Tag Archives: ottawa criminal lawyer

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 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.

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.