The short answer is: Yes, you can go to jail for assault in Alberta. However, most charges of simple assault do not result in jail time.
Outcomes for simple assault in Alberta generally range from a peace bond (meaning no criminal record) to six months in jail. The maximum sentence for the most serious types of assault is 14 years, or if it’s aggravated sexual assault, the maximum is life in prison.
The long answer: whether you will go to jail for assault in Alberta depends on a lot of factors. Let’s go through those now.
Assault comes in a number of forms – from what we would call a “simple assault”, usually a single incident of force without consent between two people, to aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, sexual assault or assault involving a police officer.
Learn about the more serious forms of assault here (Article to come).
On a first offence, will I go to Jail for Assault? If it is a first offence, you are unlikely to go to jail for simple assault. Your most likely outcomes range from a Peace Bond to Probation. Of course, if it is a more serious type of assault, such as assault with a weapon, even if you do not have a previous criminal record, a common outcome if convicted is still jail time.
Depending on the facts of the incident, the evidence the police and Crown are able to obtain, how the Crown proceeds, and your legal representation, an assault charge can be resolved without jail time or even a criminal record. For more serious cases of assault, unless the file is withdrawn or you are found not guilty by a Judge, you will likely receive jail time.
Will I get a Criminal Record for Assault?
An assault charge can be resolved without a criminal record (i.e. with a Peace Bond). For more serious cases of assault, unless the file is withdrawn or you are found not guilty by a Judge, you will likely receive a criminal record.
Consequences for assault in Alberta include:
Withdrawal or Stay of Proceedings for an assault charge:
Where the Crown Prosecutor is convinced that there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction or there is not a public interest in proceeding with a prosecution, they may withdraw the charges or stay the proceedings. A withdrawal of the charges means the end of the case against you, no criminal record, and no further consequences.
A stay of proceedings is where the Crown brings a stop to the case. The case can be recommenced within a year, but this requires special approval and is extremely rare. A stay of proceedings is almost always the end of the case against you.
Peace Bond for an assault charge:
With a Peace Bond, you agree to “keep the peace” and abide by a number of conditions in exchange for the withdrawal of your charge(s). These conditions can include no contact with certain individuals, counselling, not consuming alcohol or drugs, no weapons, reporting to probation, no attendance at a certain location, or anything the prosecution may suggest. A Peace Bond in Alberta typically lasts 12 months but can be longer. In addition to Peace Bond conditions, typically there is also a financial ‘promise to pay’. This is merely a monetary amount that has to be paid to the government if the conditions are breached. If you breach a Peace Bond, you can be charged with a new criminal offence, and the government may come after you for that money you had “promised to pay” in the event of a breach.
A Peace Bond is a practical outcome of certain types of assault charges. With a peace bond, you will not receive a criminal record. What is a criminal record? (please link What is a Criminal Record article here)
Read more about Peace Bonds here. (please link the Peace Bond article here)
Discharge for an assault charge:
If you plead guilty or are found guilty of a charge of assault in Alberta, one sentence possibility may be a discharge. If you are discharged of an offence, you are “deemed to have not committed the offence.”
A discharge can either be absolute, taking effect immediately, or conditional, which becomes absolute after you successfully complete a period of Probation. Once a discharge becomes absolute, it will not appear on your criminal record. If you receive a conditional discharge and do not successfully complete the terms of your Probation, then the offence may stay on your criminal record (What is a criminal record? [please link What a Criminal Record article here is]).
A discharge may be imposed if the offence was non-violent and you are presented well to the court – not having a criminal record, making positive steps to improve your life and having good family support can make a discharge more likely. If you are convicted of a criminal offence, a discharge is the least severe outcome.
Read more about discharges here. (Article still to come)
Fine for an assault charge:
For less serious assault charges in Alberta, you may be sentenced to a fine. A fine can be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The court will typically give you time to pay the fine, taking into account your financial situation. If you do not pay your fine by the due date, you may have to serve a short period of time in jail.
Read more about fines for criminal offences here. (Article still to come)
Probation for an assault charge:
Probation is a common sentence for assault charges in Alberta. Probation is a sentence served in the community – that means you do not go to jail.
A Probation Order can last up to three years and imposes a number of conditions on you while you are in the community. Conditions can include reporting to a Probation Officer, a curfew, counseling, community service or other conditions which are tailored to the facts of your case. For example, if the assault was related to the use of drugs, the court may impose a condition that you attend a drug treatment program.
