Hiring a criminal defence lawyer – What should I look for in hiring a criminal defence lawyer?
Mark: Hi It’s Mark Bossert Top Local Lead Generation. We’re interviewing Troy Anderson, he’s a criminal defence lawyer here in Vancouver and today we’re discussing something interesting – How do you hire a criminal defence lawyer. So Troy, what should I look for when I’m hiring a criminal defence lawyer?
Troy: The first thing I tell people to look for when you’re hiring a criminal defence lawyer is you want to make you are hiring someone who is actually a criminal defence lawyer, not a general practitioner who dabbles in the area of criminal defence. Criminal defence has it’s own particular rules of evidence, the criminal code is a huge book, it involves the Canada Evidence Act as well, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Standard of Proof is different than it would be than for example in a civil case. So the first thing I would want to know is, is the lawyer I am considering somebody who practises exclusively or at the very least regularly in the area of criminal defence.
The second thing I would ask is what experience does this lawyer have in the particular area that I’m being charged in. For example, if I’m being charged with drug trafficking, I’d want to know that lawyers experience in defending drug trafficking cases; if I’m being charged with a sexual assault, I would want to know his or her experience in dealing with sexual assault cases. That’s a great example because they have even more additional rules of evidence and different hurdles you have to get over in order to properly defend yourself in that area, so that is what I would first consider.
I’d also want to consider the budget that I have obviously. Lawyers are free to charge basically any rates they want, so you want to sit down and discuss with that person you’re considering hiring what your budget is and whether or not you can afford the person. And then finally, and I think people tend to overlook this, you want to sit down and spend the time with the lawyer to determine whether or not you’re a good fit. This is somebody you’re going to spend a lot of time with, you’re putting a very important part of your life in that lawyers hands and so you want to make sure you have a rapport, they’re somebody you trust, they’re somebody you get along with and they’re somebody you feel comfortable talking to. Those are the three major areas I tell people to consider.
Mark: So what’s the mechanism, how do I actually go about hiring a lawyer?
Troy: Well the simplest thing to do is to phone the number that you see on the bottom of your screen and you give me a call. You would speak to either me or my assistant and we set up a meeting at which point we’ll discuss you case; we discuss whatever documents you have so far, it may be a promise to appear, it may be a summons to court, you may have the entire police report. We’d go over that material and you consider the three things that we just talked about – the budget, the area of expertise and whether or not you get along with that person. At that point, a lawyer should be able to come up with a general plan about how to proceed. It’s not going to be this is how we’re going to conduct the trial and this is how we’re going to win, but should be able to give you a general idea of how the matter is likely to proceed based on, in my case, the experience that I’ve had in dealing with cases similar in the past. That’s generally how you go about doing it – keeping in mind those three areas that I mentioned at the outset.
Mark: So, when should one consider hiring a criminal defence lawyer?
Troy: If you think you might need one, the chances are you do need one. If the police are contacting you that’s a very good indication that you should be talking to a criminal defence lawyer. If you’re sitting in jail, awaiting a bail hearing you need to contact a criminal defence lawyer. If you get a summons in the mail, if you have the police knocking on your door in the middle of the night with a search warrant, those are all very good indications you need a criminal defence lawyer. Basically any time the police want to talk to you, it’s a good idea to get some legal advice.
Mark: What can I expect my criminal defence lawyer to do?
Troy: Well very briefly, it’s going to depend on the circumstances of your case. But some of the things that are common to every case – you’re going to sit down with a lawyer and you’re going to discuss what you are actually charged with, so the specifics of your own, personal situation. The lawyer is then going to then go over the generalities of how criminal cases go. So for example, we may discuss how to proceed through a trial, what kinds of trials are available to you; it may be a judge and jury trial, it may be a provincial court trial. We’ll probably discuss a little bit about the availability of something like a plea bargain. We will talk about getting access to all the police reports of the evidence that the Crown is going to attempt to use against you. We’ll talk about all the various lead ups to what occurs in court. Then what we’re going to do it talk about what can happen in court and as you proceed through the case your lawyer should be in regular contact with you, so you have an idea about what’s going on with your case. So for example, if you’re showing up for a first appearance, if I was representing you, I would attend on your behalf, hopefully you’ve got the entirety of the police report available to pick up. I would pick that up, I’d make a copy and then the client and I would sit down and go over the material. I would then give the client a copy of it and he or she would take some time to review it on their own so they can tell me what they recall about what the events that were referred to in the police report. So you will get a statement from somebody that may allege an assault, for example, and my client may say, ‘Well it was nothing like that and here is everything that is wrong with this persons statement.’ We then meet again and we talk about what is wrong or misleading in the police report and we begin to plot trial strategy. Those are all things your lawyer will be doing for you, those are the less obvious things. The obvious things are representing you in court, so if you are on bail, making sure your bail conditions are reasonable, if necessary applying to amend your bail so they are conditions you can live with. Obviously getting you out on bail may be something your lawyer may need to do. having discussions with the Crown, demanding disclosure of everything you’re entitled to – so, witness statements, forensic reports for example, photographs, videos, any maps or other documents the Crown may be relying upon – and then obviously preparing for the trial. That involves not only the legal research into the area that you’re going to be arguing about, but as well making sure that the client is ready for trial. Part of it is making sure the client knows what to expect, it can be something as simple as where do I stand once the case is called, what if the judge talks to me – do I have to say anything, how should I dress for court. Once you get into court, what I like to do is explain to the client what I foresee happening. So the Crown for example, may call witness X, witness Y and then witness Z, then we’re going to hear from a police officer, then we’re going to hear from an expert witness and then the Crown will close their case and that’s when we get our chance to present the defence. So those are the more obvious things -at it’s heart you’re paying a lawyer to look after your interests throughout the entire proceeding – that is the essence of it.
Mark: Pretty straight forward, so Troy, one thing that occurred to me to ask you about is what is your experience as a criminal defence lawyer?
Troy: I’ve been defending people in the area of criminal defence for almost twenty years now. I began once I finished law school in May of 1994 and been going pretty much solid ever since. I was called to the bar in September 1995 here in Vancouver, BC and have been practising criminal defence here ever since. Now, that is not to say it’s been exclusively criminal defence, I’m one of a group of people that gets approached from time to time to act as what they call an Ad Hoc Prosecutor. So I have all that experience going at criminal law from the other side that is building up a case to attempt to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt, so I have the experience of going at it from that end.
Mark: So I imagine that’s probably a pretty nice advantage really having gone through, how to build a case, how to be able to defend against a well built or not well build case.
Troy: It gives you a great deal of insight. You know the old saying ‘If you want to know how to tear something down it helps if you know how it was built in the first place.’ So yes, I think it does help you when you’ve had the experience knowing what you’d need to prove, it helps you spot the areas that’s perhaps the Crown has overlooked – so it may give you an advantage in tearing down the case, yes that’s true.
Mark: Alright, I think that’s covered it for this week. We’ve been speaking with Troy Anderson. He’s a criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver, BC. You can reach him at troyandersonlaw.com – he’s got a lot of articles and information there about case results etc or you could just call him 604-638-9188. Thanks a lot Troy, we’ll see you next week.
Troy: Thank you Mark