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Criminal Law Makes YOU Your First Line of Defence: Part 3
This is Part Three of a three-part article on your criminal defence rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Parts One and Two of this article describe your rights and responsibilities under Canadian law if you are accused of a crime or arrested and charged. This third and final instalment outlines the protections provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms if your criminal case ends up in the hands of a jury.
Even the best criminal defence lawyers that Calgary and Canada has to offer can't guarantee you'll get to avoid a trial, or even guarantee that you won't end up with a conviction, but an effective criminal defence lawyer can make sure your rights are respected and preserved at every step of a criminal proceeding.
Prosecutors Get One Chance at Calgary Criminal Defence Cases
Section 11 of the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms](http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html) spells out the rights criminal defendants throughout Canada when it comes to a criminal defence trial. The first five enumerated rights under this section were discussed in Part Two of this article; the remaining four are also important for Calgary criminal defendants—and Calgary criminal defence lawyers—to fully understand:
"11. Any person charged with an offence has the right
- (f) ... to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;
- (g) not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;
- (h) if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again; and
- (i) if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment."
These are all rights that a criminal defence lawyer practicing anywhere in Canada should know backwards and forwards. Protecting defendants from violations of these rights is one of the most hallowed duties of a Canadian criminal defence lawyer, especially as they are rights that criminal defendants cannot always effectively insist upon themselves.
Still, it's important for you to read this list carefully and make sure you understand your rights.
Any criminal charge that could lead to a sentence of five years or more in prison must come with an option for a jury trial. You and your criminal defence lawyer will determine when to waive this right, and when to insist on a jury trial.
Any charge must be for an act that was illegal at the time the act occurred—no "grandfathering" punishments for old actions made newly illegal.
Any criminal trial for a specific offence must be the only trial for that offence, regardless of the trial's outcome.
Any sentence handed down must be the least severe of varying sentences allowed, when changes to sentencing laws or guidelines have occurred.
Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers Must be Held Accountable
It's your criminal defence lawyer's job to know and protect your rights. The only way you can make sure they're doing their job is if you know your rights, too. Don't assume that every Calgary defence lawyer with a web page and a phone book listing is as zealous a defender of your rights as they need to be—stay informed, stay aware, and make sure your criminal defence lawyer is doing the job you hired them to do.