1. Get legal help

It’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer when you’re charged with a crime.

A lawyer can help you:

  • understand your case
  • talk to the Crown about how to resolve your case
  • figure out if you have a defence
  • understand the court process and the possible sentences
  • help you choose the best option to deal with your case

If you can’t afford a lawyer, there are other places to get help.

Duty Counsel

Duty Counsel are free emergency lawyers for people who come to court without their own lawyer. They will only help you on the day you’re in court without a lawyer. They will not keep representing you after you leave court that day.

Duty Counsel cannot represent you at a , but they may help you to:

  • get
  • understand your case
  • talk to the Crown

Duty Counsel lawyers are only available to people with a low income. Before Duty Counsel will help you, they may ask you about your income to make sure you qualify for their service.

Legal aid certificate

If you can’t afford a lawyer, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) might give you a certificate for a free lawyer. A legal aid certificate is like a coupon — you give it to the lawyer you choose, and then LAO pays the bill. Not all lawyers accept certificates. To get a certificate, you must show that you have a low income and that your legal issue is one that LAO covers. To find out if you qualify for a certificate, call LAO at 1-800-668-8258.

Law students

Law students at some student legal clinics assist with criminal charges, but only if the Crown proceeds .

Law students in legal clinics are supervised by experienced lawyers. Their services are usually free.

Private Lawyer or Paralegal

Paralegals are not lawyers, but they are trained to give legal assistance in some areas of criminal law.

Paralegals and private lawyers will a fee.

For help finding a private lawyer or paralegal, use the Law Society of Ontario’s free directory. Make sure to click “Advanced Search” and select “Criminal/Quasi-Criminal” from the checkbox options.

You can also use JusticeNet’s paid service called How to Find a Professional. The cost of the service is $25. It will show you a list of available lawyers in your area. 

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