I have been informed by a police officer that I am under investigation for a crime. Do I need a lawyer even though I have not yet been charged?

Yes. Fundamentally, most people do not know what makes up a particular criminal offence. You may end up admitting to an offence without even realizing it.

Also, police are trained to ask questions that are designed to compel a suspect to admit knowledge of the victim and presence at the scene of the crime. Often, this information is used to convict. Unfortunately, the law also allows peace officers to lie to a detainee about the evidence they have and whom they have spoken to, as well as what evidence they hold. This has been know to result in a detainee feeling compelled to speak and defend himself against spurious evidence. The cards are stacked against you.

If you have been approached by a police officer and informed that you are under investigation, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

We also recommend that you begin to record information and your recollection of events leading up to the incident under investigation. Our system of justice can be slow at bringing matters to trial and you should record important details when your memory is fresh and the events are recent.

This written record should include all events, names, dates, times and contact information for any witnesses. This information may be highly useful to your lawyer in preparing your defence.

If you choose to record information to assist yourself with recollection later, we strongly recommend that you write the following words on each page of that document: "Privileged, Solicitor Client Communications".

What should I do if I am arrested or detained by police?

The most important thing to remember is that silence in the face of police questioning is a constitutionally protected right. Your silence cannot be used against you at trial as evidence of your guilt.

We believe that the best way to protect yourself in the course of any police investigation is to assert your right to silence when you are questioned.

After asserting your right to silence, you should immediately assert your desire to speak with a lawyer. By law, the police are required to provide you with access to counsel without delay upon your request. Upon you asserting your desire to speak to a lawyer the police are required to stop questioning you until you have spoken to counsel. Very few exceptions exist to this rule and you are not limited to a single phone call.

Often there is a time lapse between your arrest and when you have the opportunity to speak with a lawyer. We recommend you be polite to the officer, but make it clear that you will not answer any questions until you have spoken to a lawyer.

Am I required to say anything to police when I am arrested?

You must always properly identify yourself to an officer upon arrest. Your obligation to answer any questions ends there.

While your right to silence is guaranteed, nothing in the Constitution gives you the right to lie to the police. Therefore, while we strongly advise you against making any statement or answering any questions until you have spoken to a lawyer, if you do choose to answer questions or make a statement, you must tell the truth.

Remember, lying to the police is an offence under the Criminal Code. Proof that you lied to police can be taken as proof of your guilt.

Do I have to hire a lawyer if I am charged with an offence?

While there is no legal requirement to hire a lawyer to represent you, the reality is that our criminal justice system is complex. You will always be better served having legal representation on your side.

Lawyers, on average, have eight years of post-secondary education plus an apprenticeship with a lawyer (called articling) before they begin their legal practice. Beyond the years of education, it is a profession that requires, in our opinion, an accumulated knowledge of not only the law, but of the actors involved in the justice system. This includes the judiciary, the police and those who are tasked with prosecuting criminal charges.

The lawyers at Leebody Lloyd interact with these individuals every day. We know how they respond to particular situations and most importantly which arguments to make in order to ensure results for our clients.

In addition to our working knowledge of the justice system and its actors, we provide you the peace of mind knowing that almost all of the pre-trial appearances are being taken care of by your lawyer. This means you do not risk missing work or having to schedule around the many court appearances that even the most basic criminal charges could require.

When you are facing criminal charges, your reputation, livelihood, credibility and freedom are at stake. Are you prepared to risk any of these without first consulting with a professional?

Do I have to give fingerprints if I am charged?

For all indictable and hybrid offences, fingerprints and other identification procedures (arrest processing photos) are mandatory prior to your first appearance. Please note that fingerprints and arrest processing photos may be taken shortly before your release when you are first charged or you may be asked to return on a later date for your fingerprints and arrest photos to be taken. If you fail to attend for the purposes of fingerprints and arrest processing photos, you will be charged with a criminal offence.

If you are asked to return at a later date, that date will be located near the bottom of your release documents (which are usually pink in colour) provided to you upon your release or arrest. You should be aware that the police may ask an accused person to attend on a different date in order to get a second opportunity for interrogation or to make physical observations of an accused who has been charged with an impaired driving offence. This can be done to gather evidence and to note differences between arrest and post-arrest behaviour. For that reason, once you have been charged, it is always important to consult with a lawyer before any dealings with the police.

