Please be advised that the preceding “FAQ’s” (corresponding questions and answers) are not comprehensive legal explanations. Rather, the questions and answers are designed to provide a brief, general, and basic description/understanding of some of the most common questions and answers regarding criminal proceedings and related topics. The answers may vary depending on the particular criminal issue and circumstance; as such, the content of this FAQ section is not actual legal advice. Do not use or otherwise rely on, any of the content contained within the FAQ section without first seeking proper legal advice. – NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE.
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1. Do I need to hire a lawyer if I plan on pleading guilty?
People are often under the impression that pleading guilty is not really a big deal. There are several good reasons why you should hire a lawyer even if you plan to plead guilty.
The first, and most important, reason why you should always hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer is the simple fact that an experienced defence lawyer might be able to get your charges dismissed or otherwise help you avoid a conviction. Remember the issue is whether or not the Crown (Prosecution) can prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the police did something illegal during the investigation or evidence is weak, for example, the Crown may not be able to meet its burden and you may be able to avoid a conviction. Wouldn’t you prefer that outcome to a conviction on your permanent record?
2. Another reason why hiring a lawyer makes sense is to ensure that you understand the implications of pleading guilty and that you are making the best decision for you and your future. Hiring a lawyer doesn’t mean you have to have a trial. However, a criminal defence lawyer is ethically bound to make sure that you:
– Understand the charges against you
– Understand the potential penalties you face if you plead guilty
– Understand the strengths and/or weaknesses of the Crown’s case against you
– Make the decision to plead guilty voluntarily and of your own free will
3. The Crown prosecutor is going to make it sound as though pleading guilty is not that big of a deal. The prosecutor may focus on the fact that the sentence doesn’t include jail time and “is a good deal”. What the prosecutor won’t focus on are the non-judicial consequences of a conviction that may include things such as:
– Permanent Criminal Record
– Loss of a driver’s licence
– Restricted travel opportunities or Deportation
– Disciplinary action for a professional licence
– Lost employment opportunities
– Interference with visitation or custody of minor children
– Numerous or onerous probationary conditions
Without the assistance of an experienced criminal defence lawyer you will may not take these consequences into account when deciding to plead guilty or not.
4. There is almost always room for negotiation when it comes to a guilty plea agreement. Taking the first thing offered to you by the Crown prosecutor is never a good idea. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will ensure that the plea agreement you accept includes the best possible terms and conditions for you.
2. When I am arrested and/or in custody, should I talk to Police?
NO- DO NOT SPEAK TO THE POLICE – In Canada, you have the right to remain silent. In most cases, you have no obligation to provide any information to the police. There are some exceptions to this rule.
If you are arrested, you must tell the police your name, address, and date of birth. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING MORE. You should ALWAYS invoke your right to a lawyer. Call me immediately!
Always remember you do not need to give the police any information or assist a criminal investigation in any way. If you are dealing with the police you should consult with a lawyer immediately.
3. The Police want to speak with me and “get my side of the story”. What should I do?
They may call and say they want to “set up a meeting” to “discuss an incident.” Or they may say that they want to “give you a chance to tell your side of the story” so they can “decide how they are going to handle things.”
They may say, “This is your opportunity to tell us what happened” or warn you “if you do not speak with the police, they will have to assume everything (someone else) told them is true, and that you really are guilty. What the police will not tell you is they hope you will tell them something that can be used against you in court. It is important to remember that the police are trained interrogators and the purpose of speaking to you is to obtain information, which will confirm your guilt.
Even if you are innocent, there are still risks to speaking with the police. For example, it gives the police an opportunity to investigate your version of events and try to “poke holes” in your story. It also gives the Crown prosecutor a preview of what you might say at a trial, which can make it easier for the prosecutor to prepare the case against you.
4. Can I speak to the police off the record or give an informal statement?
There is no such thing as “off the record” with a police officer. Anything you tell a police officer, at any time, can and will be used against you. It is also important to remember it is not just signed or written statements, or formal audio or videotaped statements, that can be used against you, anything you say to an officer, over the phone or in person, can be written down (even at a later date) by the officer in his or her notebook and used against you at a trial.
5. What should I bring with me to my consultation with you?
Any documents that the Police and/or the Court has given you – this allows me to sit down with you and take the time to review and explain these materials to you in plain, everyday language. I review the materials with the view of what, if any, defenses are available to you.
6. The Police took my fingerprints and photographs - can I get them destroyed?
YES. Upon successfully beating the criminal charges, I can make a request to the Police to have your fingerprints and photographs destroyed. Written confirmation of the destruction is available should the Client request it?