If you’ve recently been charged with a criminal offence in Ontario, or even anywhere else in Canada, you’ve undoubtedly already considered hiring a criminal defence lawyer.
An experienced criminal defence trial lawyer can be instrumental in charting your path through an unfamiliar, dangerous landscape, guiding you in directions that will cause the fewest possible impacts on your life. As your guide, a criminal defence lawyer fully understands criminal charges codified by Canada’s Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and the Firearms Act. They know the rules of evidence and have keen insight into how the Crown uses evidence and other case details to try and resolve cases in their favour, and know how the court will try to move the case forward, often having experience with their counterpart prosecutors, judges, clerks, and other court officials.
However, while your defence lawyer’s skills and experience can be invaluable in securing a positive outcome for your case, your lawyer can’t do it alone. Your lawyer doesn’t carry you on their back to a favourable resolution; they serve as your partner to guide you there.
Time is of the Essence
The first step in helping secure a successful outcome for your case is to act fast by hiring a skilled criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible, as you will want your lawyer to immediately be able to start investigating the details of your case while the evidence is still fresh and the memories of any potential witnesses remain unclouded by the passing of time.
Every element concerning the narrative of events relating to the alleged offence might be able to bolster your defence. However, details found as part of evidence, or recollected by witnesses, tend to dissipate with time.
The sooner you hire a defence lawyer, the sooner they can also push for timely disclosure from the Crown. Disclosure represents the Crown’s narrative about the offence, along with the evidence it plans to present at trial. Having this disclosure is crucial for helping you strategize your defence.
Disclosure also informs the offender how aggressively the Crown intends to try the charges. As part of the disclosure, a Crown screening form reveals whether or not a hybrid offence will be tried as an indictable or summary conviction offence, and this screening form will also state what penalties the Crown will seek, whether an early guilty plea can be exchanged for reduced or dropped charges, and whether or not you have been approved for pre-trial diversion.
Leave No Details Out
When working with your criminal defence lawyer, honesty is the best policy, and no detail about the events leading up to, during, or after the incident that led to your criminal charges is insignificant.
Your defence lawyer works for you, and will not use incriminating information to hurt your case. Instead, by knowing everything possible about the incident from your perspective, your lawyer can be better prepared to respond to all evidence and related challenges mounted by the Crown.
Disclosing every detail related to your charges allows your lawyer to develop the most vigorous defence possible for your case. It also helps your lawyer avoid getting blindsided by the Crown presenting unknown case details that may jeopardize your planned defence strategy.
Let Your Lawyer Investigate the Case and Interview Witnesses
As an active participant in the events leading up to your criminal charges, you may think that you have the best insight into how to investigate the case. You may also be itching to talk to witnesses who can support your rendition of events. However, it’s important not to do either of these things.
Your lawyer is an expert at investigating criminal cases and interviewing witnesses. When you talk to other people about your case, those people could become Crown witnesses against you. Additionally, depending on your level of discussion with potential witnesses, the Crown might even be able to accuse you of witness tampering.
Do Not Discuss the Case with Anyone
Your defence lawyer should be your only confidant in matters relating to your criminal charges.
Do not talk about your case with anyone other than your lawyer’s defence team. People tend to talk, and anything you might share about the alleged offence will inevitably reach other ears. Whatever information you transmit could make its way to Crown prosecutors, who may be able to use it against you in court.
Follow Your Lawyer’s Instructions Inside and Outside the Courtroom
Your lawyer will likely advise you on how you should present yourself in court – this will include tips on proper dress, along with how to interact with court officials.
While it technically shouldn’t have any bearing on the outcome of your case, the way you present yourself can also subtly influence how certain people, such as the judge or a jury panel, may perceive you. People have inherent biases, and they are far more likely to react favourably to a person who is appropriately dressed, polite, and interacting with others with a positive attitude.
This advice tends to extend beyond the boundaries of the courtroom as well, especially if your pre-trial release includes restrictions on seeing specific people or visiting certain locations.
Your lawyer will insist that you abide by these conditions, since breaking them can compromise your defence. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your lawyer may also suggest that you avoid interacting with certain people, visiting certain places, or participating in particular activities. Keep in mind that while this reasoning may not always make sense to you, such advice is designed to protect you from anything that might prove detrimental to your defence.
Maintain Communication with Your Criminal Defence Lawyer
As with any partnership, it’s always essential to maintain reliable communication with your criminal defence lawyer.
Return calls as soon as possible, and attend any requested or court-ordered meetings. In addition, let your lawyer know in advance if you’re going away on vacation or a long weekend, and advise them of any changes to your contact information or daily and weekly routines.
While your lawyer should generally be willing to discuss your case with you as needed, avoid contacting them incessantly for updates. After all, your lawyer knows best, so try not to dictate how they should manage your case.
In order to secure the best outcome when it comes to criminal charges in Ontario, your best option is always to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer. At Vilkhov Law, our team of professionals is here for you. For a free, confidential consultation about your case, contact our professional legal team in the Greater Toronto Area’s Vilkhov Law:
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