Paralegal Services in Ontario Criminal Courts
Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions where paralegals are independent legal professionals. This means that they can represent people in some types of criminal matters. Specifically, Spectrum Paralegal can represent you in summary conviction criminal offences, which are criminal offences where the maximum punishment is less than six months of imprisonment. Some common criminal charges of this sort are:
- Domestic assault
- Dangerous driving
- Common assault
- Fraud for under $5,000
- Mischief for under $5,000
- Shoplifting (for less than $5,000)
- Possession of under 5mg of illicit substances
- Being in a bawdy house
The Criminal Defence Paralegal
Apart from general differences between paralegals in lawyers, there are differences specific to criminal defence paralegals and lawyers. In Ontario Criminal Courts, a paralegal:
- Would need for you to appear with him or her in Criminal Court appearances
- Cannot accept legal aid
- Can be excluded from representing you in criminal proceedings if the judge considers him or her to be incompetent
The goals of criminal defence
In your criminal defence, our paralegal’s primary goal would be to help you to avoid a criminal record, since this can adversely impact your future employment opportunities, travel ability, and other aspects of life. This means that we look to address your criminal charge in one of the following ways:
- Diversion. This is an outcome that is usually reached by negotiations with the prosecution. If a diversion is granted, you do not get a criminal record. You do not enter a guilty or not guilty plea, and the criminal charge is withdrawn entirely if and when you complete certain conditions, such as donating a certain sum of money or doing volunteer work.
- Conditional discharge. This is very similar to a diversion, except you would usually plead guilty.
- Acquittal. You would be acquitted if you were found not guilty after a complete criminal trial, with examination of witnesses and evidence.
How we work
No matter which goal we may be pursuing in our criminal defence, our aim is to find weaknesses and inconsistencies in the case against you. This helps us negotiate the best possible settlement and form the most effective criminal defence.
Some strategies we may use to improve your criminal defence include:
- Request police reports related to the complainant. Does the person who accused you have a record of trouble-making?
- Request the complainant’s medical history. Could there be some medications or conditions that caused the complaint?
- Analyze every witness statement in detail, looking for contradictions and logical inconsistencies.
- Analyze the complaint: did the complainant behave in a reasonable way given his or her version of events?