Criminal Charges? What You Need to Know
At Darwin R. Witmer Criminal Law, I deal with a wide variety of criminal charges, from the relatively minor to the extremely serious. Each case and each client is different and requires a different approach from my staff and I — and from the person facing the charges.
However, some of the advice and information I give about criminal defence is universal to all of my clients.
1. Don’t speak to the police without a lawyer.
Many clients want to explain their side of the story, especially to a sympathetic police officer or friend. This is never a good idea. A lawyer can help you explain your side, but do it in a way that won’t be used against you and won’t get you into further trouble.
2. Don’t plead guilty just because you feel guilty or scared.
The Crown has a duty to prove your guilt.
The police may try to intimidate you into thinking that you should plead guilty right now to avoid even worse trouble, or pressured you into thinking that pleading guilty right away is the right thing to do. Wait until you know the evidence that the Crown has against you.
The standards for evidence and for proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are very high. The Crown can’t always prove its case. My job is to make sure they do, not just for your sake, but to keep our justice system working properly for everyone.
3. Know exactly what the consequences will be before making any decisions.
A fine or a sentence involving incarceration is rarely the only negative consequence. Different charges may have different unexpected consequences, including:
- Loss of your property: Drug charges can result in the loss of your house or car, if it was used in the crime or bought with the proceeds of the crime.
- Loss of travelling privileges: Having a criminal record for any crime, from theft to domestic assault to possession of a weapon, may result in you not being able to travel or cross the border for a long time, possibly forever.
- Career consequences: Depending on your field, any conviction may ruin your career. For example, a sexual assault conviction may prevent you from ever working with children again.
- Loss of driving privileges: Many traffic or driving-related charges (such as DUI) can result in losing the right to drive, especially if they accumulate over time.
- Financial loss: Many driving charges result in fines and higher insurance rates.
- Stigma: Particularly for sexual assault cases or fraud, a charge or conviction may affect your personal life as well.
The ideal is to get rid of your charges entirely. If that isn’t possible, you still deserve a defence that minimizes the negative effects of your charge on your life. If you are going to plead guilty, or are found guilty at trial, my job is to make sure you suffer the least consequences possible.
4. You deserve a defence lawyer who considers all of your life, not just your charge.
When looking at your choices, it’s important for your defence lawyer to consider your family, personal life, finances, and your needs. Some people need a solution as fast as possible; others need their name cleared, no matter how long it takes; most are somewhere in between and have other needs.
When we discuss your options, I will take into account:
- Your previous record
- The evidence against you
- Your financial needs
- Your career aspirations
- Your family