Persons charged with a criminal offence, particularly those charged for the first time, will often face a great deal of stress and uncertainty as they are forced to navigate the complex and unfamiliar court system. Even people who have been through the system before, even many times, do not necessarily understand the criminal process. Hiring a criminal lawyer is the most important decision that an individual in these circumstances can make.
Most people are surprised when they find that it will take months, at a minimum before they can have a trial to contest the charges that they are facing. They are also surprised that they must face restrictions on their liberty in the form of bail conditions while they wait for trial. Further, if they breach any of the conditions of their release, they could be detained and face further criminal charges.
Individuals who are charged with a crime, from minor summary conviction matters, to the most serious offences, face tremendous difficultly throughout the entire process. They are faced with the tremendous resources of the state which are utilized for the purpose of obtaining their conviction. They need frank advice about the different legal issues that are engaged in their case as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the crown’s case and the likelihood of conviction or acquittal. Those who have been convicted require advice about whether or not the trial judge has made an error and if there is a possibility of having their conviction overturned on appeal.
It is essential for the accused to have competent representation from the outset. The criminal process starts from the date of arrest. Quality representation is necessary to ensure that the accused has the best possible chance at bail. Whether or not an individual is released post-arrest can have a huge impact on how successful that individual is in dealing with their charges. An accused who is out of custody is less likely to plead guilty because they will spend more time waiting for trial than they would if they plead guilty early on. Further, an accused who is out of custody may be in the best position to locate witnesses. Lastly, it is much easier to meet and communicate with counsel when one is free to attend at their lawyer’s office as opposed to in custody accused who are limited to when their lawyer is able to find time to visit the jail.
Whether or not to plead guilty is the next important decision that an accused must make. Once disclosure is received, the accused, with the assistance of counsel of course, will be able to make a realistic decision about the strength of the crowns case and the likelihood of conviction at trial as well as any weaknesses or problems with the crown’s case. Sometimes, it is possible for the accused’s lawyer to negotiation a resolution with the crown attorney/prosecutor that involves a withdrawal of the charges. However, withdrawals are generally for less serious offences and where the accused has little or no criminal history. It is important for the accused not to succumb to the unrealistic expectation that that their charges will simply be “thrown out” (a term used by unscrupulous lawyers to give their client’s false hopes) because their friends or other self-styled “experts” tell them that this will happen. It is entirely within the discretion of the crown as to whether or not they will proceed to trial. If so, the accused must be prepared for a trial.
Generally speaking, most people do not want to have a criminal record, either for employment or travel purposes. At times, even with a plea of guilty or a conviction, it is possible to avoid a criminal record by having a judge impose an absolute or a conditional discharge. Again, this type of scenario is reserved for less serious offences, so it is important to discuss your concerns about the possible repercussions of a criminal conviction with your lawyer.
Further, their may be immigration consequences to a criminal conviction. If you are not a Canadian citizen, it is important to discuss what impact the criminal charges will have on your immigration status. In my experience, although most criminal lawyers have a rudimentary knowledge of immigration law and the interplay between criminal and immigration law, it is preferable for the accused to seek the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer to learn the full spectrum of possible outcomes that a conviction can have on their immigration status.
David Kolinsky has 10 years of experience litigating and is prepared to defend clients accused of all types of offences, including:
The most common type of charge that people face in Canada is impaired driving. Typical driving related offences include the following:
Impaired driving (also known as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI)), “over 80”, impaired driving causing bodily harm, impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving, careless driving, driving while prohibited or suspended, street racing etc.
Even if a person is not driving a car, they can still be charged if they are have care and control of a vehicle while their ability is impaired by alcohol or drugs. Further, individuals can be charged for refusing to provide a breath sample. Both of these offences carry the same penalties as actually driving while impaired.
Domestic assault, criminal harassment, uttering threats, and other charges relating to a wife, girlfriend etc.
Charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act: such as possession of a controlled substance, trafficking in a controlled substance (drug trafficking), importing and exporting a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession for the purpose of production. “Controlled Substance” typically refers to drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana etc.
Sexual assault (rape), sexual assault causing bodily harm, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation etc.
Assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, assault peace officer, manslaughter, attempted murder, second-degree murder, first-degree murder, terrorism etc. as well as firearms offences such as possess restricted weapon, possess prohibited weapon, careless storage of firearm etc.
Shoplifting, theft under/over $5,000, robbery, robbery with firearm (armed robbery), break and enter, fraud etc.
Child Pornography such as possess child pornography, distribute child pornography, make child pornography, internet luring, internet fraud etc.
Please note that we are also able to assist clients with matters related to their criminal charges such as seeking a curative discharge for impaired driving offences, and seeking the reinstatement of an individual’s driver’s license through appeals to the Traffic Safety Board. We are able to give advice as to whether or not an accused person who has been convicted should appeal their conviction or sentence.
If you are facing criminal charges (also referred to as a criminal prosecution), you most likely want to criminal defence lawyer (lawyers are sometimes referred to as attorneys) to assist you. Unlike other areas of law, where it is becoming commonplace for parties to represent themselves, my sense is that most members of the public and certainly most accused persons feel that hiring the right criminal lawyer is an essential part of the process.
I actually support this view. As a lawyer, I always think it is unwise for an individual to go into court without at a minimum seeking legal advice to know exactly where they stand. In my experience, those people who think they have everything under control and don’t really need a lawyer are almost always fooling themselves.
People who are seeking a criminal lawyer (or any other type of lawyer for that matter) should not be taken by the bravado and slick salesmanship of certain members of the bar. At times, lawyers will virtually promise that charges will be “thrown out” (which is inherently misleading because it can mean a number of things) or confidently assure the client that an acquittal is likely, before they are fully familiar with the case. I personally believe that a lawyer should try to discuss all the issues in a given client’s case in a straightforward and honest manner and not be afraid to advise the client as to what their chances of success are, even if those chances are slim.
We are available to help and are always ready to provide a no-obligation consultation where we can explain the criminal process, the individuals potential defences and chances of success. Please call us and (780) 757-6400 to book an appointment.