Tag Archives: Right to 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.

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.