FAQ

Criminal Law FAQ’s

Frequently asked questions about your Alberta criminal defence

I am guilty, so shouldn’t I just plead guilty?

Absolutely not. It is important to remember that the Crown (Prosecutor) has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Just because you are guilty doesn’t mean they can prove it. Only a skilled criminal defence lawyer can assess your case and provide you with an opinion as to your best option for proceeding. Furthermore, it’s not as black and white as you may think. There are different alternatives than simply pleading guilty or not guilty that might be applicable to your case. Before you do anything, please have a criminal defence lawyer review your case and give you a proper, informed opinion about what your options might be.

 

What can I do to help my case?

The first thing you should do is create a detailed statement outlining exactly what happened that led or may lead to your criminal charges. At the top of that statement you should put the words “Solicitor/Client Privilege”. It may take months or years before your case is heard, and your memory is going to get worse over time, not better. Creating this statement will assist you in recalling events and will assist your lawyer in preparing your case. Furthermore, by sitting down and writing out a statement you will likely recall more details than you would by simply telling your story or having a lawyer ask you questions. Your lawyer may or may not want to see that statement right away, but please let him or her make that decision. No one else should see that statement besides your lawyer, and it can never be used against you because it has been made “in contemplation of litigation”.

 

I should tell the police my side of the story shouldn’t I?

In most cases, the answer is no. However, if you are arrested or put under investigative detention, the police are obligated to advise you of your right to speak to a lawyer immediately (section 10B of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). You should always exercise that right in order to get specific advice in relation to your case. However, generally speaking, it is never a good idea to speak to the police if you are being investigated for a crime or under arrest for allegedly committing a crime. Often, police know that they do not have enough evidence to get a conviction in court, so they try to get a confession. They are trained in a variety of techniques to elicit information from you, and will employ all of them to try to get what they want. Even if they do not get a confession, they may still gather information that could hurt you at trial. In most cases, you should decline to make any comments whatsoever about anything no matter how persistent the police are or how innocuous the questions appear. A polite way to refuse to speak to the officers is to inform them that you have “no comment” or that “my lawyer told me not to answer any questions, sorry”.

 

I can’t afford a lawyer, what should I do?

Before you decide you can’t afford a lawyer you should go talk to a few of them. Most criminal defence lawyers will, and should give you a free initial consultation. During that consultation, you will have an opportunity to decide if you want this person representing you, and you can and should discuss fees. Every lawyer has a different set up for their retainers (initial non-refundable deposits) and additional fees required for representation. You might be surprised to discover that you actually can afford a lawyer based on the fee set up discussed. More importantly though, you should look at a criminal defence lawyer as an investment in yourself and your future and in yourself that is worth paying for. If you are truly in a position where you cannot afford a lawyer, there are services out there to assist you in getting access to justice such as Legal Aid Alberta or Student Legal Assistance.