Navigating the criminal justice system can be a daunting task. Criminal lawyers and criminal law can be quite complicated at times. In Ontario, the nuances of criminal law are particularly extensive. However, it is now easier than ever to find qualified and affordable criminal lawyers.

Understanding Criminal Lawyers and Criminal Law in Ontario

Types of Criminal Offences

According to BPS Criminal Law Firm, in Ontario, criminal offences can be broken down into three main categories.

  • Summary Offences – These are considered “less serious” offences and include causing a disturbance, theft under $5,000 CAD, trespassing, and graffiti.

Those charged with summary offences are usually not arrested, simply charged. They will be asked to appear in provincial court. Punishment is $5,000 CAD fine, 6-months imprisonment, or both.

  • Indictable Offences – These are considered major crimes and include murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual offences, terrorism, aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, and assault with a weapon.

Those charged with indictable offences are arrested and taken into custody. Three main choices are available to the accused. These include having a trial by judge alone in superior court, trial by judge and jury in superior court, or trial by judge in provincial court.

  • Hybrid Offences– In these types of cases, the prosecutor decides if the case is summary or indictable. These cases include assault, sexual assault, fraud under $5,000 CAD, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and possession of cocaine.

Types of Criminal Law Cases

Various types of issues fall under the umbrella of criminal law.

  • Drug Charges – These include drug possession, possession of the precursors to drugs, possession for the purpose of trafficking, the sale of drugs or the offer to sell or give drugs to another, drug manufacture or cultivation, importing and exporting drugs, drug doping, unlawful possession of prescription medications, and conspiracy to commit any drug crime.
  • Weapons Related Offences – These include assault or causing bodily harm to another with the use of a weapon, possession of a concealed weapon, possession of an unregistered or restricted firearm, possession of a prohibited weapon, careless storage of a firearm or ammunition, and careless use of a firearm.
  • Impaired and Other Driving Offences – These include impaired driving, impaired driving by drugs, driving over the speed limit, breath test refusal, refusal of roadside test, and dangerous driving.
  • Sex Crimes and Domestic Offences – These include sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, sexual exploitation, internet luring, child pornography, criminal harassment, criminal stalking, human trafficking, forcible confinement, and domestic violence.
  • Regulatory Offences– These include cases involving the Liquor License Act of Ontario, the Competition Act, the Highway Traffic Act, and Hunting regulations.
  • Fraud and Financial Charges – These include breach of trust, theft, bank and mortgage fraud, lottery fraud, Ponzi schemes, securities fraud, cheque fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy.

Choosing a Criminal Lawyer

Choosing the right criminal lawyer is of utmost importance. Criminal law is complex and criminal lawyers are educated and experienced in all nuances of the law. A skilled lawyer can result in reduced sentences and even innocent verdicts.

It is important to find out how many years of experience the lawyer has. What is their education? What is their success rate? What is their track record? Do they inspire confidence?

Do not hesitate to ask for references.

Cost of Criminal Lawyers

The cost of a criminal lawyer varies by geographical location, case, and reputation.

However, average costs are $495 CAD per hour for lead counsel and $295 CAD for associate counsel and range from $75 to $750 CAD depending on experience level.

  • Single-day summary conviction trials or pleas average about 20 to 40 hours and $6,000 to $9,000, CAD. These include domestic assault, theft under $5,000, minor drug possession, and failing to comply with a bail order among others.
  • Multiple day summary conviction trials or pleas average about 25+ hours and cost $10,000 to $15,000 CAD. These include sexual assault, impaired driving, and drug possession, among others.
  • Multiple days indictable offence trials or pleas average 100+ hours and cost $25,000 CAD and up. These include homicide, robbery, trafficking, and some sexual assaults.
  • Bail hearings average 8 to 16 hours and cost $1,500 to $3,000 CAD.

However, apart from billable hours, many criminal lawyers have now shifted to flat fees.

Legal Aid Ontario

For low-income Ontario residents, Legal Aid Ontario may cover criminal law costs in certain circumstances. These include being charged with a crime that could send you to jail or are being charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (for those between 12 and 17 years old). Criminal lawyers will advise you on your rights and the court process, ask to delay the court date, represent you at a bail hearing, help with a guilty plea, refer you to other legal aid services, among others.