Generally speaking, you will probably have to attend court several times before your case is resolved or a trial date has been set.
The good news is that, as your criminal lawyer, I can appear on your behalf once you have signed a Designation of Counsel and I have filed it in court. A Designation of Counsel allows me to be in court without you having to be there until your criminal matter is resolved or until the trial itself takes place.
The main reason for preliminary court appearances, from my point of view as a criminal defence lawyer, is to ensure that all the evidence the prosecution hopes to use is made available to me so that I know the full extent of the case against you and can prepare accordingly.
This is known as the “disclosure process” and it requires extremely close attention to detail, intuition about human behaviour, and persistence in dealing with the prosecutor to make absolutely certain that no piece of the puzzle has been omitted, intentionally or otherwise. This is essential to help you obtain the best outcome possible.
The more experienced a lawyer is in the practise of criminal law, the more he or she will be able to bring his or her skills forward on your behalf. I have practised criminal law exclusively for the past 40 years, and I possess the skills you need and I will employ them with a high level of determination and commitment to you.
Once substantial disclosure is provided to my satisfaction, I will set up a pre-trial meeting with the Crown attorney (a lawyer with the office that is prosecuting you on behalf of the province) to confirm that all materials have been disclosed. If all materials haven’t been disclosed I will press for the release of further potential evidence. For example, this may include the criminal record and occurrence reports relating to witnesses who may be called to testify against you.
On the first or second pre-trial meeting, the question of resolution of the charges will be discussed between me and a representative of the Crown Attorney’s Office. This may allow you to avoid trial by pleading guilty to one or more of the charges against you, and in some cases also allow you to avoid a criminal record.
I will consult with you and if together we decide that a resolution is worth exploring, serious negotiations will take place, that will create the opportunity to obtain a positive result for you. It’s entirely your choice to accept or reject this resolution and you will have input throughout this process.
I will keep you totally informed of all discussions.
The final resolution arrived at must be approved in court by the presiding judge, and will depend upon a number of factors, such as:
- what was happening in your life at the time of the charge(s)
- your criminal record, if you have one
- the circumstances of your life, including your family background, education and work history
- your plans for the future, which may well include the details of how you will be able to avoid the original difficulties that led to your present court appearance
- the nature and strength of the evidence against you, as well as the evidence available to you, in the event the case goes to trial.
This is all part of the sentencing process. This process may also involve, for example, my connection to various rehabilitative facilities, such as the “Just for Today” program — a treatment program which could play a major role in presenting you in the most favourable light when a judge has to determine the appropriate sentence. Anger management and other forms of counseling can also be made available, if they might be helpful in your personal circumstances. Leila Feldman is a Certified Anger Management Facilitator in Toronto who I have worked with and can recommend.
If you decide not to seek resolution of your charges through the negotiation process, at the pre-trial meetings the prosecutor and I will discuss what evidence can and cannot be introduced at your trial and what issues may or may not be argued on your behalf under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Motions advanced under this powerful piece of federal legislation can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case at trial.
Several types of motions can be brought at trial by defence counsel. In many cases I have successfully argued that the seizure of illicit drugs, or the obtaining of an incriminating statement given by an accused person at the time of his arrest, cannot be used against him because of a particular Charter violation.
At the pre-trial meetings, the expected length of the trial will be discussed and the trial date will be set in open court.
I will then meet with all the witnesses to be called on your behalf as often as necessary in order to be fully prepared for your trial. In addition, I will engage the services of a qualified private investigator if it is necessary to further your defence.
The trial itself will take place either in the Ontario Court of Justice or the Superior Court, depending upon the seriousness of the charge(s) and other matters of procedure, which I will fully explain to you.
During the course of the trial, the prosecutor will call witnesses. After they testify under oath, I will have the opportunity of cross-examining them in order to bring out facts helpful to you or to undermine their credibility, depending upon their evidence.
Of course, the prosecutor will have the same opportunity when I present the case on your behalf and call our own witnesses to testify.
You may also be called to testify in your own defence, but only if we decide it is in your best interests to do so. The prosecutor cannot call you to testify, since this would be a violation of your right against self-incrimination. It is a fundamental principle of law that you are presumed not guilty at every stage of a trial, unless and until you are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
At the end of the presentation of all the evidence (which may include various documents as well as the testimony of expert witnesses), the prosecutor and I will each present arguments outlining the relevant facts and law to support our positions. In your case, I will vigorously request that the judge or the jury find you not guilty and dismiss the charges against you.