One of the most frequent calls I receive is from a complainant after their significant other has been charged with domestic assault or other domestic related charges asking how they can go about “dropping the charges”. The complainants who call me are often quite upset that charges were laid in the first place and would like to just get on with their lives and put the arrest of their significant other behind them. In the vast majority of cases the accused person will be placed under a condition to have no contact with the complainant. This can obviously be quite stressful for all parties. The stress is only compounded as the accused will have to live somewhere different, arrange access to children through a third party, and have to make alternative arrangements to deal with family finances.
Unfortunately there is no way to “drop” the charges. This is because charges (unless a private complaint was laid, but that’s an entirely different discussion) are laid by the police and are prosecuted by the state. Therefore the only one with the power to “drop”, or withdraw (which is the proper term) a charge is the Crown Attorney. In fact not even a Judge has the authority to dismiss a charge short of the conclusion of a trial.
Even in cases where a complainant does not wish to proceed, however, a Crown Attorney will not simply withdraw a charge. The role of the Crown is quite broad – they are acting as agents of the state and need to consider the interests of various parties including the complainant, the accused, and society as a whole. The Crown is not the lawyer for the complainant. In many cases a Crown Attorney will be very reluctant, especially in domestic situations, to simply withdraw a criminal charge. There are various reasons for this. The most notable in my mind is a concern that the complainant is a victim of domestic abuse and the fear that the behaviour of the accused person will continue. Of course this is not always the case and unfortunately sometimes relatively minor situations get clumped in with much more serious cases.
The best way to move a case forward soon after an arrest is for the accused person to hire a lawyer. Depending on the situation a lawyer may recommend the accused person do certain things to make them a more favourable candidate for a withrawal with or without a peace bond. For example, I will often recommend some sort of counseling, such as anger management. In certain cases it can also be beneficial for a complainant to seek independent legal advice (ILA) and hire their own lawyer. Seeking ILA however does not guarantee a favourable result as the Crown need not follow the advice of the complainant’s lawyer.
This blog post was written by Toronto Criminal Lawyer Adam Goodman. Adam has extensive experience dealing with domestic charges. Adam can be reached at 416-477-6793.