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Ottawa Criminal Law Blog

Unreasonable Delay for Young Offenders

The Jordan case is getting a lot of media attention. Charges are being stayed across Canada, including serious charges like murder. The Jordan presumptive ceiling for provincial court matters is 18 months. Before Jordan, courts assessed delay based on loose Morin guidelines and determined whether the presence or absence of prejudice caused by the delay (among other factors) meant that the delay was reasonable or unreasonable. Although the Morin guidelines applied to youth cases, prejudice was more significant to youths than adults so stays were ordered in cases with less delay than adult stay cases.

Getting a Pardon (Record Suspension)

Have you been convicted of a criminal offence, such as fraud, in the past and looking to put those days behind you? A criminal record can hinder one's ability to work, travel, volunteer and become a citizen of Canada. In order to prevent your past on having a negative effect on your future plans, it is important to seek a records suspension (commonly referred to as a pardon) as soon as you become eligible. A record suspension will remove all information about your conviction from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC).

What is Disclosure?

You have been charged with a domestic assault and your lawyer says "Let's make an appointment to review the disclosure". You are wondering what you are going to be reviewing. Disclosure is all the relevant evidence, on your case, that the Crown has in their possession. It will include a summary of the Crown's version of the incident, all the police notes and reports, witness statements, any video or audio evidence, expert reports, business records and any photos. The Crown must provide to your lawyer all evidence that will be used to prosecute you on the charges you are facing.

Safety in Joint Sentencing Positions

When someone is charged with a criminal offence, such as a domestic assault, the Crown will provide the accused, or his/her lawyer, with their position on resolution. This will entail which charge(s) they would like the accused to plead to along with the sentence they will be asking the Judge to impose. Defence lawyers will speak to the Crown and attempt to arrange a better deal for their client. Oftentimes a deal with be working out that is "joint" meaning that the Crown and Defence are asking for the same sentence. This joint position, however, is not guaranteed as the presiding judge always has the power to disagree with the joint position and sentence higher or lower if he/she sees fit. That being said, there are steps that a judge must take before disagreeing with a joint position, and these steps should provide the accused with some comfort in knowing that the judge will likely follow the joint position.

Eligibility for Youth Mental Health Court

Youth Mental Health Court is a specialized court in Ottawa for young persons who deal with either mental health or serious addiction issues. Eligibility for this court depends on a number of factors, ranging from the seriousness of the charges to the type of mental health illness your child has been diagnosed with, to your child's history with the criminal justice system. Further, this court is only for those young persons who are accepting responsibility for their charges. In other words, if your child has indicated that he or she is not guilty of the allegations and would like to fight the charges, this court is not for them. If on the other hand, your child accepts responsibility for the charges and he or she suffers from mental health/addiction issues, this specialized court might be the right option and you should discuss it further with your lawyer. If your lawyer agrees this is a suitable option they will fill out an application form to the court with you and your child. The application then goes to the Crown Attorney's Office for consideration. Ultimately the Crown has the discretion to decide whether your child is accepted into youth mental health court or not. If the Crown rejects the application, there is very little recourse to get them to change their mind. Given that, it is very important that as much relevant information as possible (things like medical information, history of mental health diagnosis, previous treatment etc.) is included in the application in order to give your child the best chance possible at being accepting into this rehabilitative court program.

Getting out on Bail

When you have been charged with a criminal offence, such as a minor theft, it is possible that you may be released at the police station with a promise to appear and you may be subject to conditions on an undertaking. In other cases, such as drug trafficking,  the police may decide that they will not release you at the station. This could be because of nature of the allegations, the fact that you have a criminal record or you breached previous release conditions. In those cases, the police must bring you before a justice within 24 hours of your detention. This means you are brought to the courthouse where an assistant Crown attorney will look at your file and determine whether they will consent to your release. If they do not consent to your release, then you will have a bail hearing where the justice will determine whether you should be released.

Timely Legal Advice in Sexual Assault Investigations is Imperative

If you are being investigated or under suspicion for sexual assault (or any other criminal charge) - read this blog. This article will examine a sexual assault investigation and how you, the suspect can protect your rights and freedoms.

Who is the Client in Youth Cases?

When your child is charged with a criminal offence, and you hire a lawyer to represent your child in court, it is important to remember that ultimately, it is your child that is the client and not you. This is so even when you have paid for the lawyer (which is most often the case). As a parent, you play a crucial role in the process, not only in helping your child through the process and with the decisions that lie ahead, but also in ensuring that his or her lawyer understands any particular challenges your child has faced or circumstances that may be relevant to why he or she has been charged. Your lawyer should encourage you to attend all the meetings with your child, in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Your lawyer should also encourage your child to consult you and include you in all decision making. Often times criminal charges can result in complex decisions for your child and it is extremely useful for a parent or family member to be able to offer assistance in working through those decisions. It is worth keeping in mind however that if at any time your child requests to have a private conversation with his or her lawyer, the lawyer cannot disclose the contents of that conversation to you as parent, as a result of the lawyer's obligations. This is called solicitor-client privilege. Similarly, sometimes a parent and child will be at odds as to the appropriate course of action, when this occurs, the lawyer is obligated to take your child's instructions on the issue, as ultimately, it is his or her decision to make.

Explaining Probation

In many cases, an offender's main concern when being sentenced is whether he/she will have to go to jail. However, justices have other tools at their disposal when considering what an appropriate sentence might be.

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