Criminal law relates to conduct thought to be potentially threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation than on punishment.
If you’re charged with any crime, the consequences can be serious so it is generally a wise move to consult with a criminal lawyer. As trained professionals, they are able to assess your individual case and advise you on how to proceed. Generally, criminal lawyers are specialized in various matters and therefore can help to determine the parameters of a case.
1. What does a criminal lawyer do?
Canadian crimes can be classified as: summary offenses, which are minor offenses roughly equivalent to misdemeanor charges in the United States. There are also indictable offenses, which are more serious offenses and are roughly equivalent to felonies. Finally, there are hybrid offenses, which can be considered either summary or indictable based on the context of the incident.
A criminal attorney will represent a client who has been charged in one of these three instances according to the criminal code of Canada.
2. How do I know if I need one?
Considering summary, indictable, and hybrid offences can all end up with a prison sentence, it is a good idea to get a lawyer if any of these apply to your situation.
Summary offences can include petty theft, public intoxication, vandalism, reckless driving, drug possession and other. Indictable offences include rape, murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery, various forms of fraud, and possession of certain types of illegal drugs.
Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list, so it might be a good idea to consult with a criminal lawyer even if your matter isn’t listed here.
3. How much does it cost?
As with other types of legal counsel, criminal lawyers charge either a flat fee or hourly rate with a retainer. A retainer is a fee paid upfront which will then be put toward what you owe the lawyer. Rates will vary depending on the severity of the charges and where you live, so be sure to negotiate a rate up front.
It is also a good idea to seek referral from friends and family members and to do a bit of research. It might be wise to speak to former clients and to spend a bit of extra time determining if that particular lawyer and their set of expertise is best suited to your current needs.
4. What else should be expected?
A criminal defense lawyer will do what he can to prove your innocence or at least lessen your sentence. If your attorney knows that you can’t win the case, he may advise you to settle out of court, which will usually get you a shorter or easier sentence.
If you do end up in court and are charged with an indictable or hybrid offence, your defense lawyer can attempt to, prove your innocence, lower the charges that are being leveled against you, get you a shorter sentence, or get you placed in a better facility. For a summary offence your attorney will advocate for fines or community service over jail time. It is all about knowing how to navigate a very complex system in order to find the best solution for you.
Although there is no guarantee that the outcome will be favorable to you, it’s a good idea to hire a criminal defense attorney who understands the way courts work. The aid of a lawyer will greatly increase your chances of reducing your sentence or winning your case.