for an extended period of time. Additionally, any communication for the purpose of arranging visitation may be prohibited by your bail order.

You should advise your lawyer immediately if you have a family law matter outstanding in Court, or if you are unable to see your children due to your bail order. Your lawyer can make an application in Court for your bail order to be amended so that you can arrange for child visitation, and pick-ups and drop-offs.  

What type of counselling is available to me in these circumstances?

Many bail orders in these circumstances include an order to obtain counselling. In those cases, your probation officer will meet with you and refer you to a counselling program. However, if you wish to obtain counselling services on your own, some agencies that offer counselling, including domestic violence, anger management, substance abuse, and mental health counselling services include:

  • YWCA Sheriff King Program
  • Calgary Counselling Centre
  • Immigrant Services Calgary
  • Adult Addiction Services (Alberta Health Services)
  • Forensic Assessment Outpatient Services (Alberta Health Services)

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