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If you haven’t retained a criminal lawyer yet and ended up at court on your own, don’t worry because you should have no problem finding a lawyer. Criminal lawyers can be found everywhere in a courthouse – courtrooms, hallways, cafeteria, etc. I highly encourage any unrepresented accused persons to approach these lawyers and ask them for a minute of their time to discuss any questions or concerns. A large number of solicitor-client relationships are in fact established in the halls of courthouses all across Ontario.

Duty counsel and duty crown are not the same thing

Duty counsel are typically Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyers, who provide immediate legal assistance to anyone who appears in court without a lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer and you’re attending court for a first appearance, then the first person you want to speak to is duty counsel. This should not be confused with the ‘duty crown’ or ‘resolution crown’, who is a crown attorney/prosecutor assigned a certain role for a particular day (e.g. meeting with defence counsels to discuss resolving matters). The last thing you want to do is confuse the two and start providing the wrong individual details of your matter

If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer through a private retainer, then you’ll want to contact Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) as soon as possible to submit an application for financial assistance in retaining a lawyer. Call LAO on their toll-free number at 1-800-668-8258 or visit the LAO website at www.legalaid.on.ca for more information. If you don't qualify for legal Toronto criminal lawyer aid for whatever reason, then consider retaining a criminal lawyer from JusticeNet. JusticeNet is a not-for-profit service helping people in need of legal expertise, whose income is too high to access legal aid and too low to afford standard legal fees. Visit www.justicenet.ca to find participating lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals who dedicate a portion of their practice to individuals who qualify for such services.

Expect another court date, not objections and courtroom drama

Individuals who have lawyers will be addressed first and then duty counsel will assist self-represented accused persons typically in the order of the court docket for that day which is ordered alphabetically by last name. Be prepared for a long, uneventful and repetitive wait, where everyone’s matter is being adjourned to a later date.

Don’t speak directly to the crown, avoid discussion about your matter