A formal commitment, promise or contract an individual gives to a court of law to keep the peace for a stated period of time.
A peace bond does not create an offence nor does it result in a conviction but it does restrict the liberty of the individual signing the bond.
In Canada, the Criminal Code statute has codified a distinct peace bond procedure (now at §810 but formerly §717) but not replaced the common law jurisdiction given to judges where they apprehended a breach of the peace, to bind anyone to keep the peace. Both common law peace bonds and "810 peace bonds" are available.
The statutory peace bond is a bit different in that it relies on the allegation of an informant; usually the individual with the fear.
A peace bond under the Criminal Code cannot exceed 12 months and is often called a section 810 peace bond, or an 810 recognizance, named after the section of the Criminal Code which defines it:
"An information may be laid before a justice by or on behalf of any person who fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal injury to him or her or to his or her spouse or common-law partner or child or will damage his or her property.
"A justice who receives an information ... shall cause the parties to appear before him (and) if satisfied by the evidence adduced that the person on whose behalf the information was laid has reasonable grounds for his or her fears, order that the defendant enter into a recognizance, with or without sureties, to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for any period that does not exceed twelve months, and comply with such other reasonable conditions prescribed; or commit the defendant to prison for a term not exceeding twelve months if he or she fails or refuses to enter into the recognizance."
In R v Patrick, Judge Ryan wrote:
"Section 810 requires the court to determine whether the informant has reasonable grounds for his fears. An examination into the basis for an informant's belief would naturally include the knowledge the informant possessed as to the defendant's propensity for causing hurt....
"The fears must be placed in context. If the person threatening the informant has, on other occasions assaulted others, then this is a matter that the trial judge ought to consider in determining whether the informant's fears are well placed. To limit the court to an investigation of matters known only to the informant could in many cases defeat the purpose of the section. The actions of the defendant in the past, whether he is a peaceable or violent man, may well assist the Court in determining the reasonableness of the informant's fears and the likelihood that the defendant will carry through his threats."
Peace bonds are peculiar creatures of the law, primarily of criminal law or, as one judge put it, quasi-criminal in nature, but not without some elements that borrowed from civil law. For example, in a hearing on a peace bond, the Court need only be convinced on a balance of probabilities (the civil burden of proof) in regards to reasonable fears or injury to person or property, and not, as might otherwise be expected, beyond reasonable doubt, the traditional evidentiary burden in criminal prosecutions.
In Miller, Judge Hadrigan of the Newfoundland Provincial Court wrote that:
"... the burden of proof on the prosecution on a §810 application is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt but on a balance of probabilities."
Peace bonds are similar to restraining orders except that peace bonds are generally obtained in a criminal court whereas a restraining order is obtained in a civil court. Further, once a statement is given to the police, the Crown will prosecute the peace bond for the informant. A restraining order is aplied for and sought after by the party seeking the relief.
A peace bond has effect all over Canada where a restraining order may be valid only within the provincial jurisdiction of the court that issued it.
It is common for a peace bond to include conditions of no-contact between the person so-bonded and the informant, or to not attend a specified place.
If a person disagrees as to the necessity of a peace bond, a hearing is held and the judge makes the decision. Often, at the Eleventh hour, the Crown will offer to drop a criminal charge (eg. sexual harassment) in exchange for the endorsement of a peace bond.
A peace bond is preventative in nature, and not punishment. Although it does not result in a criminal record, it does get registered on national protection orders registries and may cause significant problems to the individual.