If you are charged with a crime, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer
Experienced. Strategic. Effective.
Being charged with a criminal offence is one of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life. Hiring the right lawyer to defend you is the most important decision you can make. I have over 20 years of experience in criminal law, and I have defended over 1600 people.
Calgary Criminal Lawyer
I am a Calgary based criminal defence lawyer who specializes in defending clients against criminal charges. When deciding on a lawyer to represent you in criminal matters, experience and results achieved are crucial considerations.
WHAT CLIENTS SAY
Had some serious charges and i was facing federal time. Called Susan and she was able to explain my options and which would be the best. She got me out of Remand on bail which i didn't think was going to happen because of the nature of the crimes but again she was able to help me there. After we followed up and continued to talk about was to come of my case and what will help my case best that i can do while i'm out. My case was resolved with results i was very satisfied with to say the least and i feel she listened and communicated from when i was in remand till when i sat in court the last time. I cannot say thank you enough and i would highly recommend Susan Karpa to anybody needing a criminal lawyer.
Susan has been a great lawyer. Very professional, responds quickly, and does an amazing job to get the case resolved in a timely matter. Highly recommend Susan!
Contacting Susan Karpa was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My matter was handled quickly and efficiently. Susan made me feel at ease during a very stressful situation with her knowledge and professionalism. I would highly recommend her for any criminal matter.
I contacted Susan to discuss my situation. After some discussions and materials submitted upon her advice, the case moved forward smoothly and I was updated regularly with clear information on potentials and where we were going. Then the call - good news - problem solved! That's how its done!! This is who you want.
I would like to thank Susan for helping me and my family through the criminal process. After the first conversation i had i felt comfortable and confident in choosing Mrs. Karpa as my attorney. I would recommend her for any criminal related issue you may have and her knowledge of the law was impeccable. Thank you
Susan successfully helped me with an unpleasant situation. She was effective; resolved the issue quickly. Greatly appreciated.
I would 10 out of 10 recommend Susan Karpa to anyone who asks me. I became aware of Ms Karpa's work through reading reviews on her and my gut told me she was the right person to call. Ms Karpa handled my matter with so much professionalism and diligence. Her office assistant was equally impressive at her job. They were both very swift in responding to my calls and emails. Ms Karpa took me through every stage of the court/trial process and organized regular meetings with me in preparation for the trial. She is very knowledgeable and she created the best defense for me. When the trial finally started, Ms Karpa was amazing in court. She made very solid arguments in my defense and did twice as amazing in her cross-examination of the other party. As a result of her hard work and skills, she won the trial for me. My wife and I are now living a stress-free life and we are excited for better things in our future. I am so happy that I called her during that time of distress. I will forever be grateful to her for winning my matter and bringing a sense of normalcy back into me and my wife's lives. Thank you once more Susan.
Susan Karpa EXCEEDED my expectations. I had some serious charges against me and could have done hard time, but I contacted Susan and she took care of everything leaving me with great hope and peace of mind.. Not once did I have to show up, she handled everything beyond professionally. If you are in search of someone attentive, responsive, and to go above an beyond for you. Susan is the person. After a few months of waiting, All charges were dropped. I could not be happier with the results.
I am very grateful to have had Susan represent me. She made a very stressful and scary situation a lot easier to get through. She explained everything that was happening and what to expect as things proceeded and gave me some peace knowing she was in control. Always easy to contact and communicate with. Her assistant is also very helpful and easy to communicate with. I would recommend Susan to anyone I know needing legal help knowing they would be in good hands with her.
EXPERIENCE IN criminal law
Assaults and related offences such as uttering threats and harassment can occur in many different forms. They range from mere threats to forms of simple assault, domestic violence, assaults involving weapons, those that cause bodily harm, and most serious of all, aggravated assaults.
Child pornography related offences can include allegations of possessing, making, or distributing such materials. A related offence is child luring. Evidence in this area is quite technical given the intricacies of the internet and modern-day technology.
