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Facing Calgary Criminal Charges: Here’s What to Do Next

No one should face criminal prosecution alone. The Calgary justice system works best when the defendant is properly represented by experienced, competent, and compassionate counsel: a lawyer who knows the players, the system, and the law. As soon as you or a family member knows that they are the target of an investigation, the best move to make is to seek the advice of a Calgary criminal defence lawyer. Not just any lawyer, but one who knows and is known within Calgary’s criminal bar. You can begin and end your search at Bulwark Law.

Understanding the Severity of Your Calgary Criminal Charges

We are all familiar with the vocabulary of the criminal justice system from television and movies. Yet when you are caught up in the web of a criminal investigation and prosecution, you need a guide to interpret the charges and explain them to you in a way that prepares you for the ordeal ahead. Most police agencies overcharge, meaning that they look at the circumstances and include within the complaint all of the possible crimes that might be proved by the facts and evidence. Reading a complaint can be overwhelming. Understanding the contents of a complaint requires skill and experience. Don’t try it on your own.

In devising a viable defence strategy, your defence lawyer will explain the full consequences of any conviction. Even a first offence might mean a prison sentence, fines and penalties, loss of professional licenses, and a long-term negative impact on your financial stability. A criminal conviction can adversely affect your ability to make a living and provide for your family, require explanations every time you seek housing, a loan, or a job. For non-citizens, this can mean deportation without the right to return to Canada, and for Canadian citizens it creates barriers to traveling to the United States and other countries.

Facing Calgary Criminal Charges: Here’s What to Do Next

Middle-aged man thinking about his statement and the criminal charge while sitting down during interrogation in the office of the police station

Your Legal Rights and Obligations

Canada maintains a presumption of innocence when a person is charged with a crime, which translates into an enormous responsibility on the Crown prosecutors. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crimes charged. The burden on the prosecutor is large and potent.

It’s the job of the defence lawyer to raise doubts about the truth of the story the prosecutor puts forward. Although you have the right to represent yourself in a criminal prosecution, and the Province of Alberta provides its residents with a Criminal Law Handbook for the Self-Represented Accused, the criminal justice system is adversarial and works best when a defendant is represented by skilled counsel. For example, both the prosecutor is required to provide the defence with relevant evidence and the names of potential witnesses. This requirement of disclosure is intended to give the accused a chance to prepare to cross-examine witnesses, contest the introduction of evidence, and minimize the importance of some testimony or evidence. This discovery process is meant to avoid dramatic and improper surprises at trial. Conversely, the defence is under no such obligation, but knowing what potential defence evidence exists, and presenting it to the prosecutor in a timely fashion if appropriate, is a sophisticated defence responsibility. No matter how much television you watch, you are not prepared to make these technical decisions, not when your liberty is at stake.

Right from the time of arrest, you need the guidance of a skilled defence lawyer. First, never speak with the arresting police officers. Remain silent and request counsel. You might be facing a bail hearing and the imposition of conditions on your release from jail awaiting trial. Throughout a prosecution, you will be required to make many court appearances. A single missed appointment or even a pattern of lateness might land you back in jail. A good criminal defence lawyer will help you keep your court appointments and any other obligations imposed on you as a condition of release.

Selecting the Right Legal Representation

Your future depends on the skill of your criminal defence attorney to evaluate the strength of the Crown’s case, assess any defences, make timely motions to challenge testimony and evidence, negotiate with the prosecutors, and prepare for trial, if necessary. Hiring the right criminal defence attorney depends on a combination of factors: reviewing the lawyer’s experience and track record, cost, the risk of imprisonment and fines, and trust. Even a less experienced lawyer can shine if there is a strong attorney-client relationship based on trust, full disclosure, and mutual respect.

Navigating the Legal Process

Depending on the severity of the charges, criminal prosecution will begin with being informed of the charges and possibly an arrest. Some arrests are short, with the police immediately releasing you upon a promise to appear in court at a set date and time. More serious charges often require detention and an initial court appearance to set bail and any conditions for release. Those conditions might include surrendering your passport, being restricted from travel outside the province, and subjecting yourself to the authority of the court.

Once a defence lawyer is on board, the assessment of the strength of the Crown’s case begins and remains ongoing as new witnesses might be identified, further evidence uncovered, and potential defences devised. A detailed understanding of the prosecution’s case sometimes opens an opportunity to negotiate to dismiss all or some charges, negotiate pleas to a lesser charge, and avoid jail or prison time, as well as a long and costly trial. Here is where an experienced and savvy criminal defence lawyer with a reputation within the prosecutor’s office, among the police, and with the judges makes a difference.

Building a Robust Defence Strategy

An effective defence is both legal and factual. An experienced defence lawyer knows the law, especially the rules of evidence, and conceives arguments based on the law to limit the case the prosecutor wants to present. This sometimes means excluding evidence because it was improperly gathered or stored, limiting witness testimony and prohibiting some witnesses from appearing. A viable defence can also be factual, contesting witness testimony, downplaying the importance of certain facts, and presenting a counter-narrative to the Crown’s story. Deciding whether to go to trial and how to present your story before a judge or jury is a complex process that is best done by a skilled and knowledgeable defence lawyer acting in your best interests.

Contact Bulwark Law Today

Your freedom, and your family’s future, are too precious to squander. At Bulwark Law, our compassionate, knowledgeable, and skilled lawyers have a reputation among Calgary prosecutors and judges for aggressive and effective representation. Call us today at 403-678-7360 or complete the contact form to arrange your free initial consultation.

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“Believe it or not, they managed to pull off a complete exoneration – all charges dropped, no fine, no hit on my insurance!  Thanks, Bulwark for a great job!!!  Five stars!”