If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you have rights. You are presumed to be innocent. The Crown has a duty to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You have a right to be represented by a lawyer. You have a right to know all of the evidence the Crown intends to use against you. You have the right to a trial, and the right to a fair trial. After being arrested, you have a right not to be denied reasonable bail and that right cannot be denied without just cause. If you are convicted of a crime, you have the right to a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and takes into consideration your personal circumstances, unless Parliament has enacted a statutory minimum sentence.
Why Hire a Criminal Defence Lawyer
It is important to hire an experienced lawyer to represent you in criminal matters. When faced with criminal charges, particularly serious criminal charges, the manner in which you address them may have a tremendous impact on your life. A criminal conviction generally results in a criminal record. This, in turn may affect your future employment, travel to other countries, and the stigma of being labelled a criminal offender.
In cases of serious criminal charges, you may face lengthy periods of incarceration, and serious deprivations of liberty. In other cases, such as cases of domestic assault, strict conditions, both before and after trial, may prevent you from residing with your partner, or your children, or attending your residence. This can also put a strain on families.
In some cases, people accused of a crime think that it may be possible to represent themselves. In some cases, they may not want to spend the money to hire a lawyer. A person may assume that a case will be simple and straightforward. This is rarely the case.
When you are charged with a crime, you may not always be aware of your rights. Many areas of criminal procedure are technical and complex. Decisions made at any stage of the process may have serious implications on your liberty. An experienced defence lawyer is familiar with the procedures and processes.
When you are charged with a crime, the decision of whether to hire a lawyer, and what lawyer to hire, may be one of the most significant decisions you make in your life. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. Consult a lawyer.
This section will provide you with an overview of violent offences, the potential sentencing, and what can be done to assist you in navigating the legal world. The critical factor to all violent offences is that they involve some level of harm by one individual to another.
One of the most common violent offence charges is domestic violence. Domestic violence refers to violence undertaken between family members or romantic partners. Given the increased level of seriousness, it is imperative that, should you be alleged with some form of domestic violence, that you contact our law office immediately.
Violent offences are highly varied in their nature. While some carry only relatively minor sentences such as probation, others carry mandatory life imprisonment sentencing. Below are some of the major forms of violent offences:
- Criminal Confinement
- Criminal Harassment
- Obstructing a Peace Officer
- Weapons Offences
- Firearms Offences
- Attempted Murder/ Murder
- Assault with a Weapon
- Assaulting a Peace Officer
- Uttering Threats
While many of these offences are categorized by the action taken against the alleged victim, it is also important to note that inaction can lead to violent offence charges. For example, if you assisted a robbery, but did not personally steal anything, you may still be charged. George will work with you to determine what exactly happened and how he can best present your side of events in the most honest and productive way possible.
Achieving bail in these situations can be difficult, but George is well-versed in ensuring that you are treated fairly and justly by the courts, and are not unduly punished. Bail conditions vary, but you can expect them to include prohibiting contact with the alleged victim, prohibiting the use of alcohol or illicit drugs, prohibiting the possession of a weapon, and/or a curfew.
Defending against violent offences is as varied as the crimes themselves. Since the Crown (the prosecution) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offence, charges can be mitigated or even dropped over the lack of conclusive evidence that the defendant undertook the crime. In cases involving firearms and weapons offences, George will ensure that you were treated in a constitutional and fair manner by the authorities. Whatever the situation is, our legal term will work with you to create a compelling case that will ensure that justice is done in a fair manner.
Criminal Driving Offences
First it is important to understand the difference between the Traffic Safety Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.
This section will provide you with an understanding of criminal driving offences, the potential sentencing, and what can be done to assist your defence. Driving offences can be best understood in two categories: criminal driving offences and impaired driving offences. In both cases, serious fines, probation periods, and even jail time along with driving prohibitions are possible outcomes for individuals convicted. George is here to assist you, and he will work diligently on your behalf to ensure that justice is carried out in a fair and equitable manner.
The critical factor at hand in criminal driving offences is the use of a motor vehicle (e.g., a car, motorbike, etc.) in a manner that breaks the law. The main kinds of criminal driving offences are below:
- Dangerous driving causing bodily harm or death
- Fleeing from police causing bodily harm or death
- Street racing causing bodily harm or death
- Failing to stop at the scene of an accident
- Driving while disqualified, unauthorized, or otherwise prohibited from doing so
Criminal driving offences are understood to be unsafe driving practices which result in injury, but this is not necessarily true. Though you may have been involved in a serious accident which resulted in property damage or serious injury, you did not necessarily drive in a manner that warrants criminal driving charges. Similarly, even if no one was injured or no property was damaged, you can still be charged with a criminal driving offence, based on the contributing factors and context.
