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What To Do If You’re Charged With A Crime
Posted on October 30, 2020
Being named as a person of interest in a case and then being charged in connection with a crime can be terrifying. In many cases, people do not understand what to do next and could be wasting precious time. This time could have been used to build their defence.
Talking To A Criminal Defence Lawyer
Once you’ve been charged in connection with a crime or named as a suspect in a case, you should immediately contact a lawyer. Finding an experienced and well-practiced criminal defence lawyer is crucial. Hiring a lawyer right from the onset will help you from incriminating yourself in any discussions with law enforcement going forward. Additionally, having someone already familiar with your case can make preparing for your bail hearing easier.
Each case is unique. The way that a criminal defence lawyer might approach your specific case depends on the arrest circumstances. Finding a defence lawyer who is well-practiced in many areas gives you peace of mind knowing they will have a multitude of tools to create your best defence. When your lawyer has experience handling many different cases, they can think of more ways to argue in your favour.
What To Do When I Can't Afford A Lawyer?
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you are entitled to talk to a lawyer and seek legal counsel. When arrested, law enforcement should inform you of legal aid options in your area. Each province should have its version of legal aid, for example Legal Aid Alberta, created to provide legal counsel to all citizens.
No matter what your financial situation is, you need to access legal counsel. You should not try handle your case independently, as this could have lasting consequences. Finding your local accessible legal counsel should be your first step.
How Do I Make Bail?
Protecting your liberty before your potential trial date is essential. It can be challenging to build a case when you cannot freely meet with your lawyer. Seeking interim release on bail is the first step your defence lawyer can help you with when you retain them.
During your bail hearing, you will be assessed for bail eligibility. Bail eligibility is primarily, but not always, based on three main points:
- Whether Or Not You Will Show Up To Court
- Involved In The Offence
- Whether You Endanger The Public’s Protection & Safety
- If Releasing You On Bail Compromises The Public’s Confidence In The Administration Of Justice
However, the judge or justice of the peace overseeing the hearing will also assess your previous criminal record. If deemed a flight risk, and there is no confidence you will show up to your court date, you’ll likely be denied bail.
You could also be denied bail if arrested for a dangerous or violent crime. An example of this would be if the judge deems you a danger to the public and are likely to commit a violent crime during your interim release. Lastly, in cases where there is more media coverage, the public’s perception could factor into the decision to grant bail. If releasing you on bail causes the people to doubt that justice is being served, bail may not be granted.
Finding the right defence lawyer for your bail hearing can be the difference between your freedom and having to spend time in custody while you wait for your trial date. Your defence lawyer will have to argue in your favour for your release.
Your First Appearance
When you appear in court for the first time, this is referred to as your first appearance. Your defence lawyer will help you prepare for this appearance. If you do not have legal counsel at this point, they will allow you to retain one. However, the longer it takes you to hire a lawyer, the longer you could be remanded into custody if you are awaiting a bail hearing.
Once you are charged, you will also be issued a date to appear in court. After this, your lawyer should reach out to the Crown Prosecutor for a copy of the Police Investigation report. The report outlines what you’re being charged with and what evidence they have against you. Once your lawyer has obtained this, they can begin preparing for your first appearance in court.
If you are representing yourself, you will need to obtain this information from the police. It is your responsibility to prepare for your court date properly. You should not leave it until the day you are due to appear in court. The Alberta government has a pamphlet about the steps to take when you are a self-represented litigant. If you are not adequately prepared for the first appearance, the judge will ask you why. They may potentially give you more time, but do not count on it. Being prepared for your first appearance and plea is imperative.
The recognizance that you sign will put you on the line financially for your loved one. For more severe charges, the specified amount of money is quite substantial. As a surety, you’ll be responsible for paying if the accused fails to show up to court or abide by their bail conditions. You might have to put up property as collateral. If you are not overly confident in the person you’re bailing out, consider whether you’re the right choice to act as a surety.
When it comes to criminal charges, you should never represent yourself. Not only do you not have the experience a lawyer does, but it is easy to unintentionally do more harm than good
When choosing a criminal defence lawyer, trust in Ross Lutz Barrister’s experienced team. We have almost 100 years of criminal law experience and are available 24/7 to help you if you have been arrested.