Tag Archives: Canadian Justice System

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.

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.

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.