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Ottawa Criminal Law Blog

The Right to a Trial in the Official Language of You Choice

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, the Criminal Code of Canada allows you to proceed to trial in the official language of your choice (s. 530(1)). This right guarantees an accused person the right to have a trial in the French language or the English language and the proceedings would include a prosecutor and a judge (and jury if applicable) who can speak the official language of choice. The Criminal Code also allows for bilingual trials. For example, it is possible to have some witnesses testify in English while others testify in French.

Expert Evidence

Last week, the Ontario of Appeal heard the appeal of the Christy Natsis case. You may recall the Natsis trial a few years ago: a Pembroke dentist who was charged with impaired driving and driving with over 80 milligrams of alcohol in her system. Ultimately, after 55 days of trial, the trial judge excluded the breath readings because of violations of Ms. Natsis's rights, but convicted her of impaired driving causing death, largely on the expert testimony of the Ontario Provincial Police reconstructionists. The main issue on appeal is whether the trial judge properly allowed the police officers to testify as an expert and provide opinion evidence on the nature of the accident.

What is Canada's Sexual Offender Registry

SOIRA, or the Sexual Offender Information Registry Act [LINK #1], came into effect in 2004 and requires accused persons convicted of one of the listed sex-related criminal offences to be registered in a sexual offender database. The judge sentencing the accused has no discretion, they must place the accused on the registry.

Ontario's zero tolernace policy may soon become even stricter

Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol could be facing tougher penalties with the advent of legal recreational marijuana use coming in July 2018. Ontario is potentially planning to implement stricter laws for drivers 21 years old and younger, all fledgling drivers and all commercial vehicle drivers. If police find you under the influence, you may have to dig deeper into your pockets since fines would increase along with licence suspensions.

Ontario will soon be distributing and selling recreational pot in about 150 stores with the LCBO in charge of selling the herb. As with liquor, you'll need to be 19 years old to buy cannabis. If police pull you over and you refuse to do a roadside test, the penalties you'll be facing may be much stricter.

Be Careful what you post on social media

The use of social media is essentially ubiquitous with living in the today's society - everyone does it in one form or another. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any of the multitude of texting apps, it is like you use some form of social media on a daily basis. This widespread use of social media can often prove quite valuable in a court of law. Since so much of what we do each day is recorded in some way, it provides ample information for the prosecution to use to try and seek a conviction.

The Supreme Court of Canada reiterates the right not to be denied reasonable bail

In the summer of 2017, Canada's highest court stressed the importance of the presumption of innocence and the right to no be denied reasonable bail pending the outcome of an accused's charges. Pre-trial detention has a negative affect on an accused mental, social and physical state. Furthermore, the SCC acknowledges that pre-trial custody can have a substantial effect on the trial outcome as well.

Can Strict Bail Conditions Lower My Sentence?

You were charged with a criminal offence, such as sexual interference, and released on bail; however, it does not feel like liberty as the conditions on the bail recognizance are incredibly strict. Some examples of strict bail conditions are: house arrest except while in the presence of your surety; limitations on your ability to see family; a curfew; or a condition denying you the ability to go to school or work. These restrictions can be very difficult and limiting for accused persons to go about living their lives. Some would equate the conditions to being in custody; however, bail is not jail.

Consent as a Defence to Assault

At one point in time the law seemed clear that consent could not be a defence to an assault charge that aroes out of a fist fight where injury resulted.  The courts said there was little value in encouraging post bar brawls by allowing such a defence.  But over the last number of years that position has changed.  In some cases, even with more seroius offences, the defence has been succesful.

Disclosure: What does that even mean?

You are charged with a criminal offence, such as a domestic assault. You are released from the police station, given a date to appear in court and told that if you fail to appear in court, you could be subject to a bench warrant. But really what you are not told is about the next steps in the process and what to expect from this whole process. One of the most important steps after you have been released from custody is to receive the disclosure in your matter. Your disclosure is essentially the evidence gathered by the police to support the laying of the charges against you. It may involve written witness statements, police notes, photographs, video statements, video surveillance, or anything else that the police gathered during the course of their investigation.

Driving while distracted: could a donut mean your downfall?

You're on your morning commute to work and you just rolled through the local coffee shop drive-thru. With the coffee cup in its holder, a jelly donut in one hand and your other hand on the wheel, you motor along listening to your favourite morning radio talk show. The blaring siren and blue lights behind you are almost an aside. Almost.

After your first major communication of the day, you drive off with a freshly inked ticket. The donut is leaving a sour taste in your mouth, but not as sour as thinking about the hundreds of dollars that donut just cost you. But, maybe not.

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Ottawa Criminal Law Blog | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter