Experienced criminal lawyer based in Montreal, Canada

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions related to criminal offences, laws and procedures most frequently asked to Me Lighter.

Am I obliged to have a lawyer if charged with a criminal offence?

The decision of whether or not to engage a criminal defence attorney is entirely left with the individual accused. However, the risks of successfully navigating the criminal justice system without counsel is dangerous and not recommended. Remember, neither judges nor crown prosecutors are there to instruct or counsel you, so choosing to represent yourself can be a lonely and a very risky decision.

What do I do if police officers present themselves to my home or workplace with a search warrant?

When a peace officer presents himself to either your home or place of work with a search warrant, you have the right to read the warrant. If the warrant properly indicates the correct address, the officer has the right to enter and to search and seize according to the limitations of the warrant. You are NOT entitled to prevent entry or is it wise to argue with the officers. The warrant is a document that gives them the right to enter. It is a document signed by a judge and as such bestows upon the police this right. The warrant can always be challenged later by your lawyer if charges are ever laid against you.

What is a summons?

A summons is an order to appear in court at a prescribed date and time. It also typically orders you to appear at a scheduled time to have your fingerprints and photographs taken.

What is a promise to appear?

A promise to appear is a court order to appear in court on a prescribed date and time. It also orders you to appear at a scheduled time to have your fingerprints and photographs. A promise to appear might also include conditions of release that must be adhered to. These conditions might order you not to consume alcohol, to refrain from contacting certain people or prohibit you from presenting yourself to a specific address. Read the conditions carefully. Once you sign this promise these conditions must be obeyed. Failure to do so may lead to further charges and detention.

What is an arrest warrant?

An arrest warrant is an order by a judge to a peace officer to detain you and to bring you before a judge as soon as possible. Warrants are issued generally when a person is sought by the police and there is a concern that this person is either dangerous or that he might fail to appear in court as required.

Do I have to go through the fingerprint-photo process as the police officer insists?

An order to have fingerprints and photographs taken is issued pursuant to an Act of Parliament and must be done. If you are ultimately acquitted, a request to have these fingerprints and photographs destroyed can be made.

If the police officer asks me to sign a promise to appear with the condition that I find a new residence, can I go back home to retrieve my things?

Usually, the police will allow you to return once, in the presence of police officers, to retrieve your personal belongings. It is important to take the time to retrieve all of your belongings because returning a second or third time can often be problematic, particularly when the complainant is not cooperative.

How long does it take to be brought before a judge if I am arrested?

Usually within 24 hours.

Can a policeman release me from the police station once I have been arrested or do I have to be brought before a judge?

Yes the officer in charge can release you with either a summons or a promise to appear instead of bringing you before a judge-however this decision is his to make based upon his/her discretion as to the danger that you pose and the risk of you appearing as required.

Can conditions in a promise to appear be changed after I am released?

Your lawyer may make a request before the court to have any or all of the conditions modified at or after your arraignment in court.

Can I make telephone calls upon arrest?

You are entitled to speak with an attorney of your choice and the officer should facilitate that contact as soon as is practical.

Can I call a lawyer upon arrest?

You are entitled to speak with an attorney of your choice and the officer should facilitate that contact as soon as is practical. The delay depends upon the circumstances of the arrest. It is best never to speak with police officers before you have spoken with your lawyer. Anything that you say verbally or in writing can be used against you later in court, so remaining silent is the safest option until you have consulted a lawyer.

Should I speak with a legal aid lawyer or can I insist on speaking to my own lawyer?

If you have a specific lawyer who you wish to consult with upon your arrest, you have the right to try to contact him. The police just facilitate this as best that they can. However, depending on the circumstances of the arrest and the delay during which your lawyer responds, the police officer is not obliged to wait indefinitely. At that point, it would be wise to speak with ‘duty counsel’ at legal aid.

How long do the policemen have to wait until allowing me to speak with a lawyer?

This depends entirely on the circumstances and on the urgency of the matter.

Am I allowed to ask for a lawyer during my interview with a police officer?

Yes, at any time during the interview, you may ask to consult with your lawyer.

Are the police allowed to search my car?

The police are permitted to search your vehicle if the search is incident to your arrest and limited to ensure their safety. Beyond that, the police ought to seek a warrant to search further.

Are the police allowed to search me personally?

The police are permitted to search your person incident to your arrest in order to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

Are the police allowed to search my home?

Other than in exigent circumstances or if you consent to their search, police must have a properly signed search warrant authorizing the search of your home.

