What Happens If I Fail to Attend My Criminal Court Date?

When a Judge orders an individual to appear in Court at a specific date and time, that individual is legally bound to appear.  An individual who intentionally misses their criminal Court date can be charged with a criminal offence.  However, the onus is on the prosecutor to demonstrate that the individual truly intended not to appear in Court.  This means that they must show that the individual was aware of their Court date and chose not to appear.

Generally, it is up to the Judge whether or not he or she accepts a particular excuse for not appearing in Court.  For example, an individual who slept through their Court date would not likely receive much leniency from a Judge, but someone whose children were rushed to the emergency room in a life-threatening situation might be excused.

If you are ever in a situation when you think or know in advance that you will not be able to attend your criminal Court date, discuss this with your lawyer.  If you only realize after the fact that you missed your Court date, contact your lawyer and they will advise you on how to proceed. It is possible that you may still be able to avoid criminal charges.  Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your failure to appear in Court, it is important that you have a good criminal lawyer who will work on your behalf.

Ottawa Criminal Lawyer Asks: Are Tough-On-Crime Bills Worth their Cost?

This criminal defence lawyer wonders if toughening Canada’s criminal laws will do anything other than improve the Conservative government’s image with the law and order constituency.

Six of 10 provinces that were surveyed by the Globe and Mail newspaper this week fear that the Conservative government’s proposed tough crime bills will cost them billions. The financial toll will be the result of the influx of prisoners they are anticipating, and they believe the federal government should help shield the cost.

Specific dollar figures for the cost of the bills have not been released by the government, however, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, has said that current government estimates are too low.

Opposition critics have been able to use the fact that the bills will cost billions – with no guarantee that they will have a positive net effect — to justify opposing the bills.

The fact that crime rates are falling is another strong reason to query wisdom of the government’s intention.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has not yet confirmed that the government will be assisting provinces in paying for more prisons.  According to the government, provincial costs may be trimmed because of a decrease in people in provincial remand centres and more people in federal prisons.   This argument is unlikely to prove true as there are 10 individuals sentenced to provincial penitentiaries for every person who is sentenced to a federal prison.  Longer sentences lead to federal time.

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.

Criminal Lawyer Ottawa: The Initial Consultation

Charged with a criminal offence? Take advantage of the free consultation offered by most criminal defence lawyers before deciding how you are going to handle the situation. At the initial consultation, the criminal lawyer will be able to explain:

  • the process,
  • how long it will take,
  • the types of defences that may be available to you,
  • what should be expected in the disclosure and
  • what range of sentence is possible if you were to plead guilty or be convicted of the charges, or any one of them.

Having this information is crucial to making a decision about whether or not to hire a lawyer and fight the charges.

However, at the initial consultation it is unlikely that an experienced criminal defence lawyer will be able to tell you if they can get the charges withdrawn or secure an acquittal. At the initial consultation stage, the lawyer will not have the disclosure, which is the Crown’s evidence. Some of the disclosure may be helpful to you. Other aspects of the disclosure may not be helpful. Until the defence lawyer has access to this information, it is unlikely that the lawyer will be able to give you an opinion.

The bottom line? Before you speak to the Crown or plead guilty to your charges, get the basic advice available at an initial free consultation so that you can make an informed decision on your case.

Getting Released from Jail on Bail – NEED TO GET OUT OF JAIL ON BAIL?

The Ottawa criminal defence lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth can assist our clients in jail to get released on bail. This is one of the most crucial parts of your defense strategy.

If the Crown Consents to Release You:

Often the Crown Attorney will agree to release you if the crime is not violent, not very serious or the person is not considered a flight risk. If Crown consents, your release is normally within hours.

Recognizance

A person who was arrested without a warrant will normally be released on the agreement of the Crown with a summons, appearance notice or promise to appear.

Other times, release will be conditional on the entering of a “recognizance” in amount of up to $500.

Undertaking with Conditions

The Crown could also consent to a release based on undertaking with conditions. For example:

  • To remain within a certain area;
  • To deposit a passport;
  • To notify the police of any change in address or employment;
  • To attend school (where applicable);
  • To abstain from communicating with any person or from going to any place;
  • To abstain from possessing a firearm and to surrender any firearm;
  • To report to police at specified times;
  • To abstain from consuming alcohol or other intoxicating substances; and/or
  • To abstain from taking druges except in accordance with a medical prescription

What if the Crown does not agree to release?

The Criminal Code of Canada mandates that someone who is being detained in jail after arrest be brought to court before a Justice of the Peace within 24 hours or as soon as possible. This timeline applies even if the arrest is on the weekend or a holiday.  In most jurisdications, Justices of the Peace hold bail hearings on Saturdays and Sundays.

If the Crown doesn’t agree to a release, if the Crown cannot hold a full bail hearing within twenty-four  hours, then the Crown may request to postpone the hearing for up to seventy-two hours.

Sureties

In some circumstances, delaying the hearing makes sense for the person who has been charged. The extra time can permit his or her criminal defence lawyer to assemble a strong case for release and to arrange for sureties.

What is a surety? A surety is someone who consents to be responsible for, and supervise, someone charged with a crime. Sometimes a surety has to put up or promise to pay money to the Court if the charged person fails to obey conditions of release from custody.

