It is the police officer’s job to examine the evidence, interview witnesses and determine if charges should be laid. In some cases, the police may lay charges against you or against both you and your partner.
If you do not believe that the police officers who dealt with your case had an adequate understanding of the situation, then it is important to find support as soon as possible.
There are some circumstances where injuries are caused in self-defence, and there may be a clear imbalance of strength, size and/or power that needs to be considered.
If you are concerned about this, you may want to contact a local women’s legal advocate who can help to advocate for you with the police. Also, be sure to speak with a criminal defence lawyer who has experience working with women who have been subjected to abuse and are facing charges regarding their abuser.
Once you are charged
Once you have been charged, it is likely you will be held by the police for a bail hearing, which will happen within a day or two.
You will be given an opportunity to get a lawyer (if you cannot afford one, you may qualify for the services of the criminal court duty counsel) to represent you at the bail hearing.
At the bail hearing, a Justice of the Peace will decide whether you should be kept in jail until your trial or released from jail, provided you agree to certain conditions.
If you are released, you will not be allowed to have any contact with your partner/ex-partner, and there may be conditions about how and when you can see the children.
If there are conditions regarding your home, you may need to sort out living accommodations.
You may have to have a surety, which is a person who comes to court to promise they will make sure you follow the conditions of your bail. This needs to be someone who knows you, so it could be a work colleague, a friend or a family member.
After you are released
The criminal process can be very long. It is very important that you get a criminal lawyer to represent you, so once you have been released on bail, you should either apply for a legal aid certificate or hire a lawyer yourself.
If the actions that led to the charge were taken to defend yourself from your partner/ex-partner’s abuse, or if your partner/ex-partner lied when he told the police you assaulted him, you need a lawyer to help you with your case.
Your partner/ex-partner or members of his family may put pressure on you by saying that if you promise never to come back to the house or not to ask for financial support, he will ask the Crown Attorney to drop the charges. You should be very wary of agreeing to anything in this circumstance.
Let your lawyer know if you feel threatened or pressured by your partner/ex-partner at any point.
Staying in contact with your children
If your bail conditions limit your contact with your partner, you may need to negotiate with him to arrange access to the children that does not involve him.
If you have a family law lawyer
They can assist you in making access arrangements that are good for the children and protect you from breaching your bail conditions. If your bail conditions do not allow you to have contact with your children, your criminal law lawyer may be able to change them; however, your access may have to be supervised, at least for a while.
If you don’t have a lawyer
Make sure any contact you have with your partner is safe and in accordance with your bail conditions. Restrict access to arrangements that you think are emotionally and physically safe for your children and you. Perhaps a trusted friend or family member would be willing to be present during visits or to assist with exchanging the children for visits with you so you do not have to have direct contact with your partner.
Having charges laid against you can be very overwhelming. Remember to seek out support from family, friends and women’s services. Most women’s shelters and women’s legal advocates are experienced in supporting and advocating for women who have been charged in relation to their abuser.