The short answer is “as soon as possible”. Here are 4 reasons why.
Lawyers are expensive. The longer I can wait before hiring one, the better, right?
It may seem that all lawyers do is talk so why should it be better to pay them any longer than you have to? Perhaps, a comparison is in order. If your brakes are squeaking and you know you need new ones, do you go as long as you can before going to a mechanic, or do you get the brakes fixed as soon as possible? You know what the right answer to that question is! But, what does it have to do with hiring a lawyer? If you wait to get new brakes, you may have other problems: you might get into an accident that results in damage to your car or someone else’s or even personal injury. The money you “saved” turns out to be a lot less than the expenses you now have. Not hiring a lawyer in a timely fashion may result in spending more money in the long run and not getting the best result.
Exactly what can a lawyer do that I can’t do for myself?
Talking to the Crown
Having a lawyer from the very beginning means that your lawyer gets in on the ground floor perhaps before the police investigation is even complete. For some accused persons who are held in custody for a bail hearing, the “ground floor” is the bail hearing. It is the first opportunity that the lawyer has to speak with the Crown prosecutor. In some cases, charges are even withdrawn at that stage where it is obvious that the Crown’s case is very weak. Later in the process, the police may have spoken again with witnesses or done further investigation and the Crown’s case may change. Witnesses may have changed their evidence. It is always a good idea to see what the police have at the beginning of the process. Discussing the file with a Crown at this preliminary stage is not always an option for the unrepresented accused. And, when you are the accused, it is not an easy thing to discuss the case without getting emotionally involved.
Knowing what the options are
Much of dealing with a case in the preliminary stages involves negotiation. As anyone who has been involved with negotiating, say, a union or employment contract, it pays to know what the possibilities are. Otherwise, you are just underselling yourself. If you’re charged with a domestic assault where the initial Crown position is “jail,” you could be very happy getting a result that involves “no jail”. But, a lawyer may see that the complainant’s statement is weak, or that some disclosure is missing or that your Charter right to contact a lawyer was not communicated to you in an appropriate fashion. Those issues could mean that a much better disposition would be available: a peace bond or even a withdrawal of the charge.
Giving you the hard facts
Having a lawyer doesn’t always mean that you’re going to beat the charge. If there is a very strong case for the Crown, then your lawyer may have to tell you that your options are limited. Certainly, even if the Crown has a very strong case against you, you always have the right to plead not guilty and require the Crown to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. But, with cases taking a year or more to go through court, having a lawyer to give you that opinion can save you time from work and emotional distress.
Then, there is just the convenience
At Aitken Robertson, we try to uncomplicate your life as much as possible as you go through this trying time. Once we are retained and a designation filed, we can appear in court on your behalf, update you on developments and get further instructions as needed.
At Aitken Robertson, it’s all about you.