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What to consider before pleading guilty to any criminal charge?

What does pleading not guilty mean?

Pleading “not guilty” means you are making the Crown prove the case against you. It does not mean you deny you committed the offence. The law presumes you are innocent and the Crown must prove you are guilty. If you decide to plead not guilty, the court will set a date for your trial.

What should I do before deciding whether to plead guilty or not?

It is important to understand all of your legal options before making a decision to plead guilty. You should start by reading your disclosure. If you have difficulty understanding your disclosure, hire a criminal defence lawyer or get help from duty counsel at the courthouse.

When you read your disclosure, pay close attention to the synopsis, usually found in the first few pages of the disclosure package. You may agree with some, all, or none of the synopsis. It is critical to tell your lawyer or duty counsel whether you agree with what is written in the synopsis because they will need to know this to give you sufficient advice about a possible guilty plea. Even if you agree with everything in the synopsis, you should still speak to your lawyer or duty counsel before you decide to plead guilty. You need to get legal advice about things such as difficulties the Crown could have in proving the case against you or possible defences you may have. A lawyer will inform you of what the Crown is seeking as a sentence and what sentence you are likely to receive if you plead guilty. Basically, you need to do your “due diligence” before entertaining the idea of pleading guilty.

via Law Facts, A legal information resource from Legal Aid Ontario

What if I want to plead guilty?

If you are considering a guilty plea, with or without a lawyer, there are important factors that you must turn your mind to. If you have a criminal defence lawyer, this information will be unequivocally communicated to you. The court must have the confidence that you understand the implications of pleading guilty to a criminal charge(s).

First of all, your case will have specific facts. The list that follows may not take into account the unique facts in your matter. Keeping that in mind, the ensuing list is not an exhaustive one but does provide a comprehensive scope of considerations that need to be taken into account:

  • Giving up your right to a trial where the onus is on the Crown to prove the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The sentence being proposed by the Crown
  • Your immigration status and the potential immigration consequences
  • You are making the guilty plea voluntarily and fully informed of the implications
  • Acquiring a criminal record
  • Potential impact of the criminal record on your place of employment or volunteering opportunities
  • Potential impact on family law issues
  • Any civil law issues and possible law suits
  • Insurance issues
  • Driving prohibition issues
  • In the case of a joint submission by the Crown and defence counsel, the possibility of the judge substituting the proposed sentence for their own

Entering a guilty plea may be in your best interest depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if the Crown has a strong case against you, yet you have been able to achieve a fair resolution either through the assistance of your lawyer or duty counsel, then entering the plea may be your best choice.

A criminal defence lawyer has the knowledge and experience to provide a legal opinion as to whether the disposition of your case is best served through a guilty plea or trial. Questions related to guilty pleas cannot be answered by anyone other than an experienced lawyer who is fully aware of your personal circumstances and your particular case. For that reason and many more, we suggest you call our office and take advantage of our free 30-minute consultation to better understand the charge(s) you are facing and the available options to you.


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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