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Toronto Criminal Lawyer Mark Zinck

Toronto Peace Bond Lawyer and Defence

Toronto criminal lawyers frequently deal with peace bond applicants, both in defending individuals who are facing a possible peace bond and working with those seeking to place one on somebody else.

Peace bonds, which are sometimes referred to as restraining orders, are issued under Section 810 of the Criminal Code when a person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause them personal harm or damage their property.

Persons named in a peace bond will be required to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, and are usually restricted from attending a specific place, or communicating with a specific person. The maximum length of these orders is normally 12 months.

By merely entering into a peace bond you will not acquire a criminal record. You are also not admitting to any criminal wrongdoing. While peace bonds are considered voluntary agreements, the court effectively has the power to force you into signing them with the threat of imprisonment.

From a criminal defence perspective, peace bonds are a valuable tool because sometimes the crown will agree drop the charges against the accused in exchange for them agreeing to a peace bond. Peace bonds are common tools for defence lawyers to avoid prosecution in domestic assault and threats matters.

How to obtain a Peace Bond

In order to place a peace bond against someone, you will need to convince the court that you have reasonable grounds to believe the other person poses a threat.

The court will require some history or specific reason as to why the peace bond is justified. In most cases, the applicant will inform the court of prior arguments, threats, or incidents that justify a reasonable fear of future harm.

The physical proximity between the two parties can also become an important factor in the court's consideration. Peace bonds are commonly issued to attempt to resolve disputes between feuding neighbours.

It is also important to note that just because a prior incident did not result in a conviction, or even criminal charges being laid, does not mean that it cannot be used to justify the ordering of a peace bond. These orders are designed to prevent crimes before they happen, not remedy ones that have already occurred. Even if the actions of the other party were not criminal, they may be enough to justify the requirement of a having reasonable grounds to fear future harm.

After you apply for a peace bond, the defendant will be served with a notice to appear in court on a specific day and time. At the court date, the individual will normally be asked whether he is willing to immediately consent, or whether he wishes there to be a hearing for proof of reasonable grounds.

Peace bond by immediate consent

If the other party (defendant) agrees to the peace bond right away, the judge will normally inform him that if he breaches the peace bond he can be charged with a criminal offence. The judge will want to ensure that the individual understands exactly what the terms and conditions of the peace bond are and the liabilities they are exposing themselves to.

Even if there is consent to the peace bond, if the judge is not satisfied that the applicant has demonstrated the existence of "reasonable grounds of fear", the court will deny the application.

It is not enough for the parties to agree. There has to be a valid reason for issuing the order. The applicant will thus be required to provide their reasons to the court before the order is issued.

Peace bond after a hearing

If the other party does immediately consent to the peace bond, the court may schedule a hearing in the matter (or hear it right away depending on the court's schedule). Sometimes these hearings are scheduled for night court, however this depends on the jurisdiction.

At the hearing, the applicant will have the opportunity to explain to the court what their grounds are for fearing the defendant. The defendant will also have an opportunity to respond to the allegations. After hearing both sides, the judge or justice will decide whether a peace bond is warranted and what terms are appropriate.

If the defendant still refuses to sign the peace bond, he could be sent to jail to protect the applicant.

Refusal to sign peace bond

If the defendant refuses to sign the peace bond, despite the court being satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for one to be granted, the court may commit the defendant to prison for a term not exceeding 12 months.

Remember, peace bonds are voluntary agreements. Refusing a peace bond, even where there exists reasonable grounds for fear, is not a crime. However, the court has the power in these circumstances to place you in jail for up to twelve months for the protection of the applicant.

Conditions of a Peace Bond

All peace bonds will contain the condition of "keep the peace and be of good behaviour". The court may also include conditions requiring the defendant to:

1) avoid contact and communication with the applicant (direct or indirect);
2) avoid attending the applicant's residence or other locations the applicant frequently attends;
3) or any other conditions that the court considers desirable for securing the good conduct of the defendant.

The court thus has quite a bit of discretion with regards to conditions. It has the power to order the defendant to avoid alcohol consumption, to surrender or refrain from possessing firearms or other specific weapons, or any conditions it sees fit.

Serious injury, sex crimes against minors, terrorism

The criminal code also contains specific sections for cases involving fear of a serious personal injury offense, criminal organizations, terrorism, and fear of future sexual crimes against those under the age of 16.

For these cases, the peace bond may be ordered for up to 24 months at a time. Possible conditions listed in this section include requiring the accused to attend treatment, wear an electronic monitoring device, or staying in his residence at specific times during the day.

Breaching a Peace Bond

It is a criminal offence to breach the conditions of a peace bond. The maximum penalty prescribed by the criminal code is a sentence of up to two years in prison. These matters can be prosecuted by way of summary conviction or indictable (depending on the history and seriousness of the breech).

If a peace bond is issued against you, you have to be extremely careful to avoid all contact with the applicant. All it takes is one complaint to the police and you can very easily be charged. Remember, the presence of a peace bond means the court already agrees that you pose a threat to the applicant. In these circumstances, police will be very reluctant not to charge you if they receive a complaint. Peace bonds encourage the police to press charges against you.

Bargaining with a Peace Bond

Sometimes the crown will agree not to prosecute charges if the defendant agrees to enter into a peace bond with the victim. These types of arrangements are most common in cases of assault, threats, and mischief. In order to get a peace bond deal, typically the crown will want the victim's consent in the matter.

The crown must also be satisfied the defendant will abide by the terms and conditions of the peace bond. A clean criminal history and relatively minor facts are usually prerequisites to such agreements.

This is a good strategy in that it allows the accused to avoid a possibly expensive trial and the risk of acquiring a criminal record upon conviction.

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