FAQ

Q.Is there any way to have the fingerprints and photographs taken by the police destroyed?
A.
If you are acquitted or the charges are withdrawn or stayed by the Crown, an application can be made to the police to have the photographs and fingerprints destroyed. The timing of the destruction will depend on the manner in which the charges are disposed of and the policy of the police force responsible for the charges.

If you are found guilty, then your photographs and fingerprints will remain on file with the police.



Q.
Why not just plead guilty and get it over with?
A.
It is always advisable to speak to a lawyer prior to pleading guilty. A conviction or a finding of guilt (when a discharge is granted) can have serious consequences on your employment and mobility.

Once you have a conviction or finding of guilt on your record, you could be refused entry into certain countries, including the United States. In addition, many professional bodies and industries will not consider you for a job if you have a criminal conviction or finding of guilt on your record. By way of example, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia does not permit a person to be registered as a member if they have been convicted of an indictable offence. Similarly, any conviction or finding of guilt for theft or fraud will likely act as a bar to employment in the financial industry or any job in which you are required to have access to people's money or property.


Q.
Do I always have to attend court in person or can my lawyer appear on my behalf?
A.
On charges in which the Crown is proceeding by way of summary conviction, a lawyer can appear in court on your behalf or you can arrange for someone to appear as your agent. You will be required to attend your trial in person.

On charges where the Crown is proceeding by indictment, you will have to appear in person unless a counsel designation form is filed with the court pursuant to the Criminal Code. A lawyer can appear on your behalf once the counsel designation form has been filed. Again, you will be required to attend your trial in person.


Q.
What should I do to prepare for my first meeting with a lawyer?
A.
It is important to come prepared to your first meeting with a lawyer. This will allow you to ask any questions you have about the process and put you in a position to answer any questions the lawyer may have for you. You should bring all documents that you received from the police or the prosecutor to the meeting. In addition, if you have any relevant documents or photographs you should bring these to the meeting.
Another thing that is often useful to bring to the meeting is a written chronology or summary of your involvement in the matter or relationship with the complainant. Any written documents that you create about your case should clearly be marked at the top with, "FOR MY LAWYER, PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL."

It is best not to discuss your case or show your documents to anyone until you have had a chance to meet with a lawyer.


Q.
What happens on my first appearance in court?
A.
Your first appearance in court (after a bail hearing, if any) will be relatively short. This is not your trial date.
Generally, your first appearance in court will be in front of a judge. If you have a lawyer with you at the appearance you will not be required to say anything as your lawyer will speak on your behalf. If you do not have a lawyer, the judge will ask you if you intend to hire a lawyer or apply for Legal Aid. The matter will then likely be put over for two or three weeks.

During the appearance, it is important to ask the Crown Counsel for a copy of the "particulars," which will set out the details of the case against you. You should bring the original copy of the "particulars" that you receive to your first meeting with a lawyer as this will allow him or her to get a better idea about the nature and complexity of the case and the length of time required for trial. If you are making an application for Legal Aid, you should bring a copy of the "particulars" with you as the person taking the application may need some information about the case before the application can be processed.