The Law Office of Andrew Edgar have a great deal of experience in Criminal Law and offer a wide variety of services including but not limited to:
Domestic charges involve charges that occur between individuals in a relationship. Most commonly they involve charges of assault, however will often consist of charges of mischief, uttering threats and criminal harassment. The Crown Policy Manual, which dictates Crown policy in prosecuting offences of this type, instructs the Crown to pursue these charges “with vigour”.
In all but rare cases, when an individual is charged with a domestic offence, they are held in custody and brought to court for a bail hearing (in some circumstances, when offences are of a very minor nature, release from the police station can be obtained, but this is very uncommon). In order for an individual to be released on bail for domestic offences they will almost always require a residential surety, which means that someone they know (who lacks a criminal record and has some form of income or assets) will be required to sign their bail, and that they will be required to live with that person. Except in the rarest of circumstances, the individual charged will be placed on conditions that require them to have no contact with the complainant and to not attend at any place they know the complainant to be. In practice, this can mean that the individual charged will not be able to have any contact with their partner or attend at their shared home until the charges are dealt with. As such, it is imperative that domestic charges be dealt with as quickly as possible while still ensuring a positive outcome.
In Canadian law, the Crown makes all decisions of whether to proceed in a case or not. The Crown Policy Manual requires that “exceptional circumstances” exist for domestic charges to be withdrawn. Even if the victim no longer wishes to proceed with the charges, this does not mean that the Crown will not proceed with the case. As well, if a victim who has been subpoenaed to attend at the trial of the matter chooses not to attend, the Crown can seek a warrant for their arrest to compel them to attend. Further, if the witness chooses to change their evidence from what they originally said to the police, the Crown has the option of attempting to have their original video statement put into evidence (if one was made at the time of the initial investigation).
Given the variety of issues that are present when dealing with domestic charges, it is important to form an effective and coherent strategy to fight the case at the earliest possible time.
Violent crimes can vary from relatively minor assaults to murder. They also include assault bodily harm, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, uttering threats, sexual assault, firearms offences and robbery.
At times, while investigating these matters, the police will fail to obtain statements from everyone who witnessed the event and potentially have evidence that is helpful to the individual that is charged. As well, in this day and age, there is often surveillance video in the place of the occurrence that may not be kept indefinitely (many places in fact only keep surveillance video for a maximum of 30 days). Given the potential for lost evidence that can be helpful to the individual that is charged, it is important to take steps to obtain and preserve this evidence at the earliest possible occasion.
In other situations, these charges will often involve one person’s word against another’s. It is important to keep in mind that all criminal charges have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In situations where a supposed ‘victim’ tells a version of events and the person charged testifies to another version, it is often very difficult for a judge to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the version told by the supposed ‘victim’ is the truth. Therefore, it is often possible to raise a doubt about what occurred and secure a verdict of not guilty in these types of offences.
Drug offences can take a variety of forms. They include: possession, possession for the purpose of trafficking, actual trafficking, production and importing. Additionally, there are a variety of prohibited substances in Canada. These include commonly known substances such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin, as well as lesser-known substances, some of which are legal in other countries, such as khat.
The Crown must prove that the individual charged has knowledge and control of the substance they are charged with. This means it is often possible to fight the case by showing that there is a doubt over whether the person knew about, or had control over the substance. In many other cases, where it is clear that the individual charged had knowledge and control of the substance, the defence strategy is based on violations of the rights’ of the individual charged. These usually involve the individual’s rights to privacy and/or their freedom to move about the community without interference from the police. Specifically, it is based on breaches of the individual’s rights under s. 8 (the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure) and/or s. 9 (the right to be free from arbitrary detention and arrest) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is possible to have the drugs that form the evidence in the case to be ‘thrown out’ as a result of a successful Charter application based on breaches of those rights.
Property crime is a category of crime that includes: theft under $5000, theft over $5000, possession of property obtained by crime (over and under $5000), fraud (over and under $5000), credit card offences, possession proceeds of crime, break and enter (to a dwelling and a non-dwelling), as well as damage to property crimes such as mischief (under and over $5000).
Although all crimes are of course treated seriously by the Crown attorney’s office, given that most property crimes do not involve physical harm to a victim, it is often possible to negotiate with the Crown to secure diversion for relatively minor property crimes. Diversion means that it is possible to arrange for the individual that is charged to complete some hours of community service, or to pay back the victim for the loss, in exchange for the charges to be dropped.
