Driving Offences: Serious Crimes, Serious Penalties – Failing to Stop at the Scene of an Accident

The failure to stop at the scene of an accident is a very serious driving offence in the Criminal Code of Canada. Anyone who doesn’t stop his or her motor vehicle to give his or her name and address, and who has the intention of escaping civil and/or criminal liability after an accident, is guilty of the offence.

Sentences for those convicted of failing to stop at the scene of an accident vary depending on the circumstances. A good criminal defence lawyer can help have your charges be pursued summarily rather than by indictment. If convicted, that can have a significant impact on the type and severity of punishment that you will receive.

Those convicted of the summary offence of failing to stop at the scene can face up to six months in jail and a fine of $5000. Conversely, those convicted of the indictable offence, where no one was injured, could spend up to five years behind bars.

If someone was injured in the accident, and you failed to stop and offer assistance, sentences range all the way up to 10 years in jail. If the accident caused death, life imprisonment is a sentencing option.

As you can see, failing to stop at the scene of an accident can be a very serious criminal charge, and it is important to find a top quality criminal defence lawyer than can help you through the situation. A good lawyer can often convince a Judge that someone had cause to leave the scene, or work to lessen the severity of the Court’s sentence.

Driving Offences: Serious Crimes, Serious Penalties – Fleeing Police

In the Criminal Code, fleeing police is defined as operating a motor vehicle while being pursued and failing, without a reasonable excuse and in order to evade the peace officer, to stop the vehicle as soon as is reasonable in the circumstances.

As the wording of the law shows, it is possible to have a reasonable excuse for fleeing from police. Helping to convince the Crown or the Court that there was a reasonable excuse is one of the things that a great criminal defence lawyer can help with in cases involving fleeing from police.

The penalties for fleeing police vary greatly. If no injury is caused by the fleeing, it is possible to be charged with a summary conviction. Punishments in this case can be six months in jail and/or a $5000 fine. For an indictable offence, maximum jail time is five years. It is easy to see how having a great criminal lawyer working to reduce your charges can make a major difference in your life.

If the fleeing from police caused injury, the maximum prison sentence is 14 years. If the fleeing caused death, you could be imprisoned for life. In these very serious instances, it is important to hire the best lawyer possible to help you manage the outcome of your case.

Driving Offences: Serious Crimes, Serious Penalties

Driving offences are serious crimes that carry serious penalties. In order to inform you about these penalties, we have prepared several blog posts that outline some of the different punishments Canadian law hands out to those who commit driving offences. You could face jail time for every one of these crimes, not to mention fines, and other consequences.

The maximum penalties vary from crime to crime. Every driving offence is either an indictable (more serious) or summary (less serious) offence and some are hybrid, which means they can be either indictable or summary, depending on the circumstances of your case.

All driving offences and their consequences are outlined in the Criminal Code, but hiring a good criminal defence lawyer is the best way to help you successfully navigate the complicated driving-related laws and their penalites. Working with a lawyer who specializes in driving offences will also help you determine what your options are and how to proceed with your charges.

What Should I do If I am Arrested by the Police?

As an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer, I am often asked what someone should do if he or she is arrested by the police in connection with a crime.

If you are ever arrested by the police for a crime like fraud, tax evasion, assault, impaired driving or even homicide, the worst thing you can do is to talk to the police about “what happened”.  Protesting your innocence to the police will not get you anywhere and may make things much more difficult for your criminal defence lawyer.

Instead of trying to talk your way out of the criminal charges, politely but firmly indicate that you would like to speak with a criminal defence lawyer.  You really should not say more than that.  Even small comments can be used by the Crown against you in a trial.

Make the most of your telephone call with a criminal defence lawyer.  Keep in mind that you do not only get one call as they say on television.  If you do not reach your counsel of choice, in many cases you can leave a message for a return call or select another lawyer of your choice to try to call.

During the call, the lawyer will probably not want you to talk about the nitty gritty of your case.  Instead, the criminal defence lawyer will want to explain to you how to cope with the arrest process and what to expect.  The strategy for defending against the charges will be developed after the arrest process is completed and you are either released on bail or moved to the detention centre.