Are the police allowed to search my work place?

Other than in exigent circumstances or if the person with authority consents to the search, police must have a properly signed search warrant authorizing the search of a place of work.

Are the police allowed to seize my computer?

Police require a warrant to search and seize a computer unless the search or seizure is incident to arrest.

Are the police allowed to seize my cell phone or smartphone?

Police require a warrant to search and seize your cellphone or smartphone, unless the seizure is incident to arrest.

Am I obliged to furnish the police with the passwords to my cellphone, smartphone or computer?

No, you are not obliged to furnish the police with passwords of either your computer or your smartphone.

Do I have to speak to a police officer if he asks me questions?

No, you are under no obligation to speak with police officers or to answer their questions, other than to identify yourself.

If a police officer intercepts my car, must I obey if he orders me to blow into a roadside screening device?

The short answer is yes. If the officer orders you to furnish a sample of your breath you must obey this order. If the officer has not conducted himself properly and according to law, the results of your test can later be challenged in court by your lawyer.

If a police officer intercepts my car and brings me to the police station and orders me to blow into a ‘breathalyzer’ machine, do I have to blow?

The short answer is yes. If the officer orders you to furnish a sample of your breath you must obey this order. If the officer has not conducted himself properly and according to law, the results of your test can later be challenged in court by your lawyer.

What happens if I refuse to furnish a sample of breath after a police officer orders me to?

If you refuse to furnish a breath sample, you may be charged with the criminal offence of “refusal to furnish a sample”, a serious criminal offence.

Why did the police seize my car and suspend my drivers permit even though I have not yet been to court for the impaired driving charges?

Under the provisions of the Highway Safety Code, police officers have the authority to seize your vehicle and to suspend your license immediately upon arrest for certain driving offences, specifically impaired driving, driving over the lea.

How long will I lose my license for if I am convicted of impaired driving or driving over the legal limit?

That depends on whether your conviction is a first offence or not. You can assume that for a first offence, you will lose your permit for a minimum of three months under the provisions of the Highway Safety Code and twelve months under the Criminal Code of Canada. It is best to consult an attorney for information as to the various modalities of the various suspensions.

How long will I lose my license for if I am convicted for refusing to provide a breath sample?

You will lose your license for at least six months under the Highway Safety Code and 12 months under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Can I still be charged with simple possession of marijuana?

Yes

What is an arraignment?

An arraignment is the term for the first time that you appear before a judge. Often, your attorney may represent you for the arraignment, saving you the obligation to appear personally.

What is a ‘Pro Form’a hearing?

A pro forma hearing is essentially a court date where an accused or his lawyer must attend in order to discuss the progress of the file or make decisions as to what will be forthcoming for that file. Pro Forma hearings are useful for both crown attorneys, defence attorneys and judges to discuss, resolve and keep the file moving to it’s ultimate conclusion.

What is a preliminary hearing?

A preliminary hearing is a hearing wherein the Crown attorney must show sufficient evidence of a crime and an accused participation in the crime to justify the holding of a full trial.

When does an accused have a jury trial vs a judge alone trial?

Offences that are punishable by indictment and that are punishable for a term of imprisonment for longer than five years may be subject to a jury trial. Other than for serious offences like murder, the decision as to whether to be tried by a judge or a judge and jury is largely left to the accused.

If I am charged with an offence can I travel to the United States?

A person that is charged but not convicted of a criminal offence can typically travel to the United States. However, ultimately, permission to enter the United States is at the discretion of the Border Services Agency and as such, entry is never assured even for those who have not been convicted.

If I am convicted with an offence, can I travel to the United States?

For most offences, entry to the United States will be forbidden unless an application for a waiver has been granted.

Should I consult with a lawyer immediately or should I wait until after my court appearance?

It is always best to consult with an experienced criminal attorney immediately upon any indication that you are being investigated for a criminal act. Waiting until your arrest or appearance is often a regrettable mistake.

If I am acquitted, do I still have a criminal record?

No, but there is a process that must be undertaken to ensure that computer records of your charges are properly expunged. An attorney can help with that process.

If I am acquitted, can I have my fingerprints and photographs destroyed from the system?

An attorney can facilitate this process.

What is a peace bond?

A peace bond is a court order which subjects the signatory to respect certain conditions, such as to keep the peace and be of good conduct and often includes prohibitions from contacting specific people or frequenting specific places where there may be a risk of danger or violence.

Prepare your  Defence with Daniel Lighter

See Criminal Code Offences

Contact Us for Legal Advice