Upon being criminally charged, you may have been released either on an appearance notice, undertaking, or release order. These documents set out conditions you will have to follow ranging from simply attending court and fingerprinting all the way up to curfews and other restrictions.
Experience in criminal law
I take my commitment to my clients seriously. I work hard to defend all criminal charges equally. Whether you have been charged with assault, a sexual offence, theft, drug trafficking, weapons offence or something else, I strive to ensure the best possible outcome.
Frequently Asked Questions
Social media facilitates friendly communications between people but these messages can be mean or hurtful. While most of the correspondence in the latter group falls below the standard of criminal behaviour, here is what you need to know about cyberbullying as a form of criminal harassment.
How common is cyberbullying?
It is generally thought that less than 20 per cent of cyberbullying incidents are reported to police. Information from Public Safety Canada states that approximately one of every five teenagers has been the target of cyberbullying, while one out of every six has been a cyberbully at some point in their lifetimes. There are no corresponding statistics for adults.
What form does it take online?
Cyberbullying encompasses any type of online communication, including email messages, texts, online gaming sites or information given on social media platforms. It can include teasing and spreading rumours. In most cases, these forms of cyberbullying would not be considered criminal acts. However, cyberbullying can be considered a criminal offence if it includes online harassment, cyberstalking and cyber-smearing. Cyber-smearing is creating, posting and/or distributing sensitive, private or embarrassing information or images of a person without their consent.
What if I shared someone's intimate photos?
In 2014, the Criminal Code was amended to recognize that sharing intimate images online without permission is illegal. Section 162.1 states that anyone “who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct,” is guilty of a crime.
Jail sentences of up to five years can be imposed as a penalty. In addition, the cellphone, computer or another device that was used to share the images may be seized and the court may order that the victim be financially compensated for the cost of removing the images from the internet.
What is an ‘intimate image’?
The Code defines an “intimate image” as a photo or video that depicts a person engaged in explicit sexual activity or one that shows a sexual organ, anal region or breast. The image or video would have to be taken in a circumstance where the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time and they did not relinquish their right to privacy. The act of distributing intimate images without the consent of the person shown is a common form of cyberbullying and is called “revenge porn.”
What if I made someone fear for their safety?
If police feel your comments online made someone else fearful for their safety, you can be charged with uttering threats. Section 264.1 of the Code makes it a criminal offence to threaten to “cause death or bodily harm to any person” or to say that you will destroy any of their property, including buildings or pets.
The court has sent people to jail for uttering threats online, as shown in a 2017 case. It involved a man who was jailed for six months after he posted a nude photo of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook along with a message about how he wanted to harm her.
People can also face the charge of intimidation if they engage in cyberbullying. According to s. 423 of the Code, it is a crime to compel “another person to abstain from doing anything that he or she has a lawful right to do, or to do anything that he or she has a lawful right to abstain from doing”.
Is it illegal to defame someone online?
It is a crime to publish defamatory libel about someone, either in print or online. Section 298 (1) of the Code states that it is illegal to publish something “without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure a person’s reputation by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person.” However, criminal defamation charges rarely arise.
What are the defences fo r cyberbullying?
If you are charged in relation to your online communication, I will study the messages and material you posted to see if it could objectively be considered criminal harassment. I may be able to argue that the complainant's fear for their safety is unreasonable and that your messages were not meant to be threatening in nature. The alleged victim may have been hyper-sensitive to your actions while the average person would have not had the same reaction.
Another defence could be that you did not realize the person felt harassed and you were not aware that they wanted you to stop contacting them. I may also be able to show that your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were breached during the police investigation.
What is needed to convict?
The crown must prove all of the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt and show the complainant felt harassed because of your online activity. If it can be shown that it was not reasonable for the complainant to be afraid, you can be found not guilty.
Contact me for assistance
If you have been accused of any form of criminal harassment, in relation to your online postings or in other ways, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney. The law in this area can be nuanced while the penalties are very real and can include time behind bars. Arrange for a free consultation and let me advise you on your options.
