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Toronto Crimes & Misdemeanours Law Blog

What rights do I have before, during and after an arrest?

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically addresses the rights of individuals who have been detained by police or charged with a crime. If the police detain or arrest you, then you have a right to be told the reason why. The charter also states that everyone "has a right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure."

If at any point before, during or after an arrest your charter rights are violated, then the charge against you may be challenged on those grounds. With these matters in mind, let's consider a number of other rights that could be violated by police or prosecutors.

Man accused of Toronto assault exonerated by video evidence

Deception may not be their intention, but witnesses in criminal cases are not always reliable. As time passes, memory fades or becomes a distortion of the actual event, and often people develop inaccurate reconstructions that could potentially lead to the conviction of the accused. Witnesses may also be susceptible to undue influence from police officers and prosecutors, and cross-examination by a criminal defence lawyer is needed to arrive at the facts of the matter.

A judge in Toronto recently found inconsistencies in witness accounts of an alleged assault in a shopping mall. The defendant, a young man from South Sudan, was jailed for seven months prior to his trial. He was accused of shoving an elderly woman down a staircase, but surveillance video of the incident in question led to his exoneration.

Understanding specific kinds of sex crime charges involving minors

Because allegations of sexual offences involving minors evoke such strong public reaction, and because the penalties for such crimes are extremely serious, anyone accused of a child sex offence should have legal representation the moment it becomes apparent that an investigation could happen. Not everyone accused of a child sex offence is guilty, and in any case, the prosecution will tell its side of the story. Every defendant has a right to tell his or hers.

If you have been charged with a sex crime involving a minor, then the first thing you need to understand is the nature of the specific charge. For example, consider the charge of sexual exploitation.

Mandatory minimum sentence avoided after police violate Charter rights

Some criminal charges result in mandatory minimum sentences upon conviction. For example, a person accused of Internet luring, which usually involves use of the Internet to solicit sexual acts or favors from a minor, can face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year.

However, every case is different and must be scrutinized for mistakes on the part of police and prosecutors. Sometimes police violate the Charter rights of the accused, and sometimes prosecutors leave out additional evidence that might help the defendant's case. With these issues in mind, consider an Oshawa judge's recent sentencing of a man who was charged with Internet luring.

Preparing a custom defence in domestic violence cases

Recently we discussed a new method of risk assessment being used by Ontario police officers investigating domestic violence calls. The officers use 13 questions to determine whether the person accused of domestic violence is likely to re-offend, and depending on the factors in the case, the assessment could be used in court to oppose bail for the accused.

Generally, when police are called to the scene of a domestic incident, you can assume that an arrest is likely. Someone is probably going to jail, even if the evidence never leads to a conviction. What is certain is that anyone accused of a domestic violence crime will need effective legal representation to resolve the matter.

Police in Ontario using new risk assessment in domestic incidents

Individuals accused of domestic violence in Ontario often encounter obstacles to being released on bail. This can limit not only an accused individual's ability to move about freely while mounting a criminal defence; the terms of release on bail can also affect matters of child custody and access, as well as the accused person's right to return to the home where the domestic incident allegedly occurred.

Police in Ontario have started using a new assessment tool to determine whether a person accused of domestic violence should be released on bail. Recently in Hamilton, a court considered the Ontario Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment (ODARA) before denying bail to a man facing a charge of domestic assault. The police claim that ODARA can accurately predict the likelihood that a person accused of domestic violence will re-offend in the next five years.

Police dragnet sweeps up 33 in Southwestern Ontario

With large-scale drug investigations, there is a risk of innocent people getting caught up in the dragnet. Sometimes police and prosecutors become overzealous and charge people whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong crime. After all, just because you are in the presence of someone in possession of drugs does not necessarily mean that you are guilty of a drug offence.

Thirty-three people have been charged in connection with a drug investigation that the OPP says started in 2012. Ages of the defendants range from youth to middle age, and the charges mostly relate to possession and trafficking of drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

Etobicoke woman cleared of failing to provide breath sample

An exhaustive, detail-oriented approach is typically necessary to defend successfully against a charge of impaired driving or driving over 80. While many people are charged with impaired driving each year in Ontario, not everyone accused of this offence is guilty. To arrive at the facts of the matter, these questions should be asked:

  • Was the traffic stop legal?
  • Were any of the driver's Charter rights violated?
  • Is testimony from the arresting officer or officers consistent?
  • Was the breath test valid?

All of these matters came up in the case of an Etobicoke woman who was charged with failure to provide a breath sample during a traffic stop in December 2012. She was eventually acquitted, but not before her licence was suspended and her vehicle was impounded.

Negative repercussions follow false allegations of sexual assault

A person doesn't have to be convicted of a crime for allegations of sexual misconduct to have devastating consequences. If you have been accused of sexual assault or another sex-related offence, then you are facing the possibility of serious reputation damage and loss of your employment, and it is important to have a skilled criminal defence lawyer to intervene on your behalf as soon as possible.

The repercussions of unsubstantiated allegations can affect an accused individual for years to come and beyond the borders of Canada. Consider the unfortunate case of a British Columbia man, a former police officer who was accused of sexual assault by his foster daughter. No charges were ever filed, however, and the man has no criminal record. Still, the discredited allegations cost him a chance at new employment.

Supreme Court: Police don't need a warrant to search your cellphone

In a controversial judgement, the Supreme Court of Canada recently decided that police officers are not required to obtain a warrant to search a suspect's cellphone. The 4-3 decision drew criticism from privacy experts, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

A director of that organization compared warrantless cellphone searches to "finding a house key in a pat down search and then using that key to conduct a warrantless search of the arrestee's house."