There is a large variety of driving offences for which an individual can be charged. The vast majority of these offences, such as speeding or failure to wear a seatbelt, are prosecuted under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. However, more serious driving offences are prosecuted under the Criminal Code, and include: dangerous driving, flight from police, leaving the scene of an accident (when a person or vehicle is involved), and perhaps the most common, impaired driving and driving with excess blood alcohol. As these are considered crimes, conviction can result in a criminal record and potentially jail. As well, these offences invariably involve a loss of the charged individual’s license to drive for a specific period. In our society, with our reliance on driving for employment and general ability to function in life, the loss of license is often the most detrimental aspect to being convicted of these charges.
Fortunately, it can be possible in driving offences to negotiate the charge being ‘dropped’ to a lesser charge under the highway traffic act to avoid the loss of license and criminal record. As well, there are a variety of technical defences that exist to challenge these charges.
When an individual is charged with a crime, the arresting officer and/or staff sergeant in charge at the station will determine whether they should be released with a future court date (usually a few weeks down the road), or held and brought to court for bail. The individual can be released from the scene or at the station on what’s called a Form 9 promise to appear at court, or a Form 10/11.1 undertaking to an officer in charge, which also serves as a promise to appear at court but in addition will contain conditions such as preventing contact with a victim or preventing the individual from attending a specific place. If the charge is considered serious enough, the individual has a criminal record, or there are concerns with them appearing at court at a later date, the police may decide to hold them for a bail hearing. It is important for a lawyer to be involved at the earliest opportunity as they can assist in trying to convince the police not to hold the individual for bail and to release them from the station.
When someone is held for bail, the criminal code demands that they be brought to court within 24 hours of their arrest. Once at court, the Crown Attorney will make a determination whether the person is releasable on their own bail, whether they will require a supervisor for the person to be released, referred to as a surety, or whether they are opposed to the individual being granted bail. If the Crown is opposed to bail, the individual will have to conduct a hearing where they will present their plan of supervision to a Justice of the Peace who decides if there is a strong likelihood that they will not attend at court, or a strong a likelihood that they will commit further offences or interfere with the administration of justice if they are released. A lawyer is able to speak to the Crown before the Crown makes their decision on how they will proceed. It is often possible for a lawyer to convince the Crown to release the individual ‘on consent’ without having to conduct a hearing.
A surety is someone that knows the individual, usually a family member or friend, who comes forward to offer themselves as a supervisor in order to convince the Crown and/or the Court that they can ensure the person charged will attend court and not commit any further offences. A surety has to be 18 years of age, have no criminal record (or a very limited or dated one), be a permanent resident or citizen of Canada, and must have either some assets or at least some form of income. They will be asked to sign bail for a certain amount as a security to the court that they will perform the supervision duties expected of them. The amount they are able to sign for is based on their assets and income and the general principle of whether they could pay the money if required by the court. The money is rarely deposited with the Court, as the amount the surety signs for represents an amount that the Court could seek them to pay if they failed to supervise the individual as expected. That is, the Crown can seek to make the surety pay the money they signed for if they completely failed in their duties, such as allowing the individual not to attend court, or if they were aware that they were breaching a specific condition of the bail and did not call the police. A lawyer formulating a plan with the surety(s), and to convincingly present the plan to the Court, is often the difference between an individual being released on bail or being denied bail. If a Justice of the Peace in the Ontario Court of Justice denies an individual bail, it is possible to seek a review of that decision by a Superior Court Judge. However, the process is lengthy and requires a change of circumstance or an error by the Justice of the Peace in order to request the review. As such, it is very important that an individual put their best foot forward when they first try for bail in the Ontario Court as they do not get a second chance in the Ontario Court if the Justice of the Peace denies them bail.
(If a person does not have a surety and the Crown is opposed to bail, the individual can personally testify at the hearing that they will comply with any release conditions. This is not often done, should only be done if the individual has no other option, and will generally only be successful in cases of relatively minor charges. It may also be possible for someone that lacks a surety to attempt to be assisted by a bail program, which are programs run by community organizations who help supervise individuals who don’t have a surety. This will usually only be available when dealing with relatively minor charges.)
The conditions of bail that individuals are released on vary greatly. At the lowest end of the scale an individual can be released on their own bail that simply requires that they attend court or remain away from a specific individual or place. At the highest end, the most strict bails will involve the individual having to live with their surety and to remain on house arrest, meaning they cannot leave the residence at all. In practice, the vast majority of individuals are released on conditions somewhere in between those two extremes. As well, the amount of money that a surety is asked to sign for varies greatly – it can be anything from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. The amount is reflective of the finances of the surety and the seriousness of the offence. It is important for a lawyer to be able to argue on behalf of the individual so that the amount is kept as minimal as possible and the conditions least restrictive as possible.