Every criminal charge of harassment must be treated differently. The biggest factor is the relationship between the complainant and the accused. Maybe a relationship has ended and the complainant alleges you are stalking them or monitoring their activity. Whatever the case, an experienced criminal lawyer can listen to your account of what happened and suggest your best defence.
What if the allegations are not true?
When relationships and marriages end badly, people feel hurt. There will be tension and mistrust, and one person may allege that the other one is harassing or stalking them. I can look at the evidence and advise you on whether the court will find the complainant's fear was reasonable in the circumstances.
If the alleged victim is fabricating information or exaggerating, I can also suggest ways to defend you. It is not uncommon for people to lie or embellish accounts of what happened, sometimes as a way to punish the accused. If the complainant is not truthful, that will become evident to the court as I cross-examine them.
In deciding whether the complainant’s fears are reasonable, the judge will consider the prior relationship between the accused and the complainant.
What if I didn’t mean to harass the other party?
To win a conviction, the crown must prove that you committed an illegal act (actus reus) and you had the intent (mens rea) to do that. The crown must prove both elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Perhaps it can be shown that you did not mean to make the complainant feel harassed or afraid, or that your behaviour would reasonably cause them to feel fear. For this defence to be successful, we will have to show that you were not reckless or wilfully blind about how your actions would be seen by the complainant or by an unbiased observer.
What if I had a valid reason to make contact?
After a marriage or relationship ends, there are many reasons why one person may want to contact the other. If there are children, there will need to be discussions about their welfare and upbringing. Even if there were no dependents, you may have mutual investments or other financial obligations to tend to.
Maybe your attempts to reach out to the person for valid reasons have been misconstrued as harassment. If that is the case, I can show that to the court.
Is it important to keep records of my contact with the complainant?
If the person is alleging that you sent them harassing emails or texts or that you made phone calls that were untoward, it is beneficial to your defence to be able to show that any messages were reasonable. Save any electronic correspondence with the complainant so that we can show the court that it had a purpose and was not meant to be threatening.
What if the police violated my rights?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures that all Canadians have rights while being investigated by the police. These include the right to be:
- secure against unreasonable search and seizure, meaning that police cannot search your personal belongings without clear legal reasons;
- protected against arrest without good reason. Officers need reasonable grounds to believe you have committed a crime. They must tell you why you are being arrested and detained. You have the right to consult a lawyer without delay; and
- tried within a reasonable amount of time and not be expected to testify at your own trial.
What is a peace bond?
One alternative to going to trial for harassment is for you to agree to a peace bond.
It is a protection order made by a court under s. 810 of the Criminal Code. A criminal court can impose specific conditions in the bond that last up to one year.
Common conditions include:
- keeping the peace and being of good behaviour;
- not contacting a specific person or a child(ren);
- not calling the person on the phone or contacting them electronically;
- abstaining from using non-prescription drugs or alcohol;
- not owning or using weapons; or
- paying, or promising to pay, a refundable cash bond to the court that may be forfeited if any conditions of the peace bond are breached.
You can be put in jail if you contravene the terms of a peace bond. If you successfully complete the terms of the bond, you will not have a criminal record.
What are diversion programs?
Another way to deal with criminal harassment charges is through a diversion program that may involve community service, counselling or additional forms of treatments. If you complete the program you will avoid a criminal conviction.
What is an absolute discharge?
An absolute discharge is the least severe sentence available for the charge of harassment. A finding of guilt will be made but no conviction is registered. You will also not have conditions to follow and you will not have to return to court or check in with a probation officer. An absolute discharge will stay on your criminal record for one year. You do not have to apply for a pardon for the discharge to be removed from your record.
What is a conditional discharge?
A conditional discharge is similar to an absolute discharge. There is a finding of guilt made though no conviction is registered. The differences are that there are conditions that you must follow accompanied by a probation order of up to three years. Conditions could include:
- community service;
- regular meetings with a probation officer; or
- targeted treatment, if addiction or anger issues are a factor.