Should you be charged with a criminal driving offence, bail often involves a driving suspension. For impaired driving offences, bail is accompanied by an automatic indefinite driving suspension. To this end, it is critical that you contact George, as these kinds of suspensions can seriously impair your ability to live a normal life.
Defending both criminal and impaired driving charges turn on several key issues with respect to the varying crimes. Should you be charged with failing to stop for police, the Crown will often overlook whether it was safe to do so, or whether you or a passenger was experiencing a medical emergency. Oftentimes police reports about these incidents are lacking in detail and can lead to spurious charges, and so it is vital that you make a detailed and accurate report of the incident and not disclose this until you have an opportunity for a lawyer to review it.
Sentencing for driving offences varies, but almost always includes some degree of driving prohibition or suspension. Many judges often resort to fines. For example, in regards to impaired driving, a first-time offender faces a $1,000.00 fine and a one-year prohibition from driving, while a third-time offender faces 120 days of incarceration and a driving prohibition of three years or higher (depending on the circumstances). Some criminal driving offences may result in a jail sentence and/or a license suspension. Should you be charged with either a criminal or impaired driving offence, it is critical that you contact George as soon as possible to ensure that your side is heard in court, and that the presiding judge has all the facts at hand.
Property and Prohibited Narcotic Offences
To be not found guilty of property offences, George will determine whether you believed on reasonable grounds that you did not intentionally steal the item in question, the reasons behind your entry into private property, and more. If you acted to prevent another person from entering the property or to prevent another person from stealing or damaging that property, then the charges will often be resolved or completely dropped. Below are some of the major kinds of property offences:
- Theft and fraud
- Breaking and entering
- Possession of stolen property
In situations of property offences, bail often involves a mandatory curfew or a prohibition from going near the property in question. Situations such as these can be incredibly disruptive to your life, so it is important that you contact George as soon as possible to ensure that any bail conditions you are given are fair and equitable.
In defending property offence charges made against you, George will seek to determine whether you were aware that your actions constituted a crime (e.g., whether you were aware that the property was off limits to the public), whether you show remorse and have good future prospects, and/or if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime.
Sentencing varies greatly, from fines to lengthy periods of incarceration. To this end, it is critical that you have an experienced criminal defence lawyer on your side. George will ensure that the judge does not pass down a judgement based on unchallenged accusations made by the Crown.
Drug offences are considered seriously harmful to local communities and are subsequently treated very seriously by the courts. Drug possession charges apply if you are knowingly in possession of a prohibited narcotic or have kept it in another place or with another person with your knowledge and consent. These offences fall into several categories:
- Drug possession
- Possession for the purpose of trafficking
- Drug production
- Drug trafficking
In each situation, the Crown must prove that that the narcotic was in your possession. Possession can include joint possession or constructive possession. Joint possession means that two people or more have knowledge or control over the drug(s). Constructive possession means, that a person has control over the drugs with his consent without actually being in physical possession of that item.
In almost every situation, George will determine whether the police acted in a manner that respects your freedoms from unreasonable search and seizure. He will also analyze whether there were attempts to entrap you illegally.
Bail, in these circumstances, can be very restrictive and in some cases denied altogether depending on the severity of the alleged offence. Bail conditions can include turning in your passport to remove your ability to travel, restricting your use of a cell phone, and more. In any of these cases, your defence will depend on whether the police acted in accordance with your constitutional freedoms, whether they spoke to you about drugs and contraband prior to advising you of your right to a lawyer, and the strength of the Crown’s evidence.
Sentencing varies by the type of prohibited narcotic used and the amount seized. Offences pertaining to small amounts of marijuana carry comparatively lighter sentences than those pertaining to the production or trafficking of cocaine or fentanyl, which can result in life in prison. In either case, please contact Lebessis Law today to ensure that your side is heard in a positive, constructive, and empathetic manner.
Sexual, Personal, and Domestic Offences
Like violent or drug-related offences, sexual offences are considered deeply abhorrent by society and are consequently responded to with harsh sentencing. Nevertheless, it is the duty of the courts to be responsive to both the Crown and the defence in these cases. George will work to ensure that your side is heard and that the judge only considers substantive evidence.
Sexual offences are understood in four categories:
- Sexual assault
- Child sexual assault
- Child pornography offences
To this end, sexual offences involve applying intentional force against another person without their consent in a manner that violated their sexual integrity. In situations such as these it is critical that you do not provide a statement to the police. Instead, record a statement in as much detail as possible after being released and do not share it with anyone.
The second category, child sexual assault, is an offence wherein the accused is said to have touched the body of a child under 16 years of age for a sexual purpose. This also involves the crime of ‘invitation to sexual touching’ wherein the accused asks a child under 16 to touch them. Special provisions exist at court which can make the defence difficult for you to carry alone, such as an inability to cross-examine the complainant or playing a video statement from the accused and having it be treated as evidence.
