1-The police have called me and asked that I go into the police station to speak to them, what should I do?
The first thing you should do is contact a lawyer. It is very important to get legal advice before going to the police station. Meeting with your lawyer will help you understand your rights, your options and the process prior to having contact with the police. Often times your lawyer can also assist by communicating with the police officer in question in order to gather more information, assess the situation and arrange an appropriate time for a meeting between you and the police. It is important to remember that getting legal advice is not a sign of guilt. It is a right, and one that you should not hesitate to exercise.
2-How much will a lawyer cost?
The answer to this question really depends on the circumstances of your case. Similarly to a painter who needs do a walk through of your house and consider the size of the job before giving you an estimate, a lawyer needs to consider the particular complexities of your case before he or she is able to tell you how much it will cost.
3-When should I get legal advice?
It is very important to get legal advice at the earliest opportunity possible. If the police have contacted you, or you are aware that a criminal investigation has begun, you should get legal advice immediately in order to be prepared for what might be coming. If you were taken by surprise by a criminal charge and you have already been charged and given a court date, you should get legal advice before your first court date.
4-I have been given a document requiring me to attend for fingerprinting, can I skip this?
No. You are legally required to attend the police station on the date and time indicated on the form in order to be fingerprinted. At times, if you have scheduling conflict, there may be some ability to change the time or date of this attendance by contacting the police station in advance (your lawyer can assist you with this). Barring some change in the time that has been pre-approved by the police service in question, you are required to attend as indicated on the document. Failure to do so can result in an additional criminal charge of failing to attend for fingerprinting.
5-What will happen at my first court appearance?
Your first court date, no matter what you're charged with, is a remand appearance. Remand Court is a scheduling court. An accused person is required to attend Remand Court to ensure they are dealing with the charge. In a Remand Court nothing substantial happens, it is not a Court where you plead guilty or where your trial is heard. Rather, you or your lawyer, is required to attend to report on the progress that is being made in relation to dealing with the charge(s). Most persons charged with a criminal offence will have at least a few appearances in remand court as they sort through how they want to deal with their charge. At your first remand appearance, generally the disclosure will be provided to you or your lawyer (this is the evidence in the prosecutor's case against you), and the matter will be adjourned to allow you and your lawyer to review that evidence.
6-Do I have to attend my first court date?
You must attend your first court date (and any dates thereafter) unless you hire a lawyer to attend on your behalf. If you hire a lawyer, often they will ask you to sign a form called a designation. This form allows your lawyer to appear on your behalf in your absence. The only exception to this is on the very rare occasion where a person is released on a bail condition that requires them to attend court personally. If you are subject to that bail condition, even if you hire a lawyer, you must attend court. Failure to attend court, or to hire a lawyer to attend court on your behalf can result in you facing an additional criminal charge for failing to attend.
7-I was charged with an impaired/over 80/refusal to blow, does this mean I can't drive?
If you are charged with one of these offences, you are subject to an automatic and mandatory 90 day driving suspension. There is no way around this automatic suspension. Do not drive during this period of time. If you do, you could end up with additional criminal charges.
8-I was charged with a criminal offence does that mean I have a permanent criminal record?
No, an outstanding charge is not a permanent criminal record. You will not have criminal record unless you are convicted of the offence with which you are charged. While you are dealing with the charge though, if you attempt to get a local police record check, it is very likely that it will come back showing an outstanding charge (as there is a record in the police system of the fact that you are currently dealing with a criminal allegation). It is important to note that even if you end up pleading guilty to criminal offence you won't necessarily end up with a criminal record. So don't panic. The best course of action is to sit down with your lawyer so that they can explain the possibilities to you in detail.
9-I was released on conditions that I can't have contact with my spouse or my children, do I have to follow these conditions? How long do these conditions last?
Yes you do have to follow these conditions, they are bail conditions. If you break one of the terms of your release, like for example for having contact with your girlfriend when you weren't supposed to, you can end up being charged with additional criminal offences for failing to comply with your bail conditions. These "breach" charges can often make pulling you out of the criminal justice system more complicated, and as such it is important that you comply with the rules of your release. How long these rules last depends on what you ultimately decide to do in relation to the criminal charge(s) you're facing. It is with noting that sometimes your lawyer can apply to have these bail conditions removed or modified. Speak to your lawyer about whether this is a possibility in your case.
10-How long will it take to deal with my charges?
Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question, it depends on the particular circumstances of your case and how you decide to deal with it. Going to trial for example, takes a lot longer than if you end up pleading guilty to some (often lesser) version of the allegation. Generally, it takes longer than people think it will to get to a final outcome, and most of the time it is safe to assume that it is going to take at least a few months. While this can be discouraging, it is important to remember that criminal allegations can have significant consequences, and while your lawyer will want to get the matter resolved for you as soon as possible, it is also very important that the appropriate time be taken to ensure that it is dealt with not only quickly, but also properly, ensuring the best possible outcome for you.
11- I want to know more about my particular charges, where can I go to get information before meeting a lawyer?
You can search our archived blog entries. There is a list of categories, including for example driving offences and sexual offences, to make it easier to get the information you are looking for.