As with an absolute discharge, you do not have to apply for a pardon for it to be removed from your record.
What is needed to convict?
To gain a conviction, the crown must demonstrate that the complainant felt your behaviour caused them to fear for their safety. It is my job to present evidence to show that fear was unfounded. If you have been charged with harassment, contact me for more information and a free consultation.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence in Alberta and police do not want to give you what is called an officer release, you are entitled to a bail hearing within 24 hours of being arrested. All citizens have the right to reasonable bail, or judicial interim release, as guaranteed by s. 11(e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Being “on bail” or “on release” refers to the time between when you are arrested and when the court reaches a verdict (guilty, not guilty, charges stayed or dismissed, etc.). All forms of release require you to attend your court dates personally or through a lawyer.
The Supreme Court of Canada has reminded courts across the country of the importance of granting bail after most arrests, noting: “it is important not to overlook the fact that, in Canadian law, the release of accused persons is the cardinal rule and detention, the exception.
How is bail granted in Alberta?
In most cases a justice of the peace or provincial court judge will oversee a hearing and decide on your bail. What “bail” means is essentially your release. If you are given bail, your release order sets out the date of your next court appearance, and any conditions you must comply with.
The court can choose to release you on a “promise to pay,” which means that you or another person has promised to pay a certain amount if you miss a court date or disobey a bail condition. The court also has the option to provide release with no financial obligation at all, but it will still be a criminal offence to miss court or disobey a condition.
When will my bail hearing take place?
First-appearance bail hearings with a justice of the peace are held throughout Alberta from 8 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year. These hearings should be held within 24 hours of an arrest or preferably sooner, as our legal system recognizes that detention behind bars seriously impacts a person’s personal life and employment. Most bail hearings will last for 15 minutes or less and are held in English unless other arrangements have been made.
In any hearing, the justice of the peace will read the charge and confirm that you understand the alleged violation. This is not the time to dispute your innocence or guilt. Simply answer the questions you are asked since anything you say may be used against you later on.
Timely bail hearings are crucial. Information from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada notes that the granting or denial of bail “implicates the accused's liberty and security of the person interests protected by section 7 of the Charter, as well as the presumption of innocence in section 11(d).”
Do I have to attend court in person to get bail?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, first-appearance bail hearings can be done virtually through teleconferencing. If you have been arrested, you have the right to speak to a lawyer before you appear at a bail hearing.
How does the court determine what my bail will be?
The amount of bail required is determined by the seriousness of your charges. Another major consideration is if you have a criminal record. Since that record will increase the severity of your sentence if you are convicted, it also bumps up your bail costs. Likewise, if you have a history of not complying with court orders, your bail amount will be set higher.
Just because you have been accused of a crime does not mean that you should be subjected to unreasonable restrictions on your life and liberty. Bail is not a punishment, as everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
How do I pay my bail?
If you are required to post money to secure your release, that money can be paid at any bail hearing office in Alberta (i.e., any courthouse). For example, if you are located in Edmonton and would like to pay bail for someone who is detained in Calgary, you can go to the Edmonton bail hearing office and make a payment. Bail hearing offices in major centres such as Calgary and Edmonton are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also make a bail payment at a remand centre during certain hours.
If you are detained and would like to pay your own bail, you can make a payment after you go in front of the justice of the peace or at police station.
Can someone else pay my bail?
Since it can be difficult for someone being remanded in custody to pay their bail, family members or friends are often called upon to do it. Someone can post bail on your behalf at courthouses or remand centres.
What if the court denies me bail?
If the court refuses to grant bail you will be held in custody until the trial or until a further order of the court. An order denying bail can be reviewed in the Court of Queen's Bench but that can take significant time. For these reasons, it is important to have defence counsel assisting you at the bail hearing.
Why do I need to hire a lawyer for a bail hearing?
