So you have been arrested. Now what? You feel helpless, scared, feel like your life is over, worried about the consequences or claim you are innocent and did nothing wrong. These are all regular feelings at this time.
Sometimes the police will contact you prior to arresting you and claim they just want to talk to you. It would be wise at this point to consult a criminal lawyer prior to speaking to the police. The police often intend to trick you and gather evidence against you. DO NOT SPEAK TO THE POLICE. It will not help you.
Let’s continue with the example that you have now been arrested. The police have a number of options after arresting you. They can release you at the scene with a ticket which contains a court date and a fingerprint and picture date. They can take you to the police station and release you from there with similar documents or hold you and bring you to court for a bail hearing. No matter what the police do, you would be wise to shut up and not say anything until you call a lawyer. Do not talk to the police. The vast majority of the time, anything you say will harm you in the case that will follow. You are always welcome to call us at Legal Solutions Law Firm at 416-274-2222 for a free no obligation consultation.
If you are released by the police at the scene or from the police station, that is the ideal time to get a lawyer. At this point, you will have a court date and a date for fingerprints and photographs. If you are held and require a bail hearing it would be wise to retain a lawyer to run a bail hearing as if you lose at a bail hearing, you will spend at least a few weeks in jail and possibly longer. You will need a bail review which is very costly and much more expensive then a bail hearing.
The next step in the process is the initial court date. My office attends court for its clients and the client is generally not required to attend. It is not wise to attend on your own as you are more likely to say something that will hurt your criminal case and your very likely to end up with a much worse end result. At the first court date and sometimes before, we will seek all the evidence the crown wants to rely on in the case. We will study that evidence to determine how strong the case against you is. We will assess chances of success if we proceed to trial.
- Most people are guilty and will lose at trial. Over the years I estimate that over 80% of my clients are guilty and the crown attorney can prove it. Judges generally believe the police. Not always but the vast majority of the time. You need to understand that going to trial is often not the best option as it will lead to losing and a worse penalty. I think its important to mention that 20% of my clients are innocent and in that case, we have more options. It is important to have a competent criminal lawyer to best determine what will happen if you fight the charge at a trial or wish to consider another option. Just look at all the public cases in the United States in 2021. These defendants had the best lawyers and the vast majority lost at trial. The only public example of a win was Kyle Rittenhouse who may have actually been defending himself. The rest were found guilty. Similar results are present in Canada. Think about murder cases. Again, top lawyers represent those charged with murder but the vast majority are found guilty. Smart lawyers understand that depending on the evidence, it may be best for a lawyer to negotiate a resolution which can often result in no jail time and no criminal record.
- Just because your guilty, it doesn’t mean you will go to jail or end up with the criminal record. As I said, most of my clients are guilty but I don’t have a single client in jail and very rarely will my client end up with a criminal record. More often then not, I can negotiate with the crown or a judge to get you out of trouble no matter if you are guilty or not. Trial is not always the best option. Its more expensive and is a risk that is often not worth taking.
- If you don’t have a criminal lawyer, in some cases you cannot get all the evidence against you in your case. These are generally cases that involve a domestic partner, children and certain other offenses. In cases like this, you have almost no choice but to get a lawyer. Without a lawyer, you will not be able to review the most important evidence in those types of cases and in the event you go to trial, you will not be allowed to question certain witnesses. Only a lawyer can do that for you. Driving cases especially with alcohol or drug are also very complex and technical and a lawyer is required.
After your first court date and sometimes a few court dates which we will attend for you and review the evidence provided by the crown, we will then book a crown pretrial. This is a meeting between the crown and your lawyer to discuss the case and possible deals to make to get rid of the case. This is how 95% of cases are resolved. We pride ourselves in negotiating with the crown and making a deal that will allow you to walk away without jail and without a criminal record.
In the event that the crown is unwilling to give a fair deal with a positive result for the client, we will then book a judicial pretrial which is a meeting between a judge, the crown and our office (the defense). The final decision on sentence is up to the judge so at a judicial pretrial, we try to assess what a particular judge would give as a sentence if we resolved the case. Very often even if the crown doesn’t agree to a good result, we are often able to convince a judge and will proceed with the case before that judge.
- Withdrawal – this is where the charge is dropped and you walk away completely clean
- Peace Bond – this is where you don’t admit any liability and your charge is dropped. You agree to be good for a specific period of time going forward.
- Absolute or Conditional Discharge – this is where you plead guilty, will go on probation but as long as you stay out of trouble for a period of time, the conviction will automatically drop off your record. You will not have a permanent criminal record going forward.
- Suspended Sentence – this will require you to plead guilty and will result in a permanent criminal record. That being said, you won’t have any real penalty as long as you stay out of trouble going forward.
- Conditional Sentence – this will require you to plead guilty and also result in a permanent criminal record. You will also serve a jail sentence in the community which may include house arrest, curfew or other very specific conditions.
- Jail – this will require you to plead guilty and also result in a permanent criminal record. Some people can serve jail on the weekends and some require straight jail. This is obviously the most serious penalty for the most serious crimes.
Some people wonder why a criminal record is so important to avoid. A criminal record could prevent you from working in certain employment fields and for certain employers as many employers ask for and do criminal background checks. It could also create problems if you wish to travel to countries like the United States or others as they may not let you in or even fly over United States airspace to another country. A final reason is a criminal record could have immigration consequences if you are not a Canadian citizen and could result in immigration issues including deportation meaning they could kick you out of the country.
In my 12 or so years of practice, I can count on one hand how many clients were given a conditional sentence or went to jail. The majority of the time, I am able to negotiate a withdrawal, peace bond or discharge – all of which means you walk away without a permanent criminal record.
In the event you are not happy with the deal offered or judicial opinion, you always have the option to go to trial but I would only advise that in cases where there is a significant defect or we are fairly sure we can win.
The main point is to recognize whether you are guilty or not, it often doesn’t matter and even those that are guilty can often walk away without jail or a permanent criminal record with the right legal representation.
Please contact Legal Solutions Law Firm at 416-274-2222 and we are happy to further discuss your case and quote for our services to get you out of the situation you are in. We are confident in our ability to do that. We also offer free consultations.
Legal Solutions Law Firm offers flat fee arrangements and payment plans so you don’t have to worry about hourly rates or paying every time you pick up the phone to call us or send us an email.
*The above article is not meant to provide legal advice but more of a summary of the process and our experience with the criminal justice system. All cases are unique and different and results in one case do not guarantee similar results in another.