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Pleading Guilty Take a Second Look

Many clients wonder: Should I be pleading guilty to the criminal offence I am facing? The short answer is: If you are not a criminal defence lawyer, and you have not reviewed the evidence that the police and Crown attorney have about your case, YOU DON'T KNOW. A criminal defence lawyer does a lot more for his or her clients than conduct the trial. Before a trial date is even scheduled, a good criminal defence lawyer will do the following for you: 1. Obtain all of the Crown evidence ("disclosure") and review it to see if there is enough evidence to convict you of the charges. This is not as obvious as it appears.

This requires careful review of the police records and notebooks to ascertain that all evidence was provided and then examining the offence you have been charged with. Usually there are a number of different aspects of the charge that the Crown has to prove before you will be convicted. 2. Conduct an assessment of the witnesses who will testify against you. Do they have criminal records? Do they have a reason to lie to the police or to the Court? A criminal defence lawyer carefully considers those questions. 3.

Meet with the Crown attorney to determine the best deal available. A criminal defence lawyer who has reviewed the disclosure and is aware of the weaknesses in the Crown's case will be able to negotiate a better deal. 4. Meet with the Crown attorney and a judge to try an achieve an acceptable deal and /or a withdrawal of the charges against you.

5. Measure the steps taken by the authorities to see if there are any violations of your rights. In some situations, a Charter breach can lead to a dismissal of your case. Other times, evidence that is obtained in violation of your rights can be excluded from the trial. 6.

Consider whether the criminal charge itself is contrary to the Charter. Many sections of the Criminal Code of Canada have been struck down by the court because an attentive defense lawyer realized that they were too broadly worded or had another defect. 7. Clarify to you the consequences of a guilty plea or a finding of guilt at trial. A criminal lawyer is aware of the proper scope for sentences for offences and situations like yours.

8. Help you to take steps before sentencing to improve the outcome. For example, a criminal defence lawyer can assist you to find drug and alcohol counseling programs, anger management treatment, get letters of reference or take other steps to minimize sentencing. It is only when all of these steps have been taken that you are truly in a position to decide whether it is in your best interest to plead guilty.

Richard Auger and Brenda Hollingsworth defend accused in Ontario. They have authored "Fighting Impaired Driving Charges in Ontario". This text is available for free by visiting their website at http://www.ottawalawfirm.ca or by email info@ottawalawfirm.ca or by phone 613.233.4529.

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