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You Have Questions About the Criminal Justice System? We Have Answers!

This blog is going to offer some information to some most frequently asked questions. It will take the form of questions and answers for ease of readability. If we have not covered a topic you were looking for, then call our office for a free 30-minute consultation and our lawyers would be happy to assist you further.

What should I do if the police want to talk to me about a crime that has occurred?

A: The police have a positive duty to investigate crime. To do this, they often ask various persons who may know something about the crime some investigative questions. You have the right to remain silent. This is a decision you are entitled to make. Unless you are required by law to co-operate in an investigation, you do not need to. It is always best to speak to a lawyer regarding the specific circumstances before speaking to the police. Speaking to a lawyer can assist you in understanding whether or not it would be in your best interest to speak to police, whether you are required to or whether you should exercise your right to silence.

Do I have to give a bodily sample to the police for an allegation of Impaired Driving?

A: Yes you do. If the police have reasonable grounds to believe that you may have been drinking and driving, then they are acting within their powers when a demand for a breath sample or blood sample is made. If you fail to comply, you will be charged with a criminal offence. In this scenario, you are obligated to provide a bodily sample for the purposes of an impaired driving investigation.

How should I decide whether to plead guilty to my charge or not?

A: This is a very critical question, one in which cannot be comprehensively answered in this blog. What we will say is that pleading guilty undoubtedly leads to various consequences that you should be well aware of. Some examples include an impact on your employment or the ability to get a job, having limited volunteer work opportunities, ability to travel, increased insurance rates, hefty fines, jail time, and even possible deportation if you are a non-Canadian citizen. It is vital that you speak to a criminal defence lawyer before you make the decision to plead guilty. This decision has to be an informed one, particularly as it is irreversible.

Do I need a lawyer if I am facing a criminal charge?

A: Here’s the thing. The Canadian justice system is set up in such a way that accused persons are able to be self-represented. There is also the availability of Duty Counsel, a free legal aid lawyer present in court to assist self-represented individuals. While it is the case that you are able to address your charge without the help of a private lawyer, there are many benefits to doing so. Hiring a private lawyer will get you a knowledgeable and skilled advocate tirelessly working on your behalf. An experienced criminal lawyer will explain the potential outcome of your case, risks associated with the case, the benefits and disadvantages of proceeding to trial, the legal costs for your defence and what would happen if you are found guilty of the criminal offences the accused is charged with. He or she will pay attention to the details of your case to achieve the best results possible. This type of commitment is not guaranteed by duty counsel as they may be representing 20 different people on a single day. Retaining a lawyer is an investment in your case and in yourself. For this question, our answer will always be that you would be serving yourself well with a criminal defence lawyer by your side.

Someone I know has been arrested and is in custody, what happens next?

A: If the person you know has been arrested and is in custody, he or she will be brought to court for a bail hearing where the presiding judge or justice of the peace will decide his or her release into the community. The law requires that this take place within 24 hours of the arrest. A bail hearing may commence within the 24-hour period or may be adjourned up to three days if requested. An adjournment for a longer period of time requires the consent of the accused. With the assistance of a private lawyer or duty counsel, the bail hearing is conducted. If required to encourage the court to permit bail, a surety is presented to help the court supervise the release of the accused. This is often someone that has some type of relationship with the accused such as a family member, relative or close friend.

The Crown can either agree or disagree with the release of the accused. If the Crown agrees to release the accused on what is referred to as a Consent Release, then the accused will be released on his or her own recognizance. The accused will at a later date be required to attend to his or her next court date. However, if the Crown takes the position that the accused must remain in custody, then a contested bail hearing will take place. This is where the Crown outlines the reasons why the accused ought to remain in custody until his or her hearing. Conversely, the privately retained lawyer or duty counsel would challenge the Crown’s position and aim to demonstrate why the accused ought to be released. In the end, the judge or justice of the peace makes the decision respecting the accused’s bail, taking into account the rights of the accused and balancing it against the principles of the administration of justice.

Yasmine Al-Zaman

Yasmine’s patience, compassion and understanding allow her to work collaboratively and effectively with her clients. She appreciates the level of fear and confusion most people feel when confronted with the legal system. With that in mind, Yasmine puts her best foot forward to offer quality legal services.

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