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Peace bonds
Peace bonds

What is a peace bond hearing?

Sometimes a person can be required to attend court for a peace bond hearing. This usually happens where a person has not been charged with an offence but a complaint has been made and the court requires them to respond to the complaint. The person making the complaint is called the “complainant” and the person responding to the complaint is called the “defendant.”

At a peace bond hearing, a justice of the peace will hear evidence presented by both the complainant and the defendant and decide whether or not the complainant has shown, on a “balance of probabilities” (i.e. more likely than not), that they have reasonable grounds to fear that the defendant will cause personal injury to the complainant or his/her spouse, common-law partner or child; or, damage the complainant's property.

If a justice of the peace is satisfied that this has been shown, they will make the defendant sign a peace bond. If the defendant refuses to sign the bond, the justice of the peace can send the defendant to jail.

What is a peace bond?

A peace bond is a court order to keep the peace and be on good behaviour for a period of time. This essentially means that the person must not be charged with a criminal offence. Peace bonds often have other conditions too, such as not having any weapons or staying away from a person or place.

Peace bonds are usually for one year, but sometimes they are shorter (e.g. six months.) One year is the maximum length.

When do people typically enter into peace bonds?

The two most common situations where people enter into peace bonds are:

• An accused agrees to enter into a peace bond because the Crown will agree to withdraw their charge(s) if they do so. This is the most common situation

OR

• A peace bond hearing is held, and a judge or justice of the peace makes a person enter into a peace bond

Do you have to deposit money if you agree to a peace bond?

Generally, a person entering into a peace bond doesn’t have to deposit money with the court. However, they do need to pledge an amount of money to the court – usually $500 or $1000, but the amount can be higher or lower. A peace bond is a recognizance, similar to a recognizance of bail.

By pledging money, the person is agreeing that if they break one or more of the conditions of the peace bond, they may have to pay money to the court.

What will happen if a person who is on a peace bond breaks one or more of the conditions?

If one or more of the conditions of a peace bond are broken, either by not obeying one of the conditions or by getting charged with a criminal offence, the person can be charged with a separate criminal offence of “breach of recognizance” or “disobeying a court order.” They may also lose some or all the money they pledged when they entered the peace bond.

What happens in court if an accused wants to agree to a peace bond so that the Crown will withdraw the charge(s)?

For an accused to enter into a peace bond, the following steps will typically occur in criminal court:

  • The court clerk will read out the peace bond information (sometimes called an “810” after section 810 of the Criminal Code). This will probably sound very strange because old legal language is used. At the end of reading the information, the court clerk will ask the accused if they wish to “show cause.”
  • If the accused wants to enter into the peace bond so that the Crown will withdraw the charge(s), the accused will say that they don’t wish to “show cause.”
  • The Crown will read out the allegations against the accused. For example, if the accused has been charged with assault, the allegations might be something like “the accused got into an argument with the victim and slapped him/her across the face.”
  • The Crown will read out the terms they are seeking in the peace bond. Every peace bond will have the term to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour.”
  • An example of the terms that the Crown may seek are:
    • a 12 month peace bond; $500 without deposit or surety; no weapons; no contact with John Doe and not to attend within 100 metres of John Doe’s residence, place of employment or education
    • these terms are usually worked out in a resolution meeting with the Crown before the accused agrees to enter into the peace bond in court.
  • After the terms sought by the Crown are read out, the judge will ask the accused if they agree to the terms. If they agree to the terms, the judge will order them to enter into the peace bond.

When should an accused agree to enter into a peace bond?

The decision to enter into a peace bond or not depends on a lot of different things and is different in each case. Factors like the strength of the Crown’s case, personal circumstances, and risks of losing the case at trial are all things that might be considered.

The decision is always the accused’s alone, but should never be done without speaking to their lawyer (or duty counsel). A lawyer will be able to offer legal advice based on the circumstances of the case.

Is agreeing to a peace bond the same thing as pleading guilty?

No. A person does not plead guilty when they enter into a peace bond. There is no finding of guilt made or conviction registered if a person agrees to a peace bond.

One of the reasons why a person may agree to enter a peace bond is to avoid a criminal record.

While a peace bond is still in effect it will appear in a criminal record check. After the peace bond has expired, it should not be visible in a criminal record check. However, there are certain types of criminal record searches, such as something called a “vulnerable person check” where a peace bond will still show up even after it has expired.

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