How Can I Get My Criminal Charges Dropped in Ottawa?
Once you are arrested and charged with a crime in Ottawa, there is very little you can do personally to get the charges dropped.
The best course of action is to cooperate with law enforcement but say as little as possible about your case as it may harm your defence.
Ask to speak to your lawyer at the first opportunity. Afterwards, the responsibility will rest with your lawyer to persuade the prosecution to drop the charges or to seek a “stay” of charges.
Much depends on the nature of the criminal charge against you, the actions of law enforcement when arresting and charging you, and the quality of the evidence against you.
What does it mean if criminal charges are withdrawn or stayed?
If your criminal charges are withdrawn by the Crown, it is the same as if they were dropped:
- No further court appearances about this charge will be necessary
- It won’t appear on your criminal record
- You cannot be prosecuted later for the same incident
If criminal charges against you are stayed, it means that you will not be prosecuted now but the prosecution can be pursued at a later date. Usually the prosecution can be pursued within a year but sometimes even after that date.
How do you increase the chance of criminal charges being dropped?
Sometimes, your lawyer may advise you to take actions that will increase the likelihood of charges against you being withdrawn or stayed. This is more likely for minor summary offences and may not be an option in more serious cases.
For instance, if you are accused of uttering threats against another person, your lawyer may recommend you taking an anger management class.
This might convince the Crown that you are taking corrective action for your behaviour and that there is no need to waste public money in prosecuting you. If it is deemed to be contrary to the public interest to prosecute you, charges can be dropped.
Other actions you might take that could convince the Crown not to pursue a prosecution may include:
- Entering into a peace bond
- Pleading guilty to some charges if other ones are dropped
- Completing a diversion program (a voluntary program designed to keep minor offenders out of prison, whereby you agree to participate in exchange for charges being dropped)
What is a Crown Screening form?
Early on in your case, you may receive a Crown Screening form (also known as a Charge Screening form), which informs you of how the prosecution will handle your charges.
It details the following:
- The sentence that the Crown will request
- Whether pleading guilty early will result in dropped charges (a “plea deal”)
- Your diversion options, if applicable
Appoint an experienced criminal lawyer
Once you receive the Crown Screening form, it is important to discuss your options with your criminal defence lawyer before making any decisions.
The decisions you make next could affect not only your immediate future but your longer-term one too.
Experienced criminal defence lawyers are familiar with the process of liaising and negotiating with the Crown prosecution, presenting a case for charges to be withdrawn, stayed, or downgraded.
Your lawyer can advise you whether a plea bargain is your best option – never plead guilty to a crime or attempt to provide evidence to the Crown without speaking first to a defence lawyer.
Most criminal lawyers will generally request a retainer to represent you. If you can’t afford the fees charged by a criminal defence lawyer, you may be eligible for legal aid and receive advice from a duty counsel at the courthouse.
Your best chance of having the charges dropped is to hire a defence lawyer as soon as possible after you are arrested and charged.
Will you need a Crown pre-trial?
After you are charged, in addition to the Crown Screening form, you will receive instructions on how to schedule a Crown pre-trial.
This is the first chance that your lawyer will have to discuss your case with the prosecution. It is important that this meeting is scheduled for as soon as possible after you have received the relevant information pertaining to your case.
At the Crown pre-trial, your lawyer will liaise with the prosecution in an attempt to:
- Resolve your charges
- Negotiate that charges are dropped in exchange for completing diversion
- Request further information from the Crown
- Sort out the practicalities of the trial including the projected trial length, interpretation needs, etc.
By scheduling this hearing as soon as possible, you ensure there are no delays and lower the potential stress of waiting to know whether your charges can be dropped.
If your charges remain after the Crown pre-trial your lawyer may request a judicial pre-trial to keep negotiating with the prosecution, set a trial date, or plead guilty.
Important note: Even if a complainant wants the charges against you dropped and your lawyer pushes for it, the Crown may not agree to it. You can still be prosecuted and tried in a criminal court in Ontario.
This is particularly common in domestic abuse cases, for example, where one spouse has filed charges against the other and later withdraws the accusations.
The best chance of getting criminal charges in Ottawa dropped…
Whether evidence is inadmissible due to the mistakes of police officers, your Charter rights were breached or evidence is open to question, there are many reasons why charges are dropped in criminal cases in Ontario.
Your chances of getting charges withdrawn increase if you seek the assistance of an experienced criminal lawyer.
If your charges aren’t completely dropped, they may be stayed or reduced. Either way, these decisions are critical to your immediate and longer-term future.
Don’t take any chances. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime in Ottawa, contact one of the experienced criminal lawyers at Affordable Defence for a free case evaluation.