How long do the police keep my fingerprints and arrest processing photo if I am not convicted of the alleged offence?

The police will keep these records indefinitely unless a request for destruction of fingerprint and identification records is made. Leebody Lloyd has successfully processed such requests on behalf of our clients. We would be happy to give you advice on the procedures that will be followed.

Do I have to go to court if I am charged?

Your attendance is not required for preliminary appearances if you are represented by a lawyer. It can take weeks or months before you are in a position to decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty. The reality of our criminal justice system is that there can be multiple court appearances before a plea is entered.

At Leebody Lloyd, we will ensure that you do not have to face the inconvenience of a court appearance unless absolutely necessary. We realize that appearing in Court can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, as well as a waste of your valuable hours during the day. We would rather have you working, travelling, or relaxing at home while we appear for you. Of course, if we are able to secure withdrawal of the charges, you will never have to appear at all.

Finally, if a court appearance does become necessary, you will have plenty of notice of the date. We will make sure you are prepared for every court appearance, know what to expect and will do everything possible to reduce the stress of attending court.

Do all criminal charges end in conviction and a criminal record?

Absolutely not, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it does not.

Unfortunately, in our justice system most criminal allegations are not reviewed by a lawyer before charges are laid by the police. At Leebody Lloyd, we promise to review the evidence against you at an early point, so that we can bring such charging errors to the attention of the prosecution and urge pre-trial review of those cases where there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction.

Even where there is sufficient evidence for the Crown to proceed, we find that many accused are over-charged or charged with crimes too serious for circumstances of the alleged offence. We often will negotiate the lowering of charges in these situations.

Finally, for first-time adult offenders (or even second and third time offenders where time has passed since your last conviction), there are numerous out-of-court diversion programs we can apply for on your behalf. If you are successful in being admitted to such a program and complete its requirements, the criminal charge is normally withdrawn and your criminal record remains clean. Eligible offences for diversion programs include: theft under $5000, non-domestic assault, fraud, mischief and solicitation. If you are charged with such an offence, you should contact us to discuss all of your options.

I do not want to go to trial on my charge, I think I will just plead guilty. Do I still need a lawyer?

Yes. Entering a guilty plea is something not to be taken lightly. The Criminal Code requires that a judge be satisfied that an accused person understands the consequences of entering a plea, and that the decision to plead guilty is voluntary, before that judge can’t even accept the guilty plea and proceed to sentencing.

Those are the safeguards put in place for the judiciary. Without having at least consulted with a lawyer, how can you be certain you are making an informed decision?

The burden of proving that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt falls to the Crown Prosecutor in every case. When you enter a guilty plea, you are essentially saying the Crown does not have to prove any of the elements of the offence. An experienced lawyer can tell you whether the Crown can meet that burden at trial.

Even if the Crown can meet their burden, a lawyer can ensure that the sentence you receive is appropriate and in many cases present options that you may not have considered. Furthermore, a lawyer can negotiate with the Crown Prosecutor on your behalf and can often secure an agreement on sentence before even appearing before the judge.

Effective negotiation also frequently results in some charges being dropped altogether and pleas being entered to less serious or even non-criminal charges.

My charges are not in Edmonton, can I still hire a lawyer from Edmonton to defend me?

Yes. The lawyers at Leebody Lloyd have represented clients throughout western Canada and the Territories.

When hired we obtain all materials from the Crown Prosecutors in those locations, we prepare these materials for your review. In addition, we arrange for telephone conferences with our clients to ensure reduced travel costs and time. Furthermore, we can appear on many preliminary matters for you, saving you the time and expense of travelling to court.

Can I travel if I am charged with a criminal offence?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked. The answer depends on three factors: (a) your destination; (b) the type of crime you are charged with; and (c) whether you were released post-charge with any conditions that restrict your travel.

If you are subject to conditions that would restrict travel (remaining in the Province of Alberta; abiding by a curfew; a requirement to deposit your passport) then travel might not be possible. However, it is possible to apply to the Court to change these types of restrictive conditions. This is a service we provide at Leebody Lloyd and we welcome the opportunity to discuss such an application with you.

If there are no conditions restricting travel, then it is really up to the host country. You will find that the U.S., for example, cares little about first-time misdemeanors. However, gun charges, violence, drug offences etc., can all end your travel plans prematurely. Please see one of our lawyers for an opinion on your admissibility to the United States, or another country.