Getting arrested and charged with a criminal offence in the Greater Toronto Area can be scary, confusing, and put you in an unfamiliar situation that you will not know how to address. The first thing to bring to mind if this happens to you is that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides you with crucial rights. Section 10 of the Charter gives you the right to legal counsel and Sections 7 and 11(c) give you the right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions. Never waive your right to counsel and never volunteer information to the police.
Taking advantage of these two rights can make all the difference in securing a favorable outcome in your criminal case. Anything you say to the police can and likely will be used against you in court. Perhaps more importantly, hiring a skilled criminal defence lawyer can significantly boost your chances of securing a favorable outcome and prevent your life from getting upended. And getting convicted of criminal charges in Ontario can definitely upend your life.
Little doubt that getting arrested and charged with a criminal offence can disrupt one’s day. But the turmoil caused on the day of the initial arrest and laying of charges is just the start. Depending upon the charges, you might be facing potential pre-trial incarceration in jail and/or need to make bail to regain your freedom. This represents potential disruption in the days and weeks ahead. If you do need to post bail to regain your pre-trial freedom, further disruption comes with it as you will undoubtedly have to abide by any number of mandatory conditions. These can include curfews, prohibitions on alcohol consumption, restrictions on where you can go or who you can see, and more.
If found guilty and convicted of the criminal charges, legal penalties can be severe and prove further upending to your life. Monetary fines will hurt you economically and, if sentenced to prison or a jail term, your freedom will be compromised. Even a probationary sentence is disruptive and Ontario courts can impose other restrictions and penalties on you that will affect your life. Depending upon the charges these can include:
- Placement on the Ontario Sex Offender Registry (with its own set of mandates and restrictions)
- Loss of driver’s license
- Alcohol consumption ban
- Weapons possession ban
- Travel restrictions
- Community service
A guilty finding with criminal charges also gives you a criminal record that will prove disruptive for the rest of your life. A criminal record can hinder future employment and education options and significantly limit your ability to visit other countries.
Given all of this potential disruption to your life, you should always hire an experienced criminal lawyer if you are arrested and charged with a criminal offence in the GTA. Your criminal defence lawyer serves as your guide to help you navigate through the complexities of criminal law and mitigate its disruption to your life. More importantly, your lawyer is tasked with helping you beat the charges or, at the least, secure the best possible outcome.
Whatever the criminal charge(s), skilled lawyers carefully examine all elements of the case to strategize effective defence initiatives that can lead to acquittals, withdrawn charges, reduced charges, mitigated penalties, or dismissal. Depending upon the nature of the charges and other relevant factors, your criminal defence lawyer may use the following defence strategies as warranted by evidence and other factors:
- Seek to have charges dropped.
- Negotiate terms for a peace bond (conditional means for withdrawing charges).
- Negotiate with the Crown for reduced charges.
- Establish and present evidence of your innocence.
- Challenge the prosecution’s physical evidence.
- Challenge witness testimony.
- Present favorable witness testimony.
- Argue that Charter Rights were breached.
- Negotiate and plea for favorable sentencing terms if convicted.
- Appeal the conviction if warranted.
If needed, one of the first things your criminal defence lawyer can do is secure your pre-trial release with the least onerous conditions possible. The Judicial Interim Release (bail) process can be complicated and trying to gain pre-trial release without the assistance of legal counsel can lead to an unfavorable bail outcome. A successful outcome represents a positive start to criminal defence efforts and makes it easier for you and your lawyer to plan defence efforts.
Along with the previously described criminal defence strategies, skilled lawyers rely on defence tactics that are specifically tailored to address particular charges. While mounting a defence against all types of criminal charges is similar, the defence approach may differ depending upon the alleged crime. For example, raising the issue of “self-defence” can be brought up in assault cases , while disputing “possession” may become an issue in drug cases . An experienced criminal defence lawyer will know what defence tactics will be most effective for each specific case and we’ve highlighted a few below.
Prosecutors have a wide degree of discretion in pursuing fraud charges because it is broadly defined in Canada’s Criminal Code . Based on the code and legal precedent, “intent” is a crucial component of fraud charges. This means that people can be charged solely on the basis of intent even if unsuccessful, but also means that intent needs to be proven for conviction. Thus, criminal defence lawyers often try to prove a lack of intent in their defence strategy for fraud cases.
Many fraud cases can be quite complicated and involve significant documentary evidence covering financial transactions. Experienced lawyers know how to address this evidence to either mitigate its impact or use it to benefit the defence. With penalties that include prison sentences of up to 14 years, anyone facing fraud charges in should always seek out the services of a competent criminal defence lawyer.
Assault charges under Canadian law cover everything from an implied threat to physical harm leading to hospitalization. The differing degrees combine with a number of classifications—such as “domestic,” “sexual,” “aggravated,” “with a weapon,” etc.—which makes assault charges much more complicated than most people realize.
Along with previously mentioned defence strategies, skilled lawyers can raise the issues of “self-defence,” “lack of intent,” or “consent for the use of force.” The “self-defence” strategy involves convincing the court that the suspect had reasonable reason to believe that they or someone else was under threat of assault from the alleged victim. “Lack of intent” relies on proving that the assault was not intentional and/or was the result of a reflexive reaction. The “consent for use of force” strategy relies on proving that the assault was essentially mutual because it arose during a fistfight or other altercation.
Drug trafficking charges and similar major drug offences can result in severe penalties if convicted. Due to their complexity, a successful defence of such charges almost always requires extensive familiarity with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act , Charter Rights, and the Criminal Code in general. Criminal defence lawyers will use this knowledge to weaken the prosecution’s case by raising doubts about all evidence. Such doubts can be raised about everything from the actual possession of the drug(s) to whether police followed proper procedures relating to surveillance, searches, and drug analysis.
The penalties for lower-scale possession drug charges may seem relatively mild, but they can still lead to a criminal record and its attendant impact on future employment and education opportunities and ability to travel outside the country. Experienced criminal defence lawyers are skilled at working with the court to secure reduced charges that will not include a criminal record.
Many people do not realize that drinking and driving offences in Ontario are treated as criminal offences. Some also do not understand that the penalties for a conviction can be quite severe. For these reasons, you should always hire a criminal defence lawyer if charged with DUI in the GTA.
Criminal defence lawyers can be quite effective at mounting successful DUI defences by raising Charter Rights violations and other procedural mistakes. In fact, there are more than a dozen different ways that arresting officers commonly breach Charter Rights in DUI cases or otherwise run afoul of procedures. These include:
- Failing to notify a suspect about their Charter Rights.
- Failing to provide timely and clear explanation for the reasons for the arrest.
- Failing to allow a suspect reasonable opportunity to consult with a lawyer in private.
- Failing to provide interpretation services to overcome language barriers.
- Leaving suspects in a state of indefinite uncertainty about the reasons for detainment.
- Unreasonable delays in making a roadside screening demand.
- Untimely delays in the administration of a breathalyzer
- Failing to provide a suspect with breathalyzer certification.
- Lack of probable cause warranting breath sample demand for a breath sample.
- Excessive detainment after arrest.
The raising of reasonable doubt is also a highly effective defence in DUI cases. In fact, a competent criminal defence lawyer is always ready to challenge any element of the case that might subject the evidence to debate and further scrutiny.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, don’t try to mount a defence without expert legal help. Given the severe penalties and disruption to your life that can result from a guilty conviction, contact the highly experienced lawyers at Mass Tsang to ensure that you fight the charges with the most effective defense.