Do I still need a lawyer if I am innocent?
The modern Canadian criminal justice system has been established over centuries and is based on a firm foundation of legal principles, policy objectives, and social values.
It has developed with individual rights in mind, including the evidentiary and procedural rights entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The system is founded on the principle that there can only be a finding of guilt if the crown has proven the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of this, it is reasonable to presume that the Canadian criminal justice system functions effectively.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Every day innocent people are charged with crimes they did not commit. In some cases, innocent people are convicted and sent to jail. This reality raises some important questions from my clients, such as:
- "What happens if I have been accused of a crime, but I'm innocent?"
- "I am innocent. Shouldn't that be enough to ensure that the charges are dropped?"
- "Won't having a lawyer make me look guilty, even though I'm not?"
The role of the crown prosecutor is to ensure that there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute offences. Unfortunately, even where it may be clear that you are innocent of the alleged crime against you, the crown may not always come to the same conclusion based on the information available to them.
A defence lawyer's role is to advocate for you and ensure your rights are vigorously defended.
Having an experienced lawyer in your corner will ensure that you are well-supported against the crown's efforts to prove an allegation against you.
How can I help?
Hiring me right at the outset of your matter will ensure that I can move towards a speedy resolution of your matter. From a procedural standpoint, this can include:
- Ordering and reviewing all disclosure, or evidence, that the crown has against you.
- Liaising with the crown and discussing potential resolutions.
- Providing you with legal advice you so that you do not unwittingly make any incriminating statements.
- Helping you to obtain bail, so that you can stay out of jail while awaiting your trial.
- Advising you on your options and your chances at trial if the file moves to that stage.
I will closely review your file, using the materials and information that has been provided as part of the police/crown disclosure, as well as any exonerating evidence you may have. I can then identify shortfalls in the evidence, point out discrepancies between the offence and your particular facts, and identify other points of contention.
The crown has the burden of proving the elements of any offence beyond a reasonable doubt; my role is to show as much reasonable doubt as possible. In many cases, my efforts often lead to the crown dropping the charges against you entirely, leaving you without a criminal record.
Can I help exonerate you during the early procedural stages?
If the charges against you proceed to trial despite your innocence, then this is where my skills and extensive experience will undoubtedly help you. However, there are many ways I can challenge the crown's case long before it is presented in court.
In reviewing the evidence of the crown, I will:
- Scrutinize the tactics used during police investigations.
- Examine the methods used to lay the charge.
- Argue breaches of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Challenge the legal validity of a search warrant.
- Examine all avenues to find potential issues in your case, to see whether the evidence gathered against you is suspect or admissible at trial.
Can't I gather evidence myself to prove my innocence?
If you have evidence that you feel exonerates you, then it is important to tell your lawyer as soon as possible. If it can support the conclusion that you are not guilty, it may form the turning point for the crown's decision to drop the charges against you entirely.
However, simply having this kind of evidence may not be enough. The key is knowing how and when to use it, and what it means to your case from a legal or procedural standpoint. This is precisely what criminal defence lawyers know how to do best, and I am here to use your evidence to your advantage.
Remember: The crown is always tasked with proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – not the other way around. You are never required to prove that you are innocent (even if you are). My job as your lawyer is to raise the prospect of a reasonable doubt. I will help you with assessing the evidence that needs to be collected to help give you the best opportunity to achieve this. I will maximize the impact any exonerating evidence has on the crown's decision on whether to proceed against you.
When is the best time to hire a lawyer?
As soon as you have been charged – or even sooner! If you even suspect you are on the brink of being arrested and having charges filed against you, or if the police have contacted you and asked you to meet with them, then it is vital that you obtain my experienced advice right away. I can help you with pre-charge advice. In fact, you should speak with me every time the police ask to speak with you.
I will give you guidance when answering questions and filling out forms. I can also protect you from giving statements to police that you believe are harmless or helpful, but which can have the effect of inadvertently destroying your defence altogether.
There is no downside to hiring my services from the moment you have been arrested. I encourage you to speak with me so that I can assist with the appropriate advice and path forward. I will help you understand the criminal process you are up against and will minimize the impact of the charges against you.