Always Consult with an Ottawa Criminal Defence Lawyer

There are times, when some people are arrested and charged with a criminal offence, and they know they are guilty of having committed that crime. However, it is never a good idea to take a plea deal or plead guilty to the charges, without first consulting with your OWN criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa.

By your “OWN” lawyer, it means one that is not assigned to you by the court, also known as Duty Counsel. Court-appointed solicitors tend to be overloaded with cases. Of course, they are required to provide you legal advice and inform you of your rights, but they might attempt to sway you to take a plea agreement in exchange for admitting guilt for the offence or simply plead guilty, so they can resolve your case as quickly as possible and move on to helping their next court-appointed client.

This is why you need to take the time to talk to an experienced defence lawyer, who is not court-appointed. There are many qualified criminal lawyers throughout Ottawa that offer free consultations and will provide you with their sound and expert advice about how you should proceed. It never hurts to find out your options before making up your mind solely based upon your perceived guilt for committing the offence.

To better illustrate this, let’s consider a case where a person has been charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and they have been charged with impaired driving. While the person might have consumed a little too much alcohol, resulting in their impairment, if the police did not follow proper procedures or violated the person’s rights in any manner, there could be sufficient grounds for building a strategic defence to the charges and fighting them, with the possibility of getting them dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge.

Do keep in mind this is just an example of potential outcomes and each person’s circumstances do vary based upon the type of criminal offence, the evidence the Crown has, and whether their rights have been violated. However, the point was to make you aware, just because you might not think you have no alternative to pleading guilty or taking a plea agreement, there are, in many situations, other options you are unaware of, which could benefit your particular situation.

If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with a criminal offence, the law provides the person is considered innocent until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubts. Do not give up your rights and risk you freedoms by taking a plea agreement or pleading guilty. Contact experienced Ottawa defence lawyer, Céline Dostaler by calling 613-695-8595 for a FREE, no-obligation 30 minute consultation today!

DISCLAIMER: The above information is provided for reference purposes only and should not be construed as actual legal advice. For professional legal advice to find out your rights and options you need to arrange a consultation with a qualified Ottawa criminal defence lawyer, like Céline Dostaler.

What You Need to Know About Stalking (Harassment)

Stalking is considered harassment under the Criminal Code of Canada. Most often, this type of offence is committed by someone who continuously harasses another individual repeatedly over a period of time. However, the law does define “repeatedly” as behaviours that are committed frequently or persistently, more than once, which may occur in a relatively short period of time.

For instance, you are at a club and make numerous attempts to buy another person a drink, ask them to dance, go out on a date, and get their phone number, and so on. If the other person has a genuine fear of their safety, based upon your behaviours, they could potentially file a complaint of harassment against you.

There are different forms of what is considered stalking behaviours, these include, but may not be limited to:

  • Directly attempting to communicate with another person repeatedly, over the telephone, by email, text message, through social media sites, or through the mail, or giving them gifts, even after they have asked you to stop.
  • Indirectly communicating with them through their friends or family, or another third party, such as asking someone to give them a note or gift on your behalf.
  • Following them on a frequent basis when they leave their home, go to work, go shopping, and other places outside the home.
  • Watching them from outside of their home or place of employment.
  • Behaving in a threatening manner towards the person, their friends, or family.
  • Attempting to learn more about them through their friends or family, either with or without their knowledge.

It is worth mentioning in today’s highly technological driven society, a person could be charged with stalking for harassing another online or through other such electronical devices and/or means, such as posting pictures you have taken of the other person, without their knowledge to their social media pages.

Punishment for Stalking

If convicted and found guilty of stalking, the maximum punishment imposed by the courts depends upon whether the person was convicted through a summary conviction or an indictable offence. A person could potentially face up to six months in jail for a summary conviction and up to ten years in jail for an indictable offence. Additionally, there can be other penalties, such as probation, not having any contact with the complainant (victim), their friends, or family, and remaining a set distance away from the complainant, their friends, or family.

Should I Accept a Peace Bond if the Crown Offers One?

It depends upon the circumstances of your case and if this option is presented, it is best to discuss this in more detail with your criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa. A peace bond is an agreement made between the accused and the court, which has specific terms and conditions, very similar to a bail agreement. As long as the accused person adheres to and fulfills the terms and conditions of the peace bond, they will not be convicted of the crime.

