The police take domestic violence calls seriously, as they should. But when you call the police to your home to settle your domestic dispute, what you’re expecting and what you get may be two completely different things. Make sure you are not operating under the following misconceptions before you decide to become a complainant in a domestic assault matter.
8 Common Misconceptions About Involving the Police
- "The police will come to my home and mediate our marital dispute."
The police are not marriage counselors. If they are called or dispatched to the scene of a domestic violence incident, they will arrest and charge the alleged perpetrator (usually the husband). He will be taken away and will likely be held in jail for a bail hearing. In bail court, the judge will determine whether the he should be released pending the trial. If release is granted, there will be a condition that he have no contact with the alleged victim (usually the wife), and there will also be a condition that he not return to the home. These conditions could remain in place for a year or more.
- "I can change my mind and withdraw the charge."
You do not have the power to withdraw the charge. Once that 911 call is placed, the police will come and lay a charge. Despite your wishes, the police will not withdraw the charge. The matter will proceed to court.
- "If I tell the police that I made up the whole incident then they will withdraw the charge."
This is an ill-advised course of action. At best, the police will ignore you. At worst, they will charge you with the criminal offence of public mischief.
- "The Crown Attorney represents me and, therefore, must listen to what I say."
The Crown represents the State. You are a mere witness and not a party to the proceedings. The Crown often refuses to even talk to complainants and will not likely withdraw the charge at your request.
- "My spouse and I can live together and see each other despite the bail conditions as long as no one finds out."
The police do often make follow up calls at the residence and with the complainant. If your spouse is caught breaching his/her bail, he/she will be re-arrested. This time, he/she may not be able to get bail. It is also possible for you to be charged as a party to the offence.
- "My spouse can get the bail conditions changed quickly and return home if I let the court know that this is what I want."
Changes to bail conditions often require formal applications to the court. Your mere desire to have your spouse back home is seldom enough to get the bail conditions changed. A compelling case has to be prepared and presented to the court.
- "I’ve been told that if my spouse enters an ‘early intervention program’ and pleads guilty, he/she won’t have any criminal record and will be able to return home."
Although your spouse may be able to return home in such a circumstance, he/she would be placed on a period of probation and he would have a criminal record. A criminal record could have negative repercussions on employment, immigration status, ability to travel, and other aspects of his/her life.
- "Only my spouse needs a lawyer since he/she is the accused."
Your spouse will need representation in order to effectively deal with the charge. However, it can often be helpful for the complainant to seek the guidance of a lawyer as well. A lawyer can provide advice to the complainant concerning his/her rights and responsibilities. A lawyer can also make representations on the complainant’s behalf to the Crown Attorney, which may have an impact upon the bail conditions and the ultimate outcome and timing of the case.
Tushar K. Pain, Toronto Criminal Defence Lawyer
393 University Avenue ~ Suite 2000 ~ Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1E6
tel: 416.410.4838 fax: 416.410.5532 email: firstname.lastname@example.org