Are all Release Plans the Same?

No. Often, the Court’s decision to grant bail or not will depend on how good the decision maker consders the plan of release to be. Important questions to be answered are: does the person have a place to stay, a job to go to, counseling and support as required and appropriate supervision by someone whom the accused person respects. Sometimes, assembling the plan can take time.

Considerations when the Court will consider whether to release someone on bail:

The 3 considerations for the Court at a bail hearing:

  1. Is the detention necessary to ensure the person’s attendance in court?
  2. Is the detention necessary for the protection or safety of the public?
  3. Is there any other just cause requiring detention having regard to all circumstances, including the apparent strength of the prosecution’s case, the gravity of the nature of the offence, the circumstances surrounding its commission and the potential for a lengthy term of imprisonment?

Who has the Burden at a Bail Hearing?

The Crown normally has the onus to “show cause” why the accused should be held.  For some offences, or for people who have a record for failure to attend court, the onus or burden can be on the detained person to “show cause” why he or she should be released.

What if Bail id Denied?

Hire a criminal defence lawyer to handle your bail hearing before the Justice of the Peace to secure the best possible result, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

Bail Review

Where release is denied, a “bail review” can be scheduled before a judge.   The same three factors apply, but the judge is not bound by the views of the Justice of the Peace.

Note:  If the Justice of the Peace releases the accused person, the Crown can also seek a bail review.

Sometimes it can take several weeks to get a date before a judge where your lawyer, the Crown, the witnesses and a judge are all available. The requirement to obtain (and pay for) the transcript of the initial bail hearing can also contribute to delay.

This can be frustrating and requires patience.  You can be assured that Auger Hollingsworth would do everything in its power to move your hearing forward as quickly as possible.  However, the possible delay is a strong reason to take your initial bail hearing seriously and hire a lawyer immediately.

Why is Bail so Important?

Apart from the disruption and anxiety of separation from family and friends and loss of employment, there are strategic reasons to seek bail in many cases.  For example:

  • It is more difficult and costly to meet with your lawyer and to assist in the preparation of your case from the detention centre. Your lawyer is limited as to when he or she can visit you. Telephone access is limited.
  • If you proceed to trial, you will be seated in the prisoner’s dock if you are in custody. This can have an impact, particularly on a jury.
  • If you are released on bail for months or more prior to trial, and stay out of trouble while out of custody, you will have a strong argument in any sentencing hearing that a jail sentence is not required and that you are rehabilitated.

If you or a loved one needs help getting out on bail, do not wait.  Contact a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.  Our Ottawa criminal defence lawyers will handle bail hearings and bail reviews in Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Perth, Cornwall, Hawksbury, L’Orignal, and many other locations.  Call 613 233-4529 or email [email protected] today!

Ottawa White Collar Crime Lawyer Asks:

Reports in mid-August suggest that the government is planning to toughen white-collar crime laws.  Apparently, this move is in response to the concerns arising from recent high-profile fraud schemes that left many with significant financial losses.

Possible measures include mandatory sentences for white-collar criminals and to increase the amount of time actually spent in jail when a custodial sentence is imposed.

Given the current political and economic climates, a person charged with, or being investigated for,  fraud, tax evasion and other related so-called “white collar crimes” would be well advised to seek an experienced criminal defence lawyer as early in the process as follows.

Fraud Charges By Ottawa Police Against Man

According to an Ottawa Police News release, a 26 year old man was charged on December 23, 2008 with the use of a stolen credit card.  The Ottawa police arrested the man after an investigation for fraud.

The police allege that two men entered a store a used the credit card but attracted attention of the security personnel.  When the card was used a second time, the men were arrested.  However, only one individual was criminally charged.   The charges were:  Use of a stolen Credit Card, Personation, Possession of Stolen Property and Draw Document without Authority.

If you or someone you know was charged with fraud, contact Auger Hollingsworth for a case evaluation.

Hiring a Criminal Defence Lawyer | Payment Options

Ontario’s Attorney General Chris Bentley made it clear this weekend there is unlikely to be a change in the Legal Aid Plan any time soon.  The AG acknowleged that there is no money for lawyers doing legal aid but suggested that the time for asking for higher tariffs is not now.

With legal aid hourly rates so low, many experienced lawyers will not, or cannot, take legal aid cases.  If you are accused of a serious crime, consider hiring a criminal defence lawyer privately, on a payment plan.  Trial dates are usually far enough in advance that an affordable plan can be put in place so that you can receive the representation you want and need to get the best outcome for your criminal charges.

A criminal defence lawyer at Auger Hollingsworth will speak to you about your case at an initial consultation.  If you would like to speak to a criminal lawyer in Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Perth, Kingston, Toronto or Cornwall, email [email protected].

Hawksbury Fraud Charges

In April 2008, OPP officers in Hawksbury received a complaint that registration money collected 6 months earlier was missing.   The police report that in their six-month investigation, 50 people were interviewed and a search warrant was executed at a bank.

Charges were laid late last month.  The 51 year old accused is scheduled to appear in court in L’Orignal in November.

Fraud charges can be complicated to defend.  If you or a loved one has been charged with fraud, contact an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer with experience fighting this type of charge.  Richard Auger of Auger Hollingsworth can be reached at 613 233-4529 or at [email protected].