Author Archives: Céline Dostaler

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The most common type of success is when the judge enters an acquittal or when the charge is withdrawn.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.

The Right To A Trial 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.

The Right to a Lawyer Of Choice

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that anyone under arrest or detention has the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay.

Police have to advise the person under arrest of their rights. In order to speak to a lawyer, the person under arrest must tell the officer that they wish to exercise that right: they must tell the officer that they want to speak to a lawyer.

Once an individual advises they wish to exercise a right, the police must provide a reasonable opportunity to exercise the right, except in urgent or dangerous circumstances. This means that once an individual asks to speak to a lawyer, the police must make reasonable attempts to allow her that conversation.

Many people don’t have a lawyer on call, and don’t know any criminal lawyers. To remedy this situation, police officers often have a list of lawyers who practice criminal law in their jurisdiction, or offer to call an on-call duty counsel to provide free advice. It’s important to note, however, that if an accused wants to contact a specific lawyer, police must make reasonable efforts to find and contact that lawyer on the accused’s behalf. The arrested person is not limited to speaking only with the lawyers on a list, or duty counsel.

Sometimes, people call the first lawyer they can get a hold of, because they cannot research lawyers at the police station. It is important to know that an accused person is not obligated to continue to retain the same lawyer they spoke with at the police station: they should find a lawyer they are comfortable with.

Courts have often reiterated the importance of the right to counsel. If the court does not believe the police respected an individual’s right to counsel, the charges can be dismissed on that basis. If you were not allowed to call your lawyer of choice, contact Celine Dostaler today to discuss your case. Celine Dostaler if an Ottawa criminal lawyer that has successfully defended individuals whose rights to counsel of choice was denied by the police.

What happens when jail is a real possibility?

You’ve been found guilty after trial, or you want to plead guilty, and the Crown will ask a judge to consider a jail sentence. What do you do? You are scared of going to jail for the first time, or for a long period of time.

In order to convince a judge that your sentence should not include jail, or that it should be much shorter than what the Crown will ask, your lawyer will start by collecting your background information. Your lawyer may even recommend that you start participating in programs which will help convince a judge that recidivism and risk have been lowered. These programs usually include counseling (credit counseling for fraud charges, anger management for physical violence, alcohol or drug rehabilitation for addiction issues), but may also include restitution and community service.

Celine Dostaler also enlists the help of a professional who works in prison consulting : this individual not only recommends steps that will lower your possible jail sentence, he also helps in counseling before you are incarcerated, and helps you apply for daily access passes and parole as quick as possible. His help allows you to go through the system prepared, and ensuring your rights to access parole are respected.

Not only does Celine Dostaler help her clients obtain a lesser jail term when the Canadian Judicial System is moving towards a system of mandatory minimums, she helps clients get released from the system faster.

New Victim Fine Surcharges

Whenever there is a finding of guilt, either if the accused pleads guilty or is found guilty after trial, a victim fine surcharge will be automatically added to the sentence.

The government says that the surcharge is “used to help fund programs and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime occurred.” As of October 24, 2013, judges lost their discretion to impose a victim fine surcharge if the accused did not have the ability to pay. For example, if the accused lost his employment as a result of a lengthy jail sentence, judges would often waive the victim fine surcharge, recognizing the undue hardship that it would cause.

However, as of October 24, 2013, a new bill was passed that removed the judge’s discretion to impose or not the victim fine surcharged, and doubled the amount imposed.

After a finding of guilt, the victim fine surcharge will be applied in the following manner:
– 30% of any fine imposed
– $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction, where no fine was imposed
– $200 for offences punishable by indictment, where no fine was imposed.

Although there is currently no discretion to waive the victim fine surcharge, many lawyers are working together to find workarounds, and prevent high surcharge payments: either with asking for lower fines to be imposed, which would reduce the 30% surcharge, or with arguing that the Bill be struck down as unconstitutional.

Your ability to pay a fine or surcharge is important to discuss with your lawyer.

Domestic Assaults

The police take allegations of domestic assaults very seriously, and if they feel that they have a “reasonable suspicion” that an assault may have taken place, they will charge an individual. In Ontario, the complainant, or the victim, cannot decide whether or not the accused will be charged. The police will always lay charges if they believe an assault may have occurred. Although the police have an obligation to investigate all crimes thoroughly, it may feel as though they did not to investigate your side of the story: they took your accuser’s words as gold, and did not want to hear the truth. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will be able to work with you, defend your rights, and ensure that you are not found guilty of something you did not do.

Only One Phone Call

American television often portrays an accused person asking for their lawyer to be present during a police interview. But what are our rights as Canadians when arrested and interviewed by the police?

In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides us with our rights. You do not have the right to have their lawyer present when they are speaking to police. Instead, you have a right to a phone call to a criminal defence lawyer.

What is this right to speak to a lawyer? When an individual is accused of a crime, she is advised that they have the right to speak to a lawyer or to Duty Counsel. If the individual chooses to speak to a lawyer, they are provided with a list of lawyers and that person must choose one. That person chooses a lawyer based off a list of names, without knowing anything about that person. The lawyer provides advice regarding the charges and what to do next, and the individual is then brought to the interview room and asked questions by the police.

The accused only has the right to contact the lawyer once, with one phone call, before the interview. However, if there is a change in jeopardy (for example the police decide to charge the accused with more offences), she will have the right to speak to a lawyer again.

The first contact with a lawyer at the police station does not require the accused to hire that lawyer. In fact, it is best to do research on your lawyer before you hire someone.

It is important to have trust and faith in your lawyer. Your lawyer will be there to help you navigate the criminal justice system. Your lawyer should help you understand what the charges are, understand what the next steps for you will be, explain what is happening and represent your interests. Although your lawyer knows the law and the processes, they should not tell you what to do: your lawyer should help you make the right decision for you, by providing you with the pros and cons, and results of each option.