What is a peace bond?
Peace bonds are court orders judges impose on some people to prevent them from committing a crime. They’re analogous to “restraining orders” in the US. Peace bond conditions are similar to bail conditions, but judges will only impose them at the end of a prosecution rather than at the beginning of it.
The most common type of peace bond is a “fear of injury” peace bond. If a complainant (i.e. an alleged victim) reasonably fears someone might injure them, a judge can impose this type of peace bond on that person for up to one year.
If a judge imposes a peace bond on someone, does it mean that person is guilty of a crime?
No. To impose a peace bond on someone, a judge must be satisfied it’s more likely than not (i.e. >50% chance) that the grounds to impose the peace bond exist. On the other hand, for an accused to be guilty of a crime, a prosecutor must prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. This is obviously a much higher standard.
When a judge releases an accused on bail, they usually impose bail conditions on them in order to protect the public. Although the accused’s bail conditions restrict their freedom, they’re still presumed innocent. Similarly, if a judge imposes a peace bond on someone, that doesn’t make them guilty of a crime.
How are bail orders and peace bonds similar?
The formal name for a peace bond is “recognizance to keep the peace”. The previous name for a release order (i.e. a bail order), prior to December 2019, was “recognizance of bail”. A “recognizance” is a promise to the court to comply with certain conditions. Someone bound by a recognizance must pay the court a specified amount of money if they fail to comply with those conditions.
The difference between peace bonds and bail orders is that judges impose bail orders on people awaiting the outcome of their criminal charge(s). An accused remains bound by their bail conditions until their prosecution ends. Judges impose peace bonds on people not accused of a crime, or whose charge(s) the prosecutor will drop right after the judge imposes the peace bond (more below).
What role do peace bonds play in criminal proceedings?
Most peace bonds are the result of negotiations between the prosecutor and defence. If the prosecutor becomes unsure whether they can prove their case, or they’re persuaded that it’s not in the public interest to continue prosecuting the accused, they may agree to drop the charge(s) if the accused agrees to enter into a peace bond.
When a peace bond is part of a deal between the prosecutor and defence, the accused will usually consent to the judge imposing it on them. In other instances, prosecutors can “charge” someone with a peace bond. In other words, a prosecutor can apply to the court to impose a peace bond on someone without ever charging them with a crime.
When a prosecutor applies to impose a peace bond on someone, the procedure is the same as with a criminal charge. The police can arrest the person and bring them into court for a bail hearing. A judge might release the person on bail conditions while they await the outcome of the prosecutor’s peace bond application. The person can dispute the prosecutor’s application, which will then require the prosecutor to satisfy the court that their application has merit.
What’s the difference between a peace bond and probation?
As we’ve seen, when a judge imposes a peace bond on someone, that doesn’t make the person guilty of a crime. By contrast, the person must be guilty of a crime before a judge will impose a probation order on them. Also, peace bonds usually last only one year, while probation orders can last up to three years.
Peace bond conditions can include any condition that a judge could have imposed in a probation order. However, probation should be rehabilitative, while peace bonds should be preventative. In practice, peace bond conditions are similar to probation conditions because the purpose of rehabilitation is to prevent someone from committing more crimes in the future.
You can find some of the firm’s case results involving Peace Bonds HERE.