Understand Your Right To Counsel in Your Criminal Case in Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

Understand Your Right To Counsel in Your Criminal Case in Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

If you are arrested, you have a right to obtain counsel. Every police station or detachment has an obligation to provide you with access to free legal advice. If you do not have a lawyer, the police must provide you with a phone number (often a 1-800 number) for a free lawyer. The lawyers at this number are independent lawyers provided and paid for by the state to assist and provide legal advice for individuals in custody. Their sole function is to provide legal advice over the telephone for anyone being detained in police custody. These lawyers do not represent the police, government or victim(s) of crime but only provide legal advice to individuals detained in custody. Their legal advice is not recorded and forms part of the solicitor client privilege and accordingly, the legal advice is private and privileged.

You have the right to speak to a lawyer if you are being detained by the police (there are rare exceptions, for example, when you are being detained at a roadside and being asked to provide a breath sample in a roadside screening device).

If you are in custody, you should assert your right to counsel. Under Canadian criminal law, no Court can draw an adverse inference for an individual asserting their right to counsel. It is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

“10. ARREST OR DETENTION — Everyone has the right on arrest or detention (a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor; (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and” Your own lawyer or free duty counsel will advise you on what your legal obligations are with the police. Typically, someone in custody will provide their name, address and date of birth. Duty counsel will advise if there is other information that is required. For example, if you are the driver or registered owner of a motor vehicle, you are required to provide information in certain circumstances (e.g., a statement regarding a collision if you were involved in one). Also, if you were participating in a regulated activity (e.g., as a hunter) then you may be required to provide certain information to investigators or regulators. If you are unsure about what information you must provide, consult with counsel.

You are not obliged to assist in the criminal investigation in any way. However, you also cannot wilfully obstruct a police investigation. You have the right to remain silent. If you have been advised of your right to counsel and the police have provided you a caution, whatever you say to a person in authority may be admissible in court and could be admitted in evidence in a trial and used against you.

How can The Defence Lawyer Assist You With Your Criminal Charges in Edmonton?

The typical steps and procedures may be as follows:

  • To secure your release from custody and speak to bail if necessary;
  • Meet with you as a client (these discussions are covered by solicitor-client privilege) and gather and assess the facts and all the information available including obtaining witness information for anyone who is critical to mount a defence to the charges;
  • Obtain disclosure from the Crown which includes video or photographic evidence, witness statements, police notes, police reports, expert reports;
  • Review all disclosure with the clients in detail;
  • Formulate the defence strategy (including any Charter of Rights violations, assess whether any involuntary statements were made). This includes substantive defences to the charges including proof of possession, self defence, consent, as well as determining the admissibility of the Crown’s evidence;
  • Assess and review pretrial motions or outstanding issues including amending conditions of release or bail where appropriate;
  • Obtain experts if it is determined that they add value to your case, such as experts in toxicology, psychiatry, psychology, forensic science and engineering;
  • If you are testifying, outline what is expected of you when testifying including how the prosecutor may cross-examine you;
  • If the case is not proceeding to trial, negotiate with the prosecutor a resolution that that minimizes the sentence and consequences to you.

After our initial meeting or as soon as possible after the charges are laid, you should prepare a detailed written statement of times, locations and events which took place on the day you were charged, including a description of who was around, what was said by who, what led to your arrest, if you were read your rights, if you spoke with duty counsel, if you had to attend the police station for questioning, and if so what happened there, if you said anything, and when you were released if you were released. An accurate recollection of the incident and circumstances is critical in mounting a successful defence to criminal charges.

The first step after meeting with you is to request disclosure from the prosecutor’s office. As indicated, disclosure includes video or photographic evidence, witness statements, police notes, police reports, expert reports. We will review all of the disclosure, and also review the disclosure with you, to ensure that the information provided is complete. We will discuss the case with you and determine who we might call as witnesses and whether or not you should be called as a witness. The burden of proof remains with the prosecutor throughout a trial and the standard of proof is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We will discuss the benefits and disadvantages to having you testify in the criminal trial. It is common that the accused never testifies in a criminal case but there are circumstances and cases where an accused may testify about an incident not occurring (denial), an accused acting with self defence or in a sexual assault trial, the complainant consenting to the activity. It is rare that an adverse inference can be drawn from an accused not testifying but it may be important in a criminal trial for certain charges.

Thereafter, there will be several court dates that we will attend on your behalf. We will be sure to inform you well in advance if there are court dates where your attendance is required. Certain court dates require the appearance of an accused: preliminary inquiry, trial, jury selection, guilty pleas, sentencing.

If the case progresses to the trial stage, the Crown has the burden to prove the charge or charges beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden never shifts during a criminal trial. In some trials, the Crown never proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defence always tries to raise a reasonable doubt through cross-examination of witnesses, or by calling evidence. It is critical in criminal litigation to challenge the credibility and reliability of the Crown’s case. As one of the top criminal defence lawyers in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grand Praire and the rest of Western Canada, Rod Gregory will challenge the Crown’s evidence in a criminal trial. Connect with him today at 780-993-6999 if you want to learn more about your right to counsel in a criminal case.