What to do when dealing with a criminal assault charge or allegation? – A breakdown by eLaw Alliance

Your best bet is to prepare yourself right off the bat to deal with the allegations in a manner that preserves your rights and gives you the best fighting chance. Whether you have been charged with a simple assault, a domestic violence charge, a sexual assault or an assault that allegedly caused bodily harm, you must keep in mind these 3 important things:

Number 1 – Your Right to Silence

Know that when the police come to collect your version of events, you have the right to not talk to the police, other than to perhaps provide your name and date of birth. In many cases there is no benefit to speaking to the police about your version of the events. The reason for that is when someone accused of an assault speaks to police, the accused person may inadvertently say something incriminating or say something that could be twisted or misinterpreted and used against them in future legal proceedings, like at a trial.

To preserve your side of the story, save that story for your lawyer’s ears and the Judge’s ears only

The police may say they want your side of the story so they can determine if they will lay charges or not; but understand that in many cases the police have already made up their minds to charge you, regardless if you provide a statement or not. In many cases there is no other evidence offered to substantiate the assault allegation other than the Complainant’s version of events.

You could literally be charged with an assault simply based on what someone said you did, without any corroborating evidence. So, do yourself a favor and know your right to silence and how to exercise it. Don’t be afraid to tell the police that you do not wish or intend to provide a statement.

It is your constitutional right to not have to talk to the police

Some people think that if an accused person does not speak to the police, it is a sign of guilt. This assumption is not accurate or fair. It is your constitutional right to not talk to the police. These rights were not created by sneaky defense lawyers; these rights were created and maintained by the government of Canada (every major political party) for the benefit of everyone.

People who think that not talking to police is a sign of guilt or that the accused has something to hide, fail to recognize that the police do not work for the accused person. The police are merely the collectors of evidence; they are not the determiners of guilt or innocence. The police in an assault investigation are not your hired advocate; they are agents of the government tasked with investigating alleged crimes. The police are not tasked with looking out for an accused’s best interests, so remember that next time the police call you wanting to “talk” about the allegations.

Here are a few simple ways to let police know you do not wish to provide a statement or to talk to them about the assault allegations. Feel free to repeat these words to police each time they ask you a question about the allegations of assault (police are allowed to keep trying to ask you questions after you’ve indicated you don’t want to provide a statement, so say these phrases like a mantra and eventually the police will stop attempting to elicit answers):

“Officer, I do not wish to provide any statement at this time”

“I do not wish to answer any questions at this time”

Number 2 – No Contact Conditions  

In many cases if you are charged with an assault there will be a condition placed on you that will prevent you from contacting the Complainant directly or indirectly. Often charges of assault are also followed by a “no go” condition or area restriction (such that you are prevented from being near or at the Complainant’s home or place of work).

Failure to abide by any police or court-imposed no contact condition could lead to the laying of additional criminal charges against you (such as a breach of the no contact condition) and in many cases these types of breaches could result in police or the Court keeping you in jail. If you are convicted of the breach of the no contact condition, you may end up with a criminal record.

If police or the Court imposed a no contact condition on you, follow those conditions until they are formally changed.

There are several ways to amend or change a no contact condition, namely:

a) If police charge you with an assault and impose a no contact condition or area restriction, you or your lawyer may be able to change those conditions by attending provincial court (now known as the Alberta Court of Justice) and asking the Judge to change it. Make sure you provide a good reason or articulate a valid argument as to why the condition should be changed or terminated.

b) If you were released on bail by a Justice of the Peace or a Judge, then you or your lawyer could try talking to the prosecutor and seeing if the prosecutor is agreeable to “reopening bail’ to amend or terminate the no contact/no go conditions. Changes to no contact/no go conditions in this context could happen by simply negotiating with the prosecutor.

c) If you are released on bail by a Justice of the Peace or Judge and the prosecutor is refusing to reopen bail to change your no contact/no go conditions, another option you have is to schedule a Bail Review in the Court of King’s Bench. A Bail Review is an opportunity for you to argue in a higher level of Court why the no contact condition should be changed. The presiding Judge will determine if it is appropriate or not to amend the no contact condition.

Only the prosecutor has the authority to withdraw the case

Even if the Complainant reaches out to you and wants to reconcile or says he/she wants to withdraw the case against you, understand that once criminal charges are laid, the Complainant does not have the power to withdraw the case against you.  Only the prosecutor has the authority to withdraw the case against you.  Do not assume that simply because the Complainant wants to drop charges that that means those charges will be automatically dropped.

In some cases, when the Complainant has articulated that he/she does not wish to proceed with the charges, the prosecutors will ignore them and continues with the case.

Often (especially in relation to allegations of domestic violence) Complainant’s regret their decision to have the accused person charged and in some cases the Complainant will continue to initiate contact with the accused person even after no contact conditions are imposed.  If a Complainant is refusing to respect the no contact condition, let your lawyer know immediately.  The Complainant’s refusal to respect a no contact condition may not seriously impact the Complainant but it could create further serious problems for the accused person.

Number 3 – Find a Legal Advocate or Know How to Represent Yourself

I know that many people simply can not afford to hire a lawyer or they do not qualify for Legal Aid assistance.  That said, if you can afford a lawyer, you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer to help you navigate the criminal justice system. I would not recommend going at this alone. If you do qualify for Legal Aid assistance there are plenty of good lawyers who can help within the legal aid system.  If you can’t afford a lawyer or if you don’t qualify for Legal Aid assistance, you may have no choice but to represent yourself.

If you are representing yourself, you could hire a lawyer for a consult only and get tips and information and advice about how to represent yourself.  There is a vast amount of information online that may assist you so you can also do your own research.  Representing yourself is no easy task so do not take it lightly or assume that the Judge or prosecutor will help you (they won’t help defend you at a trial because it is not their job to and they could interfere with the administration of justice if they did).

Contact Us Right Away

At eLaw Alliance we do offer up to one hour of a free legal consultation with a lawyer or student lawyer.  Of course, we also offer full representation too. If you charged with assault, do not hesitate to contact us; we’d be happy to help.