A peace bond does not imply the guilt of the accused and normally involves being able to follow all terms and conditions for up to a year, possibly longer. The terms and conditions of the peace bond could include not having contact with the complainant, their friends, and family, adhering to all laws, not committing any other criminal offences, reporting changes in addresses/employers to the court, and so on.

While a peace bond does not result in a conviction, it is worth mentioning the stalking offence might appear on criminal background searches, especially if you are still in process of fulfilling the terms and conditions.

Please note, the above information should not be used as actual legal advice. Everyone’s circumstances and situations regarding stalking offences are different.

If you or someone you know is being charged with stalking, it is in your best interests to speak directly to an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer to get your questions answered and find out what options are available for building a defence to the charges. Call the law offices of Céline Dostaler at 613.695.8595 today for a no obligation; FREE 30-minute consultation and consultation appointment.

What Are the Different Types of Evidence in Criminal Cases?

The two main types of evidence the prosecution will present in court during criminal proceedings are direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence which supports a crime has been committed and was committed by the accused. Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, relies upon suggesting a certain series of events took place and were committed by the accused.

While all evidence is classified as either direct or circumstantial, there are several forms of evidence both the prosecution and your Ottawa criminal defence lawyer can use to further the case. The objective of the prosecuting Crown lawyers is to establish and prove you committed the criminal offence beyond all reasonable doubt. The objective of your criminal defence lawyer is to use evidence to challenge the reasonability you committed the crime and create doubt that you may not have actually committed the offence.

Forms of Evidence

  • Physical Evidence – This form of evidence is used to prove specific facts in regards to the offence. Physical evidence could include fingerprints, DNA, bodily fluids, blood, clothing, weapons, documents, and so on.
  • Digital Evidence – Digital evidence has grown as technology has advanced. This form of evidence includes emails, text messages, online browsing histories, digital transaction logs, and more. Essentially, anything that is an electronic device which keeps digital history is considered digital evidence. For instance, the GPS locator built in to most smartphones could be used as digital evidence to substantiate your location while the offence was being committed.
  • Scientific Evidence – The scientific interpretation of evidence, along with expert testimony could potentially be used to explain the occurrence of events related to the offence.
  • Exculpatory Evidence – This form of evidence has to be disclosed by the prosecution or police prior to going to trial. It normally clears the person accused of the crime as there will be conflicts between the exculpatory evidence and other evidence, which create reasonable doubt.
  • Genetic Evidence – Genetic evidence is a form of evidence that is obtained as a comparison to physical evidence gathered at the crime scene. For instance, unknown DNA evidence was found at the crime scene, and in order to determine who’s DNA it is, DNA could be collected from the suspect and tested for verification. If the test results match the DNA evidence found, then the DNA test is presented as supporting genetic evidence.
  • Documentary Evidence – This form of evidence is any type of media, such as video, audio, photographs, or paper-based documents. For example, you have been charged with criminal harassment and the prosecution uses pictures you took of the victim as documentary evidence to establish you were stalking the victim.
  • Eyewitness and Testimony Evidence – Both of these forms of evidence are obtained from others who were present while the crime was committed or can provide relevant information to further support your guilt or innocence, such as a co-worker stating under oath you were eating lunch with them during the time the crime was alleged to have taken place.

As you can see there are numerous forms of evidence that can be used to build a case against you, as well as build a strategic defence to criminal charges. If you or someone you love has been charged with a criminal offence, you need to contact an experienced and skilled criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa, like Céline Dostlaer. Call 613-695-8595 now to schedule a free 30-minute case evaluation and consultation appointment.

How Many People Are Charged with Shoplifting?

Did you know there are typically over 50,000 people charged with shoplifting and Theft Under $5,000 throughout Canada, each year? This criminal offence is defined in the Criminal Code of Canada in Section 334(b) and includes shoplifting, since most shoplifters rarely attempt to steal property valued at more than $5,000.

People, who shoplift, typically focus on one of several different types of property they steal from retail stores. Common items stolen include:

  • Alcohol
  • Clothing and Apparel
  • Jewelry
  • Food
  • Cosmetic and Beauty Products

Shoplifters tend to avoid electronics as most items, these days, are either locked up and require getting a store associate to give you access, are tagged with anti-theft devices, or are too large to easily sneak out of a store.

What Does the Typical Shoplifter Look Like?

