1. Get legal help

You should not until you’ve thought carefully about your options. Think about the Crown’s case against you and what can happen if you plead guilty.

Talk to a lawyer or paralegal for advice on:

  • the Crown’s case against you, including the strength of the against you
  • any defences you may have
  • any violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that may have occurred during the investigation or your
  • what having a criminal record means, including going to jail and getting a criminal record
  • how long you might be in jail
  • other consequences that can apply, including driver’s license suspensions by the Ministry of Transportation for driving offences

A lawyer can also try to negotiate the best deal possible for you.

You can hire a paralegal to represent you if you’ve been charged with a that has a maximum of:

  • 6 months in jail,
  • a $5,000 fine, or
  • both.

If you can’t afford a lawyer or paralegal, contact Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) to find out what services you might be able to get. Normally, a lawyer will ask you to pay money known as a before they start working for you. If you qualify for a Legal Aid certificate, this means that LAO pays a lawyer of your choice to work for you.

LAO also pays lawyers at the courthouse, called , to give free legal advice to people who can’t afford a lawyer. Duty counsel may be able to:

  • give you information and advice about what happens when you plead guilty, including going to jail and getting a criminal record
  • review your with you to help you understand your case
  • help you find out if you qualify for Legal Aid
  • help you in court on the date of your and make sentencing submissions on your behalf

Mental health court support workers

If you live with mental health issues, there may be Canadian mental health court support workers who can come to court with you and help you through the legal process. You can get more information about connecting with a mental health court support worker at your local agency office of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

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