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.