While your arrest is processed, you may be placed in a holding cell.  In Ottawa, most areas of the cell blocks are video taped. In some circumstances there may be audio as well.  Your behaviour during that process will be recorded.  Accordingly, you should be calm, cool and collected.

An arrest for a criminal charge is scary and undesirable.  However, with thoughtful advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer like Richard Auger, the disruption to your life can be minimized.

Ottawa Lawyers – For a teenager charged with an offence, legal representation is important

If you are in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario or elsewhere in Canada, you should beware that people often think, incorrectly, that criminal findings of guilt before adulthood have no impact once a person becomes an adult. A young person’s record does not cease to exist just because they turn 18, and if they re-offend before the “non-disclosure period” has passed, their record can be used in court.

Read moreOttawa Lawyers – For a teenager charged with an offence, legal representation is important

Ottawa criminal defence lawyer – when you are arrested, you have rights

Most Ottawa residents know what Canada’s Charter of Rights of Freedoms is, but if you are ever placed under arrest, you might not know how it helps you. You are entitled to very important rights under the Charter; they are so important that if the police do not observe these rights, the courts can refuse to admit evidence obtained by the police, which could result in charges being dismissed by the court or dropped by the crown attorney.

If you are ever asking yourself, ‘what are my rights upon arrest?’ Here they are:

  • Every person who is under arrest or detention has the right to be promptly informed of the reasons for the arrest.
  • Every person who is under arrest or detention has the right to speak to a lawyer without delay.  The police must inform the person of the right to speak to a lawyer and the police must also ensure that the person under arrest can access a lawyer.
  • The police must advise the person under arrest of the right to speak to a lawyer and this must be done in a language that is clearly understood.
  • The police must also advise the person under arrest that if they cannot afford a lawyer, a lawyer can be provided to speak to the person free of charge.

At the police station when you are being processed, issues can often arise when the police are giving you your right to consult a lawyer.  For example, was an interpreter available if language was an issue?  Were accommodations made if the legal advice was not understood?  Was there adequate privacy for your call?  Did you want to speak with a specific lawyer?  Were you permitted to leave a message for the lawyer of your choice to call you at the police station? If any of these issues arose during your arrest, you want to ensure you discuss this with your lawyer.

Experienced criminal defence lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth can give you the advice you need to protect your legal rights. Contact a criminal defence lawyer at Auger Hollingsworth at 613-233-4529 or at [email protected]

Will I Be Found Guilty of my Criminal Charges?

Whether or not you are found guilty at a trial will depend on whether the crown attorney can prove a guilty act and a guilty mind.

In order to prove guilt, the crown must prove two parts for every criminal offence.  The crown must prove an act (actus reus) was committed by you and that you had the criminal mental intention (mens rea) to commit the act.  There is no guilty act without a guilty mind.

To prove the guilty act, the crown has to show:

a) an action (or omission of an action)

b) by a person with capacity

c) in a voluntary manner

d) which caused certain consequences.

If there is any reasonable doubt about whether these aspects of the alleged criminal act occurred, the court must find you not guilty.  You do not need to testify and your lawyer does  not have to prove that the alleged criminal act did not occur.  You can remain totally silent because the burden of proof is on the crown.

How Can I Improve my Sentence:

Sometimes, no matter how good your criminal defence lawyer is, you end up with a finding of guilt or a plea of guilt and a sentencing hearing is required.    Sentencing in Ottawa is a very important part of your case and should not be treated as an afterthought.

Where sentencing is likely or possible, our criminal defence lawyers will work with you to help build a strong case for a lenient sentence.   A key component of the sentencing package is reference letters.

We work with our clients to devise a list of people who can provide personal letters of reference on your behalf.   Typically these letters come from members of your community, religious institution, employer, neighbors, teachers or anyone else who is prepared to tell the court that you are a person of integrity who should be sentenced lightly.    Note that we would never contact anyone for a reference letter without your express consent and instructions.

