At Cassidy Ramsay, we have observed many people charged with criminal offences choose to represent themselves in court. If you are charged with a criminal offence, one of the options available to you is to represent yourself, and this may seem like a way to save money in the short-term – but it will likely cost you in the long run. Before deciding to represent yourself, consider the full picture. The criminal justice system is complex. A criminal conviction can have extremely serious consequences including imprisonment, driving prohibitions, and fines. A criminal record can have a significant impact on your life, including preventing you from getting a job and barring you from travelling outside of Canada.
Why should you hire a criminal defence lawyer?
Whether you are charged with a minor or more serious offence, a skilled criminal defence lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will be able to assist you in every step of the process, whether at the bail hearing stage, during negotiations with the Crown Attorney, when deciding to accept or reject a plea bargain, or at trial. Regardless of the severity of the criminal charge, here are some of the top reasons to hire a criminal defence lawyer and the ways in which an experienced Winnipeg defence lawyer can protect your legal rights.
1. Obtain and make full use of disclosure of the case against you
A person charged with a criminal offence in Canada has a right to disclosure, which is the information possessed by the police and the Crown that may be relied upon to further prosecution. Disclosure may include police notes, written or oral statements from witnesses, surveillance videos, pictures, or forensic evidence. A skilled criminal defence lawyer will carefully review the disclosure package from the Crown and request any missing information if full disclosure has not been made. Criminal defence lawyers have the knowledge to make strategic use of discovery to refute the charges against you and your lawyer can also use the disclosure to provide you with an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the case against you.
2. Advise on the reasonableness of the Crown’s position and assess risk
The disclosure package often contains a “charge screening form” which sets out how the Crown intends to proceed with charges against you – either by way of summary conviction or by way of indictment. There are important implications with respect to the Crown’s election on how to prosecute the case. Typically, the prosecutor also sets out the position on sentencing in two scenarios: if the accused person pleads guilty or if the accused person proceed to trial. In other words, a “plea bargain” is often put forward in exchange for an early guilty plea. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will help you decide whether the plea bargain is fair or not and can advise you on the implications of accepting or rejecting an early deal.
3. Effectively negotiate with the Crown and provide insight into the court process
Many criminal matters are resolved by way of plea bargain. It is important to understand that the initial position taken by the Crown is certainly not the final word. Plea bargains are negotiable, and positions may change as evidence is gathered and evaluated. And ultimately, sentencing is up to the judge if your matter should proceed to trial. A skilled criminal defence lawyer can effectively negotiate with the Crown on your behalf to ensure that the best deal possible is worked out and will advise you if the Crown is taking an unreasonable position. In addition to negotiating based on their knowledge of criminal law (which is complex and always changing), experienced criminal defence lawyers will have knowledge of local judges, Crown Attorneys, and court processes. Your lawyer can use that local know-how to provide insight as to the likely outcome of your case and to guide you through what needs to be done before, during, and after the resolution of your matter.
4. Protect your Charter rights
Did you know that if your rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) were breached – for example, if evidence was improperly obtained or you are not tried within a reasonable time – the court can refuse to allow evidence obtained as a result of the breach of your Charter rights to be used at your trial, or can stay the charge against you all together? An experienced criminal defence lawyer will ensure that your rights are being protected throughout the process and bring a Charter motion on your behalf if there has been a breach of your Charter rights (for example, to challenge the admissibility of evidence obtained in violation of your Charter rights).
Speak with an experienced Winnipeg defence lawyer today
Cassidy Ramsay is a law firm that has provided professional and knowledgeable legal services to Winnipeg and the surrounding area since the 1970s. If you have been charged, schedule an initial consultation with Cassidy Ramsay’s Winnipeg defence lawyer immediately - contact us by phone at 204-943-7454 or by using our online eForm.