How to Choose and What to Expect from Your Criminal Lawyer
Being charged with a criminal offence is a stressful experience and can lead to life altering consequences. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, it is important to get help from a criminal lawyer right away.
Choosing the Right LawyerSeveral aspects may be involved when choosing your lawyer. Getting a referral can be a good place to start looking for a lawyer. If you have a family member or close friend who has worked with a criminal lawyer, you may consider seeking a consultation with that lawyer. If you have used a lawyer for another service, such as a business or family law matter, that lawyer may also be able to provide you with information about a criminal lawyer.
Once you have found a lawyer you might want to retain, look at his/her website to learn more about the lawyer. Consider whether the lawyer exclusively practices criminal law, what professional organizations she/he belongs to, and if she/he demonstrates continued knowledge in the area of law.
Next, determine the fees you can afford. Ask the lawyer how much your case may cost so you will know how much to budget for. If you qualify for a Legal Aid, find out if the lawyer will accept a Legal Aid certificate to take on your case at no charge to you.
Also consider the type of case you are dealing with. If you have been charged with a crime, your case may proceed to trial. If you have already been found guilty and are looking to overturn the conviction or reduce your sentence, you are dealing with an appeal and need to find a lawyer who handles appeals.
Finally, be sure to meet with the lawyer before hiring him/her. An in-person meeting with a Barrie criminal lawyer will help you assess if you are comfortable with having that lawyer represent you. You want someone you can trust to guide you through the process and provide you with the best legal defence. For your lawyer to have the best chance to successfully help you, then you must trust him/her with all the facts and circumstances of your case.
What Your Lawyer Can Do For You
One of the benefits of retaining a criminal lawyer is that she/he can keep information you provide private between the two of you. Your lawyer is bound by strict lawyer-client privilege and is ethically bound to advance your legal interests.
Another aspect of having a criminal lawyer is that she/he will, subject to a few rules of privilege, be able to obtain the information gathered by the police. At this point, the lawyer can access whether the Crown is likely able to prove the charge they have laid. The lawyer can also access whether any evidence may have been gathered contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Once disclosure is obtained, your lawyer can discuss your case with the Crown. If your lawyer convinces the Crown there is no prospect of a conviction, the result could be the Crown withdrawing the charges all together.Alternatively, if the Crown has a strong case against you, your lawyer can enter into plea negotiations on your behalf. A plea deal may be advantageous, and, in minor offences may avoid jail time or even a criminal record.
Keep in mind, all pleas must be presented to the client, and the client is ultimately responsible for entering into or rejecting the plea. While your lawyer may discuss a resolution with the Crown, it is you who decides if this is a resolution that is acceptable to you. You will want your lawyer to be frank with you about benefits and risks of accepting or rejecting the deal.
What Your Lawyer Cannot DoWhile your criminal defence lawyer is hired to represent your legal interests, some restrictions apply on what your lawyer can do for you. For example, your lawyer can call witnesses and make legal submissions, but cannot give evidence in a case she/he is involved in. This means your lawyer cannot testify for you and, in some circumstances, could be removed from your case as your lawyer.
In R. v. Downey, for example, a 2013 case on the Ontario Superior Court, the accused was charged with murder of a victim who had used crutches. At the time of the crime, the defence lawyer called 911 to report seeing a crutch in an area where a victim was found. The justice ruled that it was foreseeable that the defence lawyer could become a witness at the trial and accepted the Crown’s application to remove the lawyer.
Also, your lawyer faces legal limits in the help she/he can provide. For example, she/he cannot tamper with evidence; she/he may not conceal or destroy evidence on your behalf. A prominent example of this situation came up in R. v. Murray, dealing with a defence lawyer, Mr. Murray, who was acting on behalf of Paul Bernardo. Bernardo instructed Murray to go to his home to collect some personal belongings. Murray followed those instructions but did not realize for a long time that the videotapes he was holding for Bernardo was incriminating evidence. Holding the evidence led to Murray being charged with an obstruction of justice. While Murray was found not guilty, this case set clear ethical rules for defence counsel.