Legal Aid is a corporation designed to provide legal services for low-income individuals who otherwise cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent them. Within in the area of criminal law, Legal Aid primarily provides legal services through the Lawyer Certificate Program and the Duty Counsel Program. For FAQ on Legal Aid, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Legal Aid Lawyer in Toronto
Legal representation is an essential component in our criminal justice system, but it is not one that everyone is legally entitled under our Constitution. Legal Aid lawyers provide an invaluable service to our legal system and provide a voice to those who would otherwise be forced to represent themselves before our courts.
The purpose of this page is to help you understand the application process when applying for Legal Aid and how to hire a Legal Aid Lawyer. If you have a quick question have a look at the FAQs with respect to Legal Aid, or contact me personally. If you have been approved for Legal Aid and have a Legal Aid certificate contact me today.
The Challenges of Hiring a Legal Aid Lawyer
Finding a lawyer that you can trust and feel comfortable hiring can be challenging enough, however finding a lawyer that has been approved by Legal Aid and that is willing to take on your case can be even more difficult. If you qualify for a Legal Aid certificate, not just any lawyer can represent you. You have to find a lawyer who has been approved by Legal Aid to represent individuals on criminal matters.
The Legal Aid website does not have a list of lawyers that are on the Criminal Legal Aid Panel that are authorized to take on your case. Simply put, it is your responsibility to find a lawyer who is willing to accept your case.
One of the methods Legal Aid recommends when you are looking for a Legal Aid lawyer is that you ask family and friends to recommend someone. The downside to this approach is that you may not want to tell family or friends that you have been charged with a criminal offence.
Another approach recommended by Legal Aid is to contact the Law Society Referral Service. Although, the Law Society does have a list of lawyers who are willing to accept Legal Aid certificates, the Law Society Referral Service can only draw from a list of lawyers who are registered with program. In addition, if you do contact the Law Society Referral Service, you will only be provided with the name a one lawyer to contact.
Your best approach at this point in time may be to do an internet search for legal aid lawyers in your city or attend at the Duty Counsel office at the courthouse and ask for the names of a few legal aid lawyers and then research each of these lawyers.
If you have been approved for Legal Aid and you are looking for a lawyer to accept your case, contact me immediately.
The services provided by Duty Counsel are essential but are also limited in nature. Duty counsel layers will often be able to assist you understand what your legal rights are, inform you about basic courtroom conduct and procedures, and what your obligations are to the court. Duty counsel will also be able to assist you with bail hearings, guilty pleas, and adjournments.
Lawyer Certificate Program
The Lawyer Certificate Program allows individuals with low household incomes to retain a lawyer to represent them on criminal charges. Simply put, the certificate acts a voucher that a person can take to any lawyer who is qualified and willing to accept the certificate. The Legal Aid certificate also ensures the legal aid lawyer will be paid by Legal Aid up to a certain number of hours of legal work.
Depending upon how serious the criminal charges are, you may have to find a Legal Aid lawyer that has been approved to defend the charges against you. For example, if you have been charged with a very serious offence such as murder, you must find a Legal Aid lawyer who has been approved by Legal Aid to take on more serious criminal charges.
Part of the Lawyer Certificate Program is the Legal Aid Contribution Program. Under the contribution program, Legal Aid will expect that you pay back some or all of your legal fees, which are provided up front by Legal Aid. If you qualify for the contribution program, you will be provided with a Legal Aid certificate, which you can use to hire a lawyer approved to take on legal aid cases. The only difference between being approved for a Legal Aid certificate and being approved for the contribution program is that the contribution program requires that you pay some or all of your legal fees back to Legal Aid over a period of several months or years.
According to the current guidelines posted on the Legal Aid website, you may be required to repay anywhere from $50 a month to $115 or more per month. The Legal Aid website also outlines the methods you can repay some or all of your legal fees and what your options are when you cannot afford to pay.
Eligibility for a Legal Aid Certificate
To qualify for a Legal Aid certificate for a criminal matter you must meet both the financial eligibility requirement and your matter must be serious enough.
The financial requirement is based primarily upon your household income and whether you own any property. The Legal Aid website offers a rough guideline of when you are likely to qualify for a legal aid certificate, based upon the number of family members residing in your home and the total household income. There are also guidelines that outline when you might qualify for the contribution program.
Where you own property of any significant value it is unlikely that you will qualify for a Legal Aid certificate. The expectation will be that you can take a loan against your property to help fund your legal costs, rather than using Legal Aid resources.
The Seriousness of Your Legal Matter
You are likely to qualify for a Legal Aid certificate where the Crown Attorney has indicated on the Crown Screening Form that it is seeking a jail sentence, or it is reasonable to conclude that upon being found guilty of the charges against you that you are likely to be sentenced to period in jail. Where the Crown Attorney is not seeking a jail, it is unlikely that you qualify for a Legal Aid certificate.
In determining the seriousness of the criminal charges against you, Legal Aid will likely also consider any mitigating and aggravating circumstances that may make it more likely or less likely that you might receive a jail sentence if you are convicted.
Be Prepared to Meet with Your Legal Aid Lawyer
Your Legal Aid certificate does not grant your lawyer to work an unlimited amount of billable hours on your case. It is essential that you and your lawyer use the time available as efficiently and productively as possible.
When you meet with your lawyer for the first time you should do the following;
- Bring all court documents you have received.
- Bring your Legal Aid certificate.
- Bring some form of identification.
- Write down all the questions you have for your lawyer, and write down the answers to your questions.
- Write down any important details of your case that you feel your lawyer should know.
If you have been approved for Legal Aid contact me today.