Some people might answer this question by saying shoplifters are only lower incomed and poor people. Others would say they are young offenders and delinquents, who like putting themselves into high risk situations simply for the thrill. However, you would be surprised to learn there is not any particular profile that can be used to describe the typical shoplifter. Shoplifters come from all societal backgrounds, income levels, educational levels, and ages, from teenager to senior citizens.

In fact over half of the people caught and charged with shoplifting have no prior criminal record. Even more alarming is these first time offenders are well-educated, with decent paying careers or come from families where paying for the items would not be an issue. In other words, over half of people charged each year are respected by their peers and community, that is, before they are caught shoplifting.

How Are Shoplifters Caught?

Most shoplifters are caught by a retail store’s security agents, either in plain clothes or uniformed. Normally, they wait for the person to leave the store and then apprehend them and take them to a security office. Some security agents will try a friendly approach and request the person provide their name, address, phone number and date of birth. In addition, they might say if they cooperate with them they will not call the police. Others will take a different tactic and use intimidation or threatening language to illicit this information and/or a confession from the alleged suspect.

What Rights Do Alleged Shoplifters Have?

The reason the security guard is trying to obtain the suspect’s personal information is so they can forward this to the store’s lawyers. The store’s lawyers will then send the suspect a letter demanding for civil recovery and paying a hefty fee directly to the store. This demand is in no way a criminal charge for shoplifting. Additionally, the suspect has the legal right to remain silent. They do not have to answer any of the security guard’s questions or provide their personal information.

The best course of action, if you are suspected of shoplifting, is to remain silent. Eventually, the security guard or store will call the police. Upon arriving, the police will take a formal statement from the guard, as well as collect any evidence, such as CCTV footage. The police may question you, but again, you have the right to remain silent. However, you do have to provide the police with your contact information. They will then issue a Notice to Appear form and collect any items you were accused of stealing.

At this point, it is highly recommended you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa. You are not formally charged with shoplifting until the charges are sworn in court in front of a judge and presented by the Crown’s lawyer.

There are several potential defences to shoplifting charges. You should never treat shoplifting as a minor crime as it carries with it severe penalties. Common punishments for being found guilty of shoplifting include court fines and fees, potential jail time, damage to your reputation and career, and restrictions on travel. If you have been issued a Notice to Appear for shoplifting, contact Céline Dostaler today at 613-695-8595 to schedule a free case evaluation and consultation appointment.

What You Need to Know About Bail Hearings

Bail hearings are part of due process for criminal offences. Everyone is entitled to a bail hearing, regardless of the criminal offence and charges being filed against them. However, not everyone will be granted bail. Bail is granted based upon several factors, including:

1. The flight risk of the defendant. If it is deemed the person is a flight risk, where they might attempt to flee and would not attend all court appearances, bail could be denied.

2. The risks to the general public. If the defendant’s release would create a risk to the general public, bail may not be granted.

3. The likelihood the defendant would commit further criminal offences. If there is a chance the defendant would commit criminal offences if released, bail can be denied.

4. The evidence the Crown has obtained. The defendant can be kept in custody in cases where the Crown has a strong case and the defendant’s release would hurt the public’s confidence in the legal system.

In Ottawa there are two common types of bail hearings conducted, largely based upon the criminal offence. The first one is called Appearance Notice Release (Promise to Appear). This type of hearing is normally conducted by the arresting police agency, not the court. It is used in cases where the person has no prior criminal record or only minor infractions on the record, or the offence was a minor infraction.

Securing release under an Appearance Notice Release is at the police agency’s discretion. There is no formal bail hearing conducted. Although, the police could impose specific conditions for setting bail that you must agree with prior to being released, such as:

• Travel Restrictions

• No Contact with Complainants

• Promise to Appear at All Court/Legal Proceedings

• Promise to Report to Police for Identification Purposes (Fingerprinting)

• No Alcohol Usages

• No Further Violations

• Following a Curfew

• Avoid Specific Locations/Addresses

• Upholding the Peace

In cases where you do not agree to certain imposed conditions for release, it is possible to challenge these in court with help from your Ottawa criminal defence lawyer, later once you case is reviewed in front of a judge. If you want to get out of jail, then accept the conditions initially until you have time to meet with a lawyer and discuss your reasons why you want to request they be changed.

