How To Fight Criminal Charges
Criminal charges are distinct from tickets under the Highway Traffic Act in that they fall under the Criminal Code. THEY SHOULD BE TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY. At very worst, a criminal conviction can affect your standing with professional associations, your ability to land employment or travel and YOU COULD GO TO PRISON. These charges can be laid for something as simple as talking back to a police officer. DON'T PANIC. YOU CAN BEAT THIS. ARC strongly recommends you get a lawyer. ARC has a list of lawyers who have helped cyclists in the past.
GETTING ARRESTED AND DEALING WITH THE POLICE
It can't be stressed enough that you should never talk to the cops without a lawyer once you have been arrested. You have a right to get a lawyer. If they violate that right it might mean an acquittal. Most importantly, you have the right to shut up. Exercise that right. Don't start spouting off about what rