FAQ

Pre Charge Processes

What happens when I am charged with a crime?
A person may be charged with a crime before they are arrested. If this happens, either a citation/summons will be issued, which will tell you when to appear for Court, or a judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. A police officer will attempt to locate the person who is the subject of the warrant. When a person is taken into police custody, they have the right to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. Once you have been taken into custody, you will have an initial appearance the next morning at which time a judge will decide whether or not to set bail or to release you on your own recognizance.
What should I wear to court?
A person may be charged with a crime before they are arrested. If this happens, either a citation/summons will be issued, which will tell you when to appear for Court, or a judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. A police officer will attempt to locate the person who is the subject of the warrant. When a person is taken into police custody, they have the right to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. Once you have been taken into custody, you will have an initial appearance the next morning at which time a judge will decide whether or not to set bail or to release you on your own recognizance.
How Long Do Criminal Cases Take To Resolve?
If you are charged with a crime, a number of factors determine how long it will take to resolve your case. Depending on the severity of your charge and whether or not you are incarcerated, your matter could be resolved in a few weeks or could take several months. Throughout the process there are several important deadlines, such as the timeframe for your arraignment and your right to a speedy trial. It is vital that you consult with a criminal attorney to better understand your rights and these timelines.
Do I have to go to trial?
Whether or not you got to trial will be your decision as the Defendant. After your attorney reviews the discovery, or evidence against you, he or she will be able to discuss your best options moving forward. Often the prosecutor may offer a plea agreement, and your attorney will be able to walk you through the pros and cons of such agreements. After reviewing the evidence, any plea agreements, and discussing the case further with your attorney, it will be your decision whether or not to proceed to trial.

Hiring A Criminal Lawyer

If I am innocent should I get a lawyer?
If you have been charged with a criminal offence or suspect that you are being investigated for a criminal offence, you should still get a lawyer even if you are innocent. The criminal justice system is complicated and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process. When you are charged with a crime, it is the State’s burden to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Having an attorney at your side from the beginning of the case ensures that your rights are protected, and proper procedure is followed by the State.
What happens at an initial consultation?

At the initial consultation the attorney will generally ask you to give him or her a brief description of what you need help with.  At this point, the attorney is not looking for the whole story, but a brief summary.  He or she will then ask you a series of targeted questions in order to determine: The nature of your legal issue; 

• Your legal options; 
• Whether the attorney can assist you; 
• Your prospects of success; and
• The amount of work that will be required to achieve your goals, and the cost associated with such work. 

At this point, the attorney will try not to go into more detail than is necessary for him or her to make these judgments.  More detailed fact gathering will occur after the initial consultation if you decide to hire the attorney.  

Once the attorney has an understanding of your case, he or she will typically let you know what your legal options are, your prospects of success in achieving your goals, and how much he or she expects this to cost.  

The attorney will generally tell you the next steps in your case and tell you how much he or she will require as a retainer if you would like to move forward.  A retainer is basically a down payment for the attorney’s work.  It is kept in a trust account and remains your money and refundable until the attorney earns it. 

The initial consultation is a great time to ask the attorney any questions that you have, including questions about his or her experience with cases like yours.  Attorneys will usually not answer specific legal questions until you have retained them, but they may answer general legal questions for the purpose of assisting you with the decision about whether to move forward with your matter.   

Should I hire a lawyer from the same place as where the court appearance is?

There are advantages and disadvantages to hiring a lawyer from the same place where you were charged with an offence. If you have been charged in a rural area, it is possible that a local lawyer will not have the same degree of specialization in a particular area of law as a lawyer from a bigger city who practices that field of law exclusively.

The advantage to hiring a local lawyer is that the lawyer has a greater familiarity with the day-to-day idiosyncrasies of that area, and will also have a greater familiarity with the other attorneys and Court clerks working in the area.