The second type of bail hearing is called a Recognizance Release. This bail hearing is conducted in court in front of a judge. It is used in cases where the arresting police agency has reservations about granting an Appearance Notice Release, the defendant has a lengthy criminal record, the defendant was already on bail for another criminal offence, or the offence committed is considered more serious. During a Recognizance Release hearing, the Crown’s lawyers will present any evidence they feel relevant in the event they do not want the defendant released.

For this type of bail hearing, you should have a criminal defence lawyer represent your interests. Just like an Appearance Notice Release, the judge can impose specific conditions and terms for the release. In addition, there is often some form of cash deposit or surety required before release is granted.

It should be mentioned there are always unique circumstance and exceptions in every case. As such, the information provided above should not be used as actual legal advice and only for general information purposes. If you or a loved one has been arrested and is waiting for a bail hearing, it is better to retain the services of an experienced criminal lawyer in Ottawa, like Céline Dostaler. Call 613-695-8595 now for sound legal advice and to discuss your charges in more detail.

What You Need to Know About Domestic Assault

Domestic assault is considered a serious criminal offence throughout Canada. While it is a form of assault, Canadian Laws have defined the charge as its own specific offence since it involves assault on a family member, relative or other close relation by the accused. The law distinguishes between normal assault offences and domestic assault offences by examining whether the assault was committed in the context of a preexisting relationship between the person being charged and the victim. If the police and Crown establish such a relationship, then the person is charged with a domestic offence.

Even though domestic assaults are essentially the same criminal offences as normal assaults, the Ottawa courts treat them differently due to the trust created through close, personal relationships. In addition, the person charged with domestic assault can have their life turned upside down since the Crown normally imposes specific terms and conditions as part of the conditions for bail. This could involve not having contact with the accused person’s spouse, partner, or even their children.

One of the main concerns with domestic assault is when someone in a relationship uses it as a means to address other domestic issues and problems. For instance, a couple might be verbally arguing and one person gets so upset they call the police and claim they were assaulted by the other person. At this point, the police are required to conduct a full investigation into the claim. In the event the accused did, in fact, commit any form of assault, they can be charged by the Crown.

Keep in mind domestic assault is the intentional use of force or threat of force against the victim without their consent. If the accused simply verbally threatened to use force on the victim, without their consent, the police and Crown can charge the person with a form of domestic assault called uttering threats. This is also a very serious criminal offence. Uttering threats is making threats against the person, their property or their pets. Threats can be verbal, text messages, or emails.

Even if the complainant later changes their mind, they do not have the luxury of dropping the charges. Once a claim has been filed with the police and the Crown has determined there are grounds for a domestic assault offence, the Crown will proceed with prosecuting the accused.

Further, the complainant does not have to be the person being assaulted. A neighbour, relative, or close friend has the right to contact the police and report suspected domestic assault. Domestic assault is a serious criminal offence which can drastically impact a person’s life. If you have been charged with domestic assault, you need to obtain experienced legal representation from Ottawa criminal lawyer, Céline Dostaler. Call 613-695-8595 today for a complimentary case evaluation.

The Right to a in the Official Language of Your Choice

Section 530 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides that a criminal trial can be in either French or English: anywhere in Canada. If you are accused of a criminal code offence, the court has the obligation to advise you of your right to a trial in either French or English. This right ensures that you understand everything that happens at trial: from the witnesses’ testimony to the legal arguments made by the Crown and your lawyer and to the judge’s decision, you need to understand what is going on.

However, the Crown does not have the obligation to translate their case, also known as the “disclosure of the evidence” if it is produced in one of the official languages of Canada. This means that if the police officers’ notes and reports are written in English, but you want a trial in French, the Crown will not translate the documents so that you may understand them.

Even if you can speak both French and English, you have the right to a trial in the language you are most comfortable in. If you chose to have a trial in English, but the witnesses are French, the Court will ensure that all legal arguments are in English, and that the French witnesses have an interpreter so that you may understand what is being said.

Having a bilingual lawyer in these types of circumstances can be very useful: not only will your lawyer be able to correctly read and interpret the Crown’s case, but they can make sure that the interpreter is correctly translating the words spoken by a witness.

Why should I retain my own lawyer?

In courts across Ontario, Duty Counsel help unrepresented accused everyday. Duty Counsel are lawyers. Some work exclusively for Legal Aid, while others are private lawyers working on a contractual basis with Legal Aid Ontario.

If Duty Counsel represent people who do not have a lawyer, why should I retain my own lawyer?