If you do not have proper legal representation at a hearing, you may be required to post an excessive amount in bail. Drawing on my experience, I can negotiate with the Crown to try to get you released on your own recognizance, meaning there is no up-front payment for release. If that is not possible, I can work to ensure the bail and its conditions are reasonable. Contact me for a free consultation.
A third-party record is a document that has personal information about either the victim or a witness connected to your case. It's something that the person could reasonably expect to be kept private. Some examples of third-party records are:
- notes taken by a counsellor, therapist, psychologist or doctor;
- hospital records;
- records from a child welfare or social service agency;
- information from an employer or school; and
- a diary or personal journal.
How do third-party records help my defence?
Third-party records can serve various purposes, including calling the complainant’s credibility into question. For example, perhaps they had counselling after an alleged sexual assault. If there is information that can confirm the complainant presented a different version about the allegation as compared to what they told police, then an application may be made to obtain those records.
If the complainant is known to have mental health issues that related to her credibility or the reliability of her statements, then an application may be made for those records.
The request for third-party documents must be very specific and cannot be a fishing expedition, launched in the hope of randomly finding damaging evidence. The complexity of filing an effective third-party record application is just one reason to retain me to represent during this process.
How do I obtain third-party records?
As your lawyer, I will prepare a written application for the documents. It will clearly state what third-party records are sought and why they are important to your defence. Once I have completed that application, copies are provided to the Crown prosecutor, the complainant’s lawyer and whoever is in possession of the third-party record in question.
After copies of the application are distributed, the judge will hold a hearing to determine if the records are producible. I will explain why the records are needed in your defence. The other relevant parties are also allowed to present their views on the records’ admissibility. The judge will then decide if the records should be released.
According to the Criminal Code, the judge can order third-party records to be turned over if:
- the application meets the criteria outlined in the legislation;
- the record is “likely relevant” to your defence; and
- production is necessary “in the interests of justice.
The Crown prosecutor can also use a third-party record during the trial. For example, hospital records that detail the complainant’s physical condition could bolster their case, depending on what they show.
Are there limits on what is disclosed?
A 1995 Supreme Court of Canada judgment set out a two-stage process of how and when third-party records should be produced in sexual assault cases. The Court held that for medical and counselling records of a complainant to be released if:
- the applicant establishes, without seeing them, that the records are likely to be relevant to the case; and
- the judge reviews the records and decides to disclose them, after balancing the accused’s right to make full answer and defence and the complainant’s right to privacy.
Section 278.7 (3) of the Criminal Code calls on judges to impose conditions on the release of third-party records to protect privacy rights “to the greatest extent possible.” Conditions the judge may impose include:
- that the record be edited as directed by the judge;
- that counsel for the accused does not disclose the contents of the record to any other person unless that disclosure is first approved by the court;
- that the record be viewed only at the offices of the court;
- that no copies of the record be made; and
- information regarding any person named in the record, such as their address and place of employment, not be shown.
Do third-party records make a difference at trial?
In 2016, a prominent national radio host faced multiple sexual assault allegations involving six women in Toronto. After a short trial, he was acquitted, with the judge ruling the Crown failed to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. According to court documents, one of the reasons for the doubt was third-party records his lawyer obtained, showing that before the trial, two of the complainants exchanged approximately 5,000 emails between them about the evidence they were to give. As the judge wrote: “The extreme dedication to bringing down [the accused] is evidenced vividly in the email correspondence … while this anger and this animus may simply reflect the legitimate feelings of victims of abuse, it also raises the need for the Court to proceed with caution."
Are electronic messages third-party records?
Generally speaking, people accused of sexual assault cannot present private electronic messages from the complainant as evidence in sexual assault trials unless they are successful with a third-party application. That is because the sender is deemed to have an expectation of privacy when they send someone an email or text. This legislation came into effect after the above-mentioned prominent national radio host case was decided.
However, in 2019 a provincial court judge in Alberta ruled the legislation “goes too far … it violates [the accused’s] right to silence, and right to make full answer and defence in requiring him to reveal evidence in his possession and how it will be used at trial beforehand."
