Spousal assault: what the Criminal Code establishes

In Quebec, cases of domestic violence are so numerous that certain courtrooms and crown prosecutors are exclusively devoted to handling these matters. In fact, the judicial system treats these offenses on a case-by-case basis, as the Criminal Code lacks a specific “domestic violence” designation for violations of this type. Instead, cases of domestic violence can result in a variety of other related criminal charges, including threats, criminal harassment, sexual assault, simple assault and assault with bodily injury. Furthermore, the accused must observe a range of restrictive measures.

Has your spouse accused you of assault, threats, harassment or sexual assault? This type of accusation constitutes a serious offense that can entail a number of consequences for both parties. Therefore, if you’re facing such a situation, it’s in your best interests to seek representation from a criminal attorney who has a thorough knowledge of the legal proceedings in these cases.

Meanwhile, the information below will give you a better understanding of what the Criminal Code has to say about assault, including the judicial procedures and possible penalties.

Types of assault and corresponding penalties as per the Criminal Code

The Criminal Code envisages four different types of assault offenses:

  • Simple assault, as defined in Sections 265 and 266 of the Criminal Code, consists of the use of force against another person without that person’s consent. Neither the concept of force nor the degree of force employed matter. Thus, simply touching someone with your hand, spitting on someone or hitting someone, even if it doesn’t leave a mark, can constitute a violation. However, the crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused used force intentionally. This implies that the offense of assault is not perpetrated when the accused acted purely on reflex and without his act being accompanied by the intention to use force against another person.
    Depending on the history of the accused, along with various other factors, the penalty incurred will range from an absolute discharge to five years of imprisonment in the event that the case is prosecuted as a criminal offense.
  • Assault with a weapon, as defined in Section 267 of the Criminal Code, is an act of aggression committed with the use of a weapon. The concept of a “weapon” includes not only those in the traditional sense, such as knives, baseball bats or firearms, but also any other object, such as a bottle or glass, that’s used to threaten, intimidate or injure another person.
    Depending on the particular situation, the penalty incurred will range from an absolute discharge to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment when the case is prosecuted as a criminal offense.
  • Assault with bodily injury is also defined in Section 267 of the Criminal Code. Rather than an assault of a passing or insignificant nature, this is an assault that results in bodily or even psychological injuries that endanger the victim’s health or well-being.
    As in the case of assault with a deadly weapon, the penalty incurred will range from an absolute discharge to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment when the case is prosecuted as a criminal offense.
  • Aggravated assault is defined in Section 268 of the Criminal Code as injuring, mutilating, or disfiguring another person or endangering that person’s life.
    The person commenting on an aggravated assault is liable to 14 years in prison. Also, as with all prison sentences of 14 years or more, there is no possibility of a conditional or absolute discharge in this case.

When it comes to domestic violence, the most common accusations are of threats, harassment, simple assault and assault with bodily injury.

The specific conditions one must meet in cases of spousal assault

The Criminal Code imposes imprisonment only as a last resort. Therefore, there is a vast range of other less stringent penalties, such as fines. Furthermore, it isn’t rare for cases of spousal assault to end in an acquittal or a withdrawal of charges for such reasons as the victim’s refusal to cooperate, the absence of reliable witnesses, insubstantial evidence and self-defense, among many others. The prosecution may also agree to withdraw the charges against the accused if he or she signs an agreement to keep the peace and abides by various conditions, including maintaining good behavior for a maximum of one year in accordance with Section 810 of the Criminal Code.

Regardless of the credibility of the complaint, police officers have the authority to keep the suspect in custody until he or she appears before a judge. Furthermore, a person accused of spousal assault must observe certain specific conditions until such time as the legal proceedings have concluded. The most common conditions are as follows:

  • To change residences in order to prevent the accused and the alleged victim from continuing to live together at the same address. Therefore, even if the accused is the owner of the residence, he or she may be obligated to leave. The court may also choose to detain the suspect, regardless of his or her personal or professional situation.
  • To refrain from any direct communication (phone calls, text messages, etc.) or indirect communication with the spouse who filed the charges.
  • To undergo anger management therapy at a facility recognized by the legal authorities.

Have you been accused of spousal assault?

Contact Atty. Martine Thibodeau as soon as possible! A criminal lawyer with many years of experience, she maintains complete confidentiality as she guides and supports her clients through each grueling stage of the legal proceedings, i.e. from the first appearance in court to the final ruling. Furthermore, she’ll put her expertise and her human approach to work for you to find solutions that are appropriate to your particular situation in order to minimize any repercussions. Thanks to her 24/7 emergency service, in the event that you’re arrested, you’re assured of receiving personalized service that’s attentive to your needs.

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