First, not everyone is financially eligible for duty counsel services. Generally, duty counsel does not assist with pretrials, preliminary hearings, trials or superior court matters.

Second, Duty Counsel meet with a large number of accused on a regular basis. You may have to wait long periods of time before you speak with a Duty Counsel on your day in court, and you may not get the chance to tell them everything about your case. In addition, Duty Counsel does not keep extensive files, and you will have to re-explain your situation may times, starting over each time you get to court. Finally, Duty Counsel typically does not have the chance to review all the disclosure with you: they review the 1-2 page charge summary and give you an opinion based on that information, not on the entirety of the Crown’s file.

Hiring a private counsel is different: you hire a lawyer based on her experience and expertise. You often choose a lawyer based on her personality and the trust you establish while consulting with her, and reviewing her profile. Private counsel gets to know you and your personal situation. Your lawyer will review your complete file. Your counsel can review the file and provide you with advise on a trial, pretrial, preliminary hearing or plea of guilty.

Often, duty counsel will tell clients that complicated matters should be dealt with by private counsel, who can provide sufficient time, research and continuity for the most advantageous results.

What is your success rate?

Before retaining the services of one lawyer versus another, it’s important to know how well they have done in other cases.

But what exactly is a successful case?

The most common type of success is when the judge enters an acquittal or when the charge is withdrawn. While these are the best possible outcomes, they can be the most difficult and time consuming. Going to trial takes months, if not years. The evidence must be in favour of the defence, or there is an clear breach of Charter rights. Often, the evidence is not automatically in favour of the defence, it takes a skilled trial lawyer to find inconsistencies, to search deep beneath the surface of the evidence and come up with issues of reliability of the witnesses or police notes. Sometimes, however, evidence such as the police notes, witness statements and video surveillance are not in favour of the defence, and an acquittal is not possible.

In those cases, the criminal lawyer adapts and tries to negotiate a guilty plea to a lesser offence. These types of negotiations are beneficial for numerous aspects: a lesser penalty and lesser charges indicated on a criminal record. It can be the difference between having a criminal record for an aggravated assault versus only an assault.

Criminal defence lawyers must, more often than not, focus on the sentencing component of the conviction. This becomes more of a damage control type of function. Depending on the charge and the circumstances of the offence, there may be sentencing alternatives that range from diversion programs, to discharges, to fines, and even probation.

Sometimes, it may become probable that the accused will go to jail for a period of time. In these types of cases, the criminal lawyer becomes successful when they have effectively convinced a judge that the accused should serve a lesser amount of time in custody.

While defence lawyers strive for an acquittal or withdrawal, in some cases such an outcome is not possible. A successful day before the courts does not always mean an acquittal – it may mean a plea of guilt to a lesser offence, or a plea of guilt where the accused receives a lesser penalty.

Celine Dostaler strives to reach successful results in all her cases. Speak to her today to discuss your case.

What If a Complainant Lied to the Police?

Many people are charged because someone told the police that something happened, but they don’t have any hard evidence of the crime. Most cases get to court without forensic evidence like we see on television shows like CSI: they are trials of one person’s word against another.

People who are accused of crimes often ask their criminal defence lawyer what will be used at trial, because there is no “evidence” and the complainant is lying.

It is important to remember that the complainant’s testimony is her evidence after she testifies in court, under oath or by making an affirmation.

But, witnesses are not presumed to tell the truth, even when they swear on the bible. The judge must consider that witness’s credibility and reliability before concluding if he believes the complainant. If the witness’s recounting of the incident does not make sense, if there are holes in her story, or she is contradicted with what she has told others or what others have seen, she will not be a credible or reliable witness. If the Crown’s case is made up of unreliable witnesses, the judge will have reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, and will enter an acquittal.

The purpose of a criminal defence lawyer cross-examining a complainant or witness is to weaken or destroy the Crown’s case, and to establish the defence’s case by means of his opponent’s witness.

But the work doesn’t end there: at the end of the trial, your lawyer must bring all the inconsistencies together in her submissions, and tell the court why there should be an acquittal and you would be found not guilty.

In order to protect yourself against being convicted from a complainant who is not telling the truth, you must find a lawyer who will work with you to show the court that the complainant is lying.

If your freedom is at risk, contact Celine Dostaler. She has conducted many trials, and has impeached many complainants. Many of her clients have been acquitted as a result of the research, her knowledge of the facts, the impeachments she has conducted during the trials, and her submissions to the judge.