That decision followed a Saskatchewan lower court decision where the judge noted the laws concerning electronic correspondence “seriously limit an accused person’s ability to effectively challenge the veracity of a complainant.”
Why you need me on your side
Third-party record applications are complex and a poorly constructed one will not be granted. With sexual assault cases, I know how to avoid invoking the “twin myths” (the idea that complainants with a prior sexual history are more likely to have consented and are less worthy of belief) when making an application. If you have been charged with sexual assault, contact me for a free consultation.
Aggravated assault is the most serious type of assault. An assault occurs when a person applies force intentionally to another person, directly or indirectly, without their consent. That action becomes “aggravated” if the complainant is wounded, maimed or disfigured, or if they feel their life is endangered, according to s. 268 of the Criminal Code.
A wound can be a broken bone or a break in the skin. To maim or disfigure someone means that the assault caused more than a temporary impairment of a person’s figure or appearance, such as a facial scar. To endanger someone’s life means a person felt they faced a real risk of dying, even if no bodily harm was done.
The charge of aggravated assault can also be laid against anyone who commits any form of female circumcision.
What are my defences when charged with aggravated assault?
That always depends on the circumstances that led to the charge being laid. After you retain me as legal counsel I want to hear your account of the incident. I will then study the evidence the police have compiled against you. Maybe you did not intend to cause harm to someone, or perhaps in their investigation, police violated your rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As with any charge, the burden of proof remains on the Crown. Drawing on my extensive experience in Alberta courts, I will build your best defence.
What does the Crown need to prove?
The Crown prosecutor must show you intentionally applied force against the complainant knowing that could result in bodily harm. They also have to demonstrate the injuries the other person sustained were not trivial or temporary, or that they truly felt that their life was in danger.
They also have to show you had the intention (mens rea) to cause bodily harm, even if you did not intend to maim, wound or disfigure. A 2016 judgment from the Provincial Court of Alberta bears that out. In this case, a youth was charged after he punched another youth in the face. The victim’s jaw was broken in two places, requiring immediate surgery and the installation of metal plates. In finding the youth guilty of aggravated assault, the court ruled, “the Accused had the requisite objective foresight of causing bodily harm to the Victim. There is no requirement in law for the Crown to prove that the Accused had an intention to maim, wound or disfigure the Victim.”
What is a wound?
Though not legally binding in Alberta, a 2019 B.C. Court of Appeal ruling provides some guidance here. It involved a man who punched another man several times in the head, leaving him with two cuts that required five stitches to close. The assailant was charged with aggravated assault, but the trial judge found him guilty of the lesser charge of assault causing bodily harm, ruling the victim’s injuries did not amount to a wound.
The appeal court disagreed, noting that “injury rose to the level of serious bodily harm. A cut that requires five stitches or staples is a substantial interference with someone’s physical integrity.”
Spitting or coughing on someone is aggravated assault
Intentionally spitting or coughing on someone is a form of assault. During a pandemic, it could be considered aggravated assault. During the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of people from across Canada were arrested after intentionally coughing or spitting on others. That includes an Edmonton resident who was charged with assault after allegedly coughing on an Edmonton bus driver and transit peace officers before claiming he had tested positive for coronavirus.
What is the penalty for aggravated assault?
Aggravated assault charges are always treated as indictable offences with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The court can also demand that a victim fine surcharge be paid. Those convicted will be subject to a mandatory weapons prohibition. If the circumstances warrant, the Crown can bring an application to have you declared a dangerous offender.
The severity of the punishment shows the importance of having diligent legal counsel working on your behalf if you are facing this charge.
You need seasoned counsel at your side
If you are facing an aggravated assault charge you need experienced legal assistance to guide you through the judicial process. Contact me for a free consultation. I have the track record and skills necessary to represent you.
From The Blog
For the average person, meaningful interaction with police or the courts is a fairly rare occurrence.
Any conviction for assault can land you in jail. If you were charged with using a weapon or inflicting grievous bodily harm, the penalties can be harsh.