Read more about Probation here. (Article still to come)
Conditional Sentence Order for an assault charge:
A Conditional Sentence Order (or a “CSO”) is one possible outcome for an assault charge in Alberta. A CSO is often called “house arrest,” though that may only be for a portion of the CSO.
A CSO is only available where the jail sentence imposed by the court is less than two years in length. That is to say, if you receive a jail sentence of two years or longer, you are ineligible for a CSO. A CSO will impose a number of conditions on you, such as Reporting to Probation, either house arrest or a curfew, a requirement that you not drink or do drugs, requirements that you perform community service hours, and other restrictions on your freedom.
A CSO may be imposed if you are presented well to the court – not having a prior criminal record, having stable employment, supporting dependents and making positive steps to improve your life can make a CSO more likely. If a shorter jail sentence is imposed, a CSO is an excellent way to ensure that you can maintain your employment, look after your family and avoid a physical jail if you are committed to improving your life.
A CSO is considered a “jail sentence in the community”, and any violation of a CSO is treated harshly. If you violate a condition of your CSO, you may spend the remainder of your sentence in actual jail.
Read more about Conditional Sentence Orders here. (Article still to come)
Jail for an assault charge:
For a simple assault, jail is rarely the outcome unless you have a significant previous criminal record for more serious forms of assault (such as aggravated or sexual assault), jail sentences, even for first offenders, are typically several years.
What is the Most Jailtime you can get for an Assault in Alberta?
For simple assault, the most you can get is 5 years;
For assault involving a police officer, the most you can get is 5 years;
For assault causing bodily harm, the most you can get is 10 years;
For assault with a weapon, the most you can get is 10 years;
For aggravated assault, the most you can get is 14 years;
For sexual assault, the most you can get is 14 years; and
For aggravated sexual assault, you can get life in prison.
How long of a jail sentence you will get for the more serious forms of assault depends on a number of factors, including your history, the facts of the case, how the Crown proceeded and the quality of your legal representation.
Outcomes in Assault charges we have dealt with recently:
Well Respected Businessman
A very well-paid, highly respected member of the community was charged with domestic assault. This person was accused of hitting their spouse. The spouse had called the police after a disagreement that had escalated. The accused was ashamed, worried about how a conviction would impact their work reputation and image in the community, and worried about how a criminal conviction might impact their ability to travel internationally for work. We were able to secure a peace bond and the withdrawal of his charges, allowing the accused to put the criminal justice system behind him and resume his normal family life.
A person went to a concert with friends and had a few drinks. When leaving the venue, they were accused of being confrontational with security guards. Police officers were called, and they were accused of assaulting two officers. There was concern about the impact the charges would have on their business and ability to travel. We were able to speak to the police and prosecutors and secured a withdrawal of the charges before the first court appearance.
Peace Officer Push
A person went to a bar and was asked to leave by security. They were confronted by police a few minutes later, where they were alleged to have pushed an officer, and so they were charged with assaulting a peace officer. They were worried about the impact criminal charges and a potential record would have on their work and family life. After discussions with the prosecutors, we were able to secure his placement in the alternative measures program, resulting in the withdrawal of charges.
D was alleged to have gotten into an argument with their spouse, who called the police. When police attended, the complainant was visibly shaken and bruised. After discussions with the prosecutors, we were able to secure the withdrawal of charges, allowing D to resume contact with their spouse and carry on with their life as normal.
Assault with Children Present
A parent was alleged to have assaulted their spouse with a weapon in the presence of their children. The parent was ordered to have no contact with their spouse and family, and they were worried about the impact on their children as well as their ability to provide for their children financially. Early on, we were able to amend the no-contact condition, giving the parent access to the family. Ultimately we secured a peace bond, resulting in the withdrawal of all charges.
What do I do if I am charged with assault?
Your first and most important step is to exercise your right to silence. It may be tempting to try to clear your name by giving the police your version of events, but even the most well-meaning comments can cause problems down the line. Even when police officers may be asking for a statement, remember that anything you tell the police can be used as evidence against you.
Learn more about what to do if you are charged with a crime here. (Article to come)
After your initial interaction with the police, the next step is to make sure that you are represented by a lawyer experienced in the law of assault. A skilled lawyer can find the weaknesses in the evidence against you, mount legal defences, and negotiate the best possible resolution with the Crown prosecutor. Many of our clients see their charges resolved without a criminal record.
Give us a call to discuss your case today. Our initial consultation is free and confidential.
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