Domestic Assault

I’ve been charged with assaulting my spouse, what happens now?

If you have been charged with a charge of assault of any nature, your first step should be to consult with a lawyer. The Criminal Code does not distinguish between domestic and non-domestic charges. The police and prosecutors, however, have determined that offences committed within the context of a relationship are aggravating in nature and need to be treated severely.

The punishment for a charge of domestic assault ranges from a period of probation which is usually accompanied by a condition to undergo counselling for anger management, to a period of time in jail. If the victim has sustained injuries as a result of the assault, or if a weapon was used during the assault, the court will likely impose a term of imprisonment followed by a period of probation.

My spouse was angry and called the police but didn't want me arrested
and charged, why was I still taken into custody?

There is a zero tolerance policy for domestic violence in the Province of Nova Scotia and when there is a complaint of domestic assault, the police will almost invariably lay a criminal charge against one of the parties or sometimes against both of the parties. The reason is a zero tolerance policy on the part of the police and prosecution for acts of domestic violence. Pursuant to this policy, the police will lay a charge regardless of the victim’s opinion. 

My spouse wants to “drop” the charges, can she/he do this?

It doesn't work that way. The prosecution of a case is the responsibility of the Crown Attorney and it is only the Crown Attorney who can decide to "drop" a case. In many cases the Crown will still prosecute a case even if they believe the complainant does not wish the charges to go any further. If your spouse wishes to recant some or all of the story she gave, you should speak with a lawyer to discuss the potential impact of this on the charges against you.

The court is not allowing me to have communication with my spouse?
Why is that and what can I do about it?

If you are arrested for a charge of domestic assault you will usually be released by the police on an undertaking to have no contact with the complainant and not to return to the complaint’s home which, in many cases, is your home also. The reason for this is for both protection of the complainant and to ensure that a potential Crown witness is not convinced to change their evidence. You can make an application to the Court to have these conditions removed, however you should not attempt to alter these conditions unless you have spoken to an experienced criminal defence lawyer about what is involved in the process and how it could affect your case.

Should I plead guilty?

The decision on whether or not to enter a guilty plea is one that should be made in consultation with a lawyer. There are often long-term consequences that need to be considered. At trial, it is the responsibility of the Crown to prove the case against a charged individual. Pleading guilty involves giving up the right to a trial. In order to plead guilty, one must also be willing to admit to the facts that make up the criminal offence. A “Guilty” plea will usually result in a criminal record which may affect your employment and act as a barrier to travel to the United States and other countries.

Impaired Driving

What is Impaired Driving

Impaired driving is a specific offence under the Canadian Criminal Code which is laid when someone is found to be drinking and driving.  Impaired driving is more commonly referred to driving under the influence (DUI), driving while impaired (DWI), or drunk driving. 

I’ve been charged with impaired driving and driving with over 80.
What happens now?

If you have been charged with a charge of impaired driving or failing the breathzlyer your first step should be to consult with a lawyer.  The defence of breathalyzer cases can be complex and technical because of the rules outlined in the Criminal Code dealing with the admissibility of the certificate with the breath readings.  Police officers frequently make mistakes in following these rules which may provide an accused with a defence which an experienced criminal defence lawyer can make in court.  There is no such thing as an automatic conviction simply because you have failed the breathalyzer.

I’ve been charged with Refusal, What happens now?

There is no automatic conviction for a charge of refusal and the burden is on the police to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.  The penalties for a charge of refusal are the same as the penalties for a conviction of impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer.

Experienced criminal defence lawyers examine every detail of an individual’s encounter with the police to determine how to defend a refusal charge.
If I plead “Guilty”, what are the consequences?

The consequences of a conviction for impaired driving and related offences are extremely serious and long lasting:

  • You get a criminal record which will stay with you for the rest of your life unless you can apply for and receive a pardon;
  • You will receive a stiff fine and possibly go to jail if you have a prior conviction for impaired driving or a related offence;
  • You will lose your driving license for at least one year and possibly longer;
  • Your automobile insurance rates will skyrocket and could cost you $10,000.00 or more per year for at least three years once your insurance company becomes aware of your conviction;
  • You may be refused entry into the United States and other countries because of your criminal record;
You may lose your job if your employment requires the operation of any motorized vehicle, which includes aircraft and boats.
Given the seriousness  of the consequences of a conviction for impaired driving and related offences, you should never plead “Guilty” to these charges without first discussing your case with a lawyer who has experience in defending against these serious criminal charges.
What will happen to my Driver’s licence?

If you are stopped for impaired driving, there are usually immediate consequences.  Even if you pass the breathalyzer, if your reading is above .05, you may still face a lisence suspension of 24 hours.

If you have reading of over .08, or are charged with refusal, your driver’s licence will be suspended for a minimum of three months pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Act in Nova Scotia. This suspension is automatic and occurs even though you have not been convicted of an offence.  Your licence will not automatically be reinstated after the passage of the three months.  You will be required to take and pass a course administered by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
If convicted, the Criminal Code requires the revocation of a driver's licence or driving privileges.   A person whose driver's license is revoked cannot apply to have the licence restored until a minimum of one year has expired (for a first offence); two years have expired (for a second offence); or five years (for a subsequent offence).
What is the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program?

The ignition interlock is blood alcohol screening device which is placed in your car and connected to your vehicle’s ignition system.  Once installed it prevents the operation of a motor vehicle if a driver’s blood alcohol is over a pre-set limit. Once the vehicle has started the driver is required to provide random samples of breath during travel. 

A person convicted of impaired driving may qualify to apply for ignition interlock after a period of time has passed under suspension. This program can be quite costly.  There is a program fee, an installation fee and a monthly monitoring fee.