When a Crown prosecutor agrees to withdraw a criminal charge, the Crown often sets a condition that the accused person must first enter into a peace bond. A peace bond is not an admission of guilt and does not result in a criminal record. Rather, it is a court order that requires the accused person to pledge that they agree to keep the peace and maintain good behaviour, including adhering to any conditions noted within the peace bond. Peace bonds are effective for the prescribed time noted in the document, generally for one year.
When a person has been accused of domestic assault, the Crown will generally require the accused to enter into a peace bond in exchange for withdrawing the charge. This means that withdrawal of the charge is conditional on the peace bond and if the accused person refuses to enter into the peace bond, the Crown will typically proceed with the domestic assault charge.
A peace bond outlines conditions that must be met, such as not being charged with a criminal offence, not possessing a weapon and/or staying away from the complainant. If a person breaks a condition of the peace bond, they can be charged with a separate criminal offence, including ‘disobeying a court order’ or ‘breach of recognizance’.
In many cases, such as when a domestic assault charge is brought against a person, the consequences of a peace bond are appropriate and outweigh the risk of a criminal conviction if the case is prosecuted. However, in some cases, the terms of a peace bond may be more significant to the accused person than the risk of having the offence tried in court.
Sometimes a person is threatened with criminal charges and offered a peace bond in exchange for dropping the charges, based on a complainant’s untrue testimony. In cases where a complainant was less than honest in their accusations against the accused, if the accused person signs a peace bond agreeing to special terms of interaction between themselves and the complainant, they are in a potentially dangerous position as the complainant may again make up a story against them, resulting in additional charges for allegedly breaching the conditions of the peace bond. Also, if the peace bond states that contact with the complainant is dependant on their written consent, if the complainant continues to withhold their consent, the accused may not be able to return to their own home.
If a complainant, such as an angry spouse, alleges that the accused person has contacted them in breach of the peace bond, their complaint can not only result in charges against the accused, but can also have long-lasting consequences as the courts may be prejudiced against the accused in future proceedings. This circumstance may, for example, influence family court proceedings and future custody of children if the complainant and accused are concurrently involved in a child custody battle, as the complainant’s lawyer may argue that the accused’s alleged behaviour reflects negatively on their abilities as a parent.
Although entering into a peace bond is often the appropriate action for an accused person who wishes to avoid a criminal charge, this is not always the case. This means that you should always discuss the facts of your case with a skilled criminal lawyer before agreeing to enter into a peace bond. At the Criminal Law Firm of Ted Yoannou, our extensive experience in representing domestic and sexual assault cases facilitates our ability to provide a strong defence and properly advise our clients on whether it’s to their advantage to entering into the conditions of a peace bond.