When I was young, my parents and grandparents wanted me to become a lawyer. I had mixed feelings about that. It was a noble profession, but I was painfully shy and I couldn’t even imagine myself ever arguing in court. Still, I took their advice.
Flash forward to 1984, and I was Called to the Bar in Ontario. This was back in the day when most firms were not hiring lawyers. The Canadian economy was in shambles, and most of my courses in law school were related to business and tax law. I had no connections to lawyers by way of family or friends. In fact, the first time I was ever in a lawyer’s office was during my articling interviews. I wanted to stay in my hometown, and since I had no job offers, I had no choice but to open my own practice. Of course, that meant taking in tons of files, many of which were not economical. Still, I had to in order to keep my practice going. Back then, I did considerable work helping parents whose children had been taken away by the Children’s Aid Society, where the rules of evidence that apply are quite opposite to those in criminal law.
I eventually ended up also helping people facing criminal prosecution, and soon the local Crown Attorney took a chance on me. I remember them asking me if I wanted to do some part-time Crown Attorney work—I jumped at the chance. Although the pay was rather poor, it was an incredible experience, even if I did get clobbered during my first few trials. Eventually, by working there for nearly two decades, I was able to adapt and roll with the punches. And, the lessons I learned, helped me develop my own practice as a defence lawyer. Simply put, it was advantageous to know how my “opposition” would approach their cases.
Originally, my criminal practice mainly handled sex assault and DUI cases. As the years went by, my practice increasingly focused on DUI defence and continues to do so today. I came to learn that most of the people who were charged were good people who simply made some bad mistakes. Often, they had no intention of driving after drinking, but certain circumstances overtook them. It didn’t help that our governments and courts have greatly eroded potential DUI defences. Defences that were common 20 years ago, are simply no longer allowed. Some of these changes even fly in the face of good science.
Today, to become a good DUI lawyer, you must not only know the law, but you must know the science behind breath testing for alcohol. Over the years, I have taken many professional courses such as Intoxilyzer machine training, and other programs related to breath test cases, metrology (the science of measurement for breath test machines), and effective lawyer-client relationships. It is also essential for me to invest in ongoing legal education for my staff to ensure that our entire firm is fluent in the latest research and criminal law evolution. Some of our many training programs have taken us to Hollywood, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Colorado.
However, my practice isn’t just focused on DUI law. Today, I still assist many people charged with domestic assault. I found that in many situations the courts had criminalized what were essentially family law problems, resulting from the stresses of a marriage, which are commonly fueled by alcohol. While some assaults are undeniably serious, many fall into a separate category of someone who just had a bad day, took it out on someone else, and then forever regretted it. Unquestionably, putting a relationship back together after that is quite difficult.
My long career has shown me that despite many files being similar as to the facts, the aspirations and needs of each client are incredibly unique. My approach is first to listen to my client without judgement in order to get their side of the story. Second, at trial, I not only focus on what the Crown witness says, but also try to analyze why they chose that particular wording or phrase in their answer when there were many possibilities. I have found this approach to be highly effective in cross examination and can assist in probing whether a particular witness is lying or is biased against my client.
The conversation I have with a potential client is simple: I promise that I will do my best. I will devote my time to improve your chances, and to win where I can. I undertake to give honest, blunt advice as to what the realistic range of outcomes are. In my years of trials and in the legal trenches, I have seen just about everything. Clients benefit from the wisdom and experience I can offer. My clients trust me. If you hire me, I think you will too.
To book a free 30 minute consultation with Aitken Robertson, call us toll-free at 1-800-668-1657, or fill in an online form at www.fightthecharges.com.
At Aitken Robertson, we place great value on continuing legal education. By attending annual training seminars and courses, we improve our legal knowledge and stay abreast of the latest criminal law developments.
- U.I. Tactics, Intoxilyzer 5000C & 8000C Training, Atlanta Georgia 2014. This course was held specifically for the Aitken Robertson firm with one of America’s best D.U.I. attorneys, Mr. Bubba Head, and top drug recognition expert Ron Lloyd, instructing.
- Metrology Program, hosted by National College of DUI Defense’s (NCDD), Atlanta, Georgia 2015. Metrology is the science of measurement and is critical for understanding the proper operation and deficiencies of breath testing instruments.
- Intoxilyzer 8000 Operation, New Orleans, Louisiana 2016. The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the breath testing instrument most frequently used by police in Ontario. This course was taught by some of the most prestigious and renowned attorneys, experts, and programming engineers in North America.
- Serious Science for Serious Lawyers: Advanced Course in Blood Alcohol Analysis & Trial Advocacy, hosted by National College of DUI Defense’s (NCDD), Ft. Collins, Colorado 2016. The most advanced course in all of North America, enrolment was limited to twenty lawyers with myself being the only Canadian lawyer present.
- Scientific Evidence in Breath Test Cases, Quebec 2016. The course dealt with the use of expert evidence in challenging the accuracy of breath testing instruments and was led by one of the top scientists in the field.
- Drug Recognition Evaluation, National College of DUI Defense, Hollywood, California 2019. I was one of only three Canadians to attend this course which demonstrated how to best cross examine drug recognition experts. Specialists instructed us on the 12 steps the police need to undertake to ensure that any conclusion they draw as to drug impairment, is valid.
One summary conviction appeal, prepared by colleague, was argued by me at Superior Court, a case which dramatically changed the law regarding when an accused must be given rights to counsel.
- I own an Intoxilyzer 8000TM, the same breath testing instrument used by Ontario police. With such a device, myself and my team are able to develop our trial skills and know if the instrument was not working or being operated properly prior to your D.U.I. charge.
- For two decades I was retained by the Ministry of the Attorney General to be a part time Assistant Crown Attorney. Seeing the other side of a case, in fact prosecuting, provided me with insight as to the strategies of my opponent, which I now use fully in criminal defence.