Estimating a Cost
The cost of hiring a defence lawyer in Ontario is incredibly varied. The figure is based on a number of factors, like the experience of the lawyer, the severity and complexity of your case, the evidence possessed by the Crown, and the geographic location of the charges. Because of this it’s difficult to predict the cost, but suffice it to say, it is not an inexpensive investment. I use the term investment, because like buying a house or signing up for a post-secondary education, hiring a defence lawyer can dramatically alter the course of your future. Being found guilty of accessing or possessing child pornography can carry a sentence up to 10 years in prison, and distributing or making child pornography can be as much as 14 years.
Investing in a defence lawyer that can successfully reduce your charges, have your charges dropped, or have you found not-guilty at trial, is vital to putting an end to the difficult situation that these charges put people in. Like seeing the ingredients on the back of a box of cereal, we believe it’s important for potential clients to understand what goes into a criminal defence. This way you understand the costs incurred, and you can feel confident that the defence you’re getting is worth the cost.
It isn’t as glamorous and dramatic as Jack Nicholson’s famous “you can’t handle the truth!” scene in A Few Good Men, but the majority of a lawyer’s day is spent in the office. Here they review disclosure (the information the Crown has, including the evidence against you), read past cases to find precedents, and otherwise work on cases. Little of the work is done in a courtroom.
It’s also not only the lawyer putting in hours on each case, but often paralegals and office support staff. It takes an effective team to handle cases for multiple clients simultaneously, and keeping that team operating at their fullest is what incurs much of the costs of hiring a defence lawyer.
If trial is avoided the costs of your defence team are likely to be lower. Outcomes that can be achieved without a trial aren’t always preferable though, and sometimes a trial is either the best or only option available. If you’ve been charged with distribution of child pornography and the Crown’s only offer is a plea deal which drops the charges to possession of child pornography, you may not be eager to take the deal. If your counsel feels the Crown’s evidence is weak and could be easily dismissed at trial, it might be worth declining the deal. Being found not guilty would mean avoiding a criminal record altogether (assuming you have no prior criminal record) and for charges of child pornography this can be very important.
At trial, your lawyer will be completely unavailable to other clients and colleagues, focusing entirely on the events unfolding within the court. Here they present the evidence they’ve prepared, find holes in the Crown’s recounting of events, and use their understanding of past cases to explain why the law is on your side. This takes quite a lot as far as the firm’s resources go, and thus a trial can be expensive but potentially worth it.
Affording Your Lawyer
Let me preface this by saying that very few people pay for a criminal defence lawyer up front with a lump sum of money. Most people also don’t purchase cars, houses, or university educations with a complete upfront payment. Most use payment plans where another entity, like a bank, funds the purchase and you pay them back over time.
Aitken Robertson offers a similar option to our clients, recognizing that many who are accused of crimes come from non-affluent backgrounds. In 2013/2014 over 700,000 Canadians applied for legal aid to help with the costs of their cases, with over 50% of approved applications being for persons charged with criminal offences.1 That’s why we offer a no-interest payment plan, customized to fit the financial needs of each individual client, giving anyone the opportunity to afford our legal services.
If you’re in Pickering and you’ve been charged with accessing, possessing, distributing, or making child pornography, contact our Oshawa office located just a few minutes from the court house for a free 30-minute consultation so we can give you an upfront cost without hidden fees and begin crafting your legal defence as early as possible.
- Legal aid in Canada, 2013/2014, Manon Diane Dupuis, Legal aid in Canada, 2013/2014 [Legal aid in Canada, 2013/2014].