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My partner is abusing me, but what happens if the police charge me?
If you or someone else calls the police about your partner’s abuse, the police decide what happens. You do not decide.
If the police think that there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that someone committed a crime, they must charge that person with a crime. So, they may charge your partner, charge you, or charge both of you.
Sometimes, victims of partner abuse are charged with a crime. This could happen because:
- your partner lied to the police about what happened
- the police might not have a good understanding of partner abuse and so they don't understand what is really going on
- language or cultural barriers make it difficult for you to tell your story to the police
If the police decide to charge you, they will probably take you to the police station. Once you're charged, you are called the "accused".
Wait until after you've talked to a lawyer to decide if you'll talk to the police. Anything that you say to the police can:
- be used against you later in court
- seem harmless or helpful but make you look guilty when it's repeated in court
- limit the ways that your lawyer can defend you
A lawyer can explain all of this to you.
The police must give you the chance to speak with a lawyer, in private, as soon as possible after your arrest. If you want to speak with your own lawyer, the police must make reasonable efforts to connect you with your lawyer. This means that they might need to call several times to reach your lawyer.
You should talk to a criminal lawyer who can give you some legal information and advice about the criminal court process. If a lawyer is coming to the police station, you don’t have to talk to the police until they get there.
If the police can't reach your lawyer or you do not have a lawyer, they must give you the option of speaking with a duty counsel lawyer for free. The police can call the duty counsel hotline at 1-800-265-0451. They can call this number 24 hours a day.
- The police tell the duty counsel lawyer what you're being charged with.
- You'll be able to speak to the duty counsel lawyer over the phone.
- The duty counsel lawyer can give you up to 20 minutes of free legal advice over the phone. This is meant to help you until you can get your own lawyer.
You are photographed and fingerprinted. You might also be put in a cell.
You might be released by the police with certain conditions. These conditions are the rules you must follow after being released by the police.
If the police don’t release you right away, they have to bring you to court within 24 hours, or as soon as reasonably possible. This is called a bail hearing. At the bail hearing, the court decides if you can be released and if there should be any conditions that you must follow after being released.