Presumption of Innocence

There is always discussions about the role of the criminal justice system and how the courts go about finding a defendant responsible for their alleged crimes.

Until a defendant enters an informed guilty plea – stating I understand that I have done what the Crown has said I have done, I do not wish to challenge the evidence and I understand that I will be punished, everyone charged is presumed innocent.

Is this to let scoundrels get off on a technicality – No. This is the system for everyone charged in Canada. Why is it so you ask?

Imagine that you live in a small town. No one likes you because you are different. One day the well is filled with old tires and no one can get any drinking water. You and your family were sleeping when it happened, but who do you think would get blamed first? That is right, you would and no one would believe you no matter what you said and how often you denied it.

Is that fair? So instead of making you prove why you are innocent – proving a negative. Someone in the community has to prove a positive – who did it. This can be done using pictures, statements from others who did or did not see what happened, finger prints, foot prints, what ever is needed.

At the end of the day, if there is evidence, showing almost 100% a stranger did it, you will be found not guilty.

Is that not a better system?

Racial Profiling

There has been a lot of commentary in the media about racial profiling and carding by police. Which means that the police are focusing on a particular group or race, stopping and investigating these group members more than other groups. Recently, the police have been using these stops to gather information about members of the group, their friends and associates- that is carding them (filling out information). The police have stated that they need these investigative stops and information to know who is doing what for future cases.

Members of the group that the police focus on, are concerned and want profiling and carding to stop. Although, the Toronto Police Service have stopped the practice, municipalities such as Peel still card.

What does that mean for a community member. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that the you have a right to not be subject to unreasonable stops and searches, and you have a right to be told of why you are being stopped. However, the police have a right to investigate criminal matters that they are called about and to stop and investigate anyone, to find out if they are the culprit, or know something about the matter. Which means the police have a right to stop and investigate a particular matter.

If the police, are not investigating a particular recent offense, you have the right to not answer any questions, (such as providing your name or address) or to not consent to the search of your person (pockets, bags, knapsacks) and walk away.

You can ask the officer for their badge number and name, ask for their business card. If not provided to you, take a note of the squad car license plate, the time, date and area you are in.
With this information, you can make a complaint to the police division.

Impact of drugs

Although there has been much in the news about legalizing marihuana, unfortunately it is still not legal unless you are medically allowed to grow and consume it. By medically allowed, it is not someone self-diagnosing themselves with an illness, it is obtaining a doctor’s referral and obtaining a license from Health Canada.

What can happen if you do not have legal authorization to have marihuana, you can be charged with possession of a controlled substance, if you have a small amount, or possession for the purpose of trafficking if you have an amount that is more than personal use, or is divided into little baggies. Trafficking means giving it, selling it, holding it for someone else. If you have any money on you, that may be seized as proceeds of crime-that is you got this money selling drugs. These are offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act., and Criminal Code of Canada.

Although you may get a blue slip of paper, it is a police order to appear at court and for your prints on a particular day and place. If you do not do so, you will be charged with failing to appear for court and/or failing to appear for prints which will cause you to be arrested and possibly held overnight. You will have to contact someone to sign a bail for you.

The police and the Crown may try to seize your money, car, house under the Civil Forfeiture Act, 2001, claiming you got these illegal activity or will use it for illegal activity in the future. You may not even be charged.

If you are found guilty of possession or possession for the purpose of trafficking you will have a criminal record, you will be stopped from going to the United States, you will have difficulty, getting work or volunteering. If you are an adult this record will be with you forever unless you get a criminal record suspension.

Impaired by Drugs

Driving while impaired by drugs such as marihuana, results in the same penalties as driving while impaired by alcohol or a combination of alcohol/drugs.

If you are found guilty of being impaired you will have a criminal conviction – a permanent criminal record, you will not be able to drive anywhere in Canada for at least 1 year and will have to pay a minimum fine of $1000 plus a victim fine surcharge. To be able to drive again, you will have to pay any outstanding fines both criminal and Ministry of Transportation fines and charges, pay for and install an Ignition Interlock Device in your car for at least one year, and obtain insurance, which will be very costly.

You may be charged with Impaired Driving because of a RIDE stop, being reported by someone, or a random stop by the police. You could be charged with Impaired Driving, if you are in a collusion, even if it is only you and your vehicle. If you do get into an accident and you are charged with driving while Impaired, your insurance will no longer cover you.

IF you refuse to provide a breath sample, or submit to any eye or walking test, you will be charged with Refuse to Provide Breath Sample and have the same criminal penalties outlined above.

Losing your right to drive and getting a criminal record will have a big impact on your life, work and ability to travel. If you are charged with Impaired, Over .80 or Refuse to Provide Breath Sample, please contact our office right away, so we can properly advise you as to your next steps.

Do not plead guilty until you get advice from our office at 416-469-3443.

Please note, we do not take legal aid certificates for Over .80, Impaired or Refuse to Provide Breath Sample offenses.