Generally,  the letters of support set out the following:

-who the writer is in terms of occupation and family status

-a description of the writer’s connection to the accused person

-the fact that the writer is aware of the charges; and

-a description of a number of the accused person’s positive personal attributes (such as hard working, honest, a reliable worker, etc.).

The letter should include the writer’s contact information.

A package of supportive letters from people of good reputation in the community can go a long way to assisting your Ottawa criminal lawyers in making strong submissions on sentence.

Ottawa Criminal Lawyer: Do I Have a Defence?

If you have been charged with a serious criminal offence, you may be wondering what defences are available to you.  We have compiled a short list of defences as an overview.  Of course, not every defence is applicable to every case.  Speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer about whether you have a viable defence to your case.

Alibi:  This is a defence that can be raised where the accused could not have committed the offence because he was not physically present at the location of the offence when it occurred.  If the court concludes that the accused did not have the opportunity to commit the offence because he was elsewhere, the accused may be found not guilty.

If an accused maintains that he was elsewhere at the time of the offence, it is critical that this be discussed privately with an experienced criminal defence lawyer.  This is important because it may be necessary to privately interview witnesses and secure evidence to confirm that the accused was at a location other than where the offence occurred.  It is also important to discuss this privately with an experienced criminal defence lawyer because the lawyer will need to decide when and how to provide the necessary notice of the alibi to the crown.  Although usually the defence does not have to disclose anything to the crown, the law does suggest that the crown and police should be given a reasonable opportunity to investigate any alibi defence.  If this notice is not given, the alibi defence can be rejected by the court.

Provocation:  This is a defence which is commonly misunderstood.  Provocation can only be used to reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter.  Provocation is not a defence to other circumstances.  Generally, the accused must have committed the offence “in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation”.  It must be a wrongful act of such a nature that it would deprive an ordinary person of the ability to self control.  The accused must have acted suddenly before there was any time to consider the actions or to cool his passion.

Self Defence:  This is a defence that may be available to a person who committed the wrongful but did so to prevent harm to him ro herself,  to others under their protection or to their property.

This defence is complicated and it is therefore critical that the accused discuss with an experienced criminal defence lawyer the circumstances of any possible self defence.  Generally, there needs to be evidence of the “necessity” to have committed the act by using force and the force used needs to be “reasonable”.

Automatism: This is a defence where the accused is in a state of impaired consciousness with no voluntary control over his or her actions.

Intoxication:  Intoxication may render an accused’s actions involuntary and therefore the accused may not have formed the mental intention to commit the offence.  There are complicated issues surrounding whether or not the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary.

So-called “Truth in Sentencing” bill comes into force

Last week, the legislation that eliminates two-for-one credit on Canadian sentences came into force.  What this means is that people convicted of a criminal offence and then sentence do not receive additional credit for time they spent in jail before they were found guilty or plead guilty.

While this new law will appeal to those espousing a  tough on crime agenda, there are some real concerns it raises.

First, the two-for-one credit took into account that the conditions at the detention centres where people are typically held before trial are much worse than at a federal or provincial penitentiary.  Local detention centres are over-crowded, often in poor repair and lack programming.  Spending 6 months in this type of holding tank is much, much worse than 6 months at a proper facility.

Second, there is a philosophical argument that is important for people who believe that the presumption of innocence is an important tenet of our judicial system.  Pre-trial, pre-conviction custody entails detaining someone who has not been convicted of a crime.  In our view, there needs to be recognition of this fact.

Third, it eliminates the ability of judges to treat each case individually.  One of the virtues of Canada’s criminal justice system is its ability to tailor the outcome of a criminal prosecution to the facts of the case.   Tying a judge’s hands is contrary to this important principle.

Fourth, lengthy pre-sentence custody is necessitated by a lack of government resources.  People serve “dead time” because there are backlogs in the courts, not enough judges and court staff, etc.  The removal of the 2-1 in sentencing takes a way one incentive for the Crown and the administration of justice to keep the process moving.

Fifth, there is really no evidence that this move will have any impact on reducing crime.  This is legislation about appearing to be tough on crime.  It is not about reducing crime.