Domestic cases are very common in the criminal justice system. All too often they end up leading to breaches of no-contact orders listed in the conditions of bails (or other forms of release) or probations. It may seem like an insignificant action – speaking to a partner you may have been with for years – but the courts do not see it the same way. Let’s look at a common scenario. A couple gets into a heated argument, it escalates, some sort of harm or threat allegedly occurs. Police are called. What happens now?
No Contact Orders
Leaving aside what actually happened during the incident and whether an offence occurred, the chances are extremely high that if someone is arrested and charged for a domestic offence, and is released, this person will be given a condition not to have any contact with the complainant. Sometimes the release is from the station. Much of the time that person is held for bail and brought to court several hours later or the next day to be released by a Justice of the Peace.
No contact means the accused will have to find somewhere else to live immediately. No contact means direct or indirect – no phone calls or texts or visits, but also no passing messages through others. Obviously this can cause a huge disruption to the lives of both people involved, and it can be a difficult adjustment. The conditions begin immediately; there is no adjustment period. There are no exceptions unless they are stated in the release. Even if the complainant continues to call or text or show up where the accused is staying, to respond or engage with them is to breach the condition. The complainant is on no similar condition to cease contact.
Needless to say, contact breaches are common. Some accused people, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the court system, may not even realize that non-aggressive contact can result in a new charge of Fail to Comply. Although it may have seemed harmless and tempting to send that text apologizing or asking about the kids, or to respond to phone calls, or to accept the invitation to meet up and talk about it, the accused has now, allegedly, shown him or herself to also disrespect court orders.
This begins the process again: arrest, potentially being held for bail, and hopefully released. However, this time the chances of having the Crown consent to a release plan are typically lower. Safety of the complainant often becomes a more serious concern than it was initially (however serious the charges may be). The accused often must seek to be released on the initial charges as well as the new one(s) since a S.524 order to cancel the prior release is typically sought by the Crown at this point. Any discussions that may have already taken place about the underlying charges may be off the table. There are several other ways a new breach can affect the situation, but they are beyond the scope of this blog.
In short, the accused is not only seen as someone who allegedly committed an offence relating to a domestic partner, but now the accused has allegedly demonstrated disrespect for the Court and the order imposed by that Court. What may have seemed innocuous to the accused, such as a text replying to messages sent, can lead to a drastic change in how the case proceeds – be warned.
If you have questions about a no-contact order you are on and are looking for representation, contact the firm at 416 975 1700.