Child pornographic offences are those involving the possession; viewing or accessing; or making, publishing, and or printing of child pornography for the purposes of publishing, transmitting, selling, distributing our making it available. One key issue for the defence is determining who used the computer at the time of the alleged illegal act, as spurious connections can lead to unjust rulings.
The final category, voyeurism, is the secret observation or visual recording of an individual in a situation where that individual can reasonably expect to have privacy (thus it can be expected that they may be naked or engaging in sexual activity). The purpose of voyeurism is for a sexual purpose.
In any of these situations, bail often includes a prohibition from contacting the victim or their family, minors in general (should the charge be one involving children under the age of 16), and prohibiting access to the internet or places where children are likely to be present. Given how restricting these conditions can be, it is critical that, should you have been accused of a sexual offence, you contact Lebessis Law immediately. Accusations of sexual offence can be extremely damaging to one’s reputation and employability, so ensuring a just outcome is vital.
Sentencing varies per the nature and severity of the crime. Most sexual offence convictions involve incarceration from six months to ten years, as well as mandatory registration on the Sex Offender registry and or a mandatory DNA sample for the National DNA Databank. These stipulations can severely hamper your ability to live a normal life, and so it is recommend that you contact us as soon as possible to avoid undue damage done to your name.
Youth offences apply to individuals between the ages of 12 and 17. They will be tried under the Youth Criminal Justice ACT (YCJA), which provides special conditions and extra rules for their trying. Due to youth being reliant on others for their wellbeing, they are entitled to special treatment regarding bail; ensuring their representation by a lawyer; their ability to receive a fair trial; ensuring their anonymity during and after the case; requiring the police to comply with special rules before taking a statement; the receiving of a fair and just sentence which respects their level of awareness and responsibility; and finally limitations on how long their criminal record can be accessed.
We will ensure that all your special rights are respected at court, which includes early release and ensuring your sentence is as minimal as possible and is geared towards your reintegration into society. Even still, some youths can be tried in “Adult Sentences” wherein they are treated as adults. We will work to not let this happen.
Common sentences for youth include judicial scolding, a fine, discharge, community services, probation, entering a treatment program, or jail sentences. Should you be handed down a jail sentence, we will work to have this carried out in your community. We will ensure that your sentence follows the goals of the YCJA which dictates that you are held accountable for your actions, but are also encouraged to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.
Assaults and threats is a wide-ranging category of offences with an equally wide range of bail conditions, means of defence, and common sentencing practices. Within this category exist four major subcategories: aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, assaulting a peace officer, and uttering threats.
In all situations of assault, there exists some level of harm whether that includes wounding, maiming, disfiguring, or endangering the life of another individual. To this end, the assault must be intentional and the victim cannot have consented to the application of force (it remains illegal to consent to murder or other egregious bodily harm). While in cases of assault with a weapon or against a peace officer, weapons do not necessarily have to be knives or firearms, but can be regular items such as cups, lamps, books, or more. The intentionality of the attack is key.
The restrictiveness of bail depends on the context of the assault. Bail can include a curfew, having no contact with the alleged victim, not possessing weapons, reporting to a probation officer, and or a prohibition on drinking and consuming prohibited narcotics. While some of these conditions are only minorly disruptive, some are more substantive. Therefore, it is critical that, if you are accused with one of these offences, you contact us immediately to ensure your bail conditions are fair and in line with your constitutional right to fundamental justice.
Sentencing often involves jail time of up to 10 years, a sample of DNA for the National DNA Databank, a lifetime prohibition on owning weapons (if the assault occurred with a weapon), and or several years of probation. Given the potential for a severe sentence, you will need a competent and resourceful legal team. We will ensure that your side is heard in court and we will hold the Crown to the highest standard of truth-seeking in their evidence.
Domestic violence charges often translate into steeper sentences as a result of the breach of trust implicit in the relationship. Moreover, domestic violence charges are often paired with other violent offences, such as assaults, threats, choking, sexual assault and so on.
Should you be charged with domestic violence, it is critical that you seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Bail conditions can be extremely traumatic, as they can result in continually paying for an apartment or house for which you are prohibited from entering, or a court order disallowing you from visiting your children, should you have any. George will advocate on your behalf to ensure that your bail conditions are neither excessively harmful nor needlessly punitive.
Defending charges of domestic violence usually turns on issues of credibility and reliability. Given that there are rarely witnesses to domestic violence, it is often a case of ‘he said, she said.’ Thus, you will need a competent defence lawyer to ensure that the burden of proof is not shifted to you, and instead rests with the Crown. Remember, it is not up to you to prove your innocence. The Crown must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are convicted of a violent offence, the consequence or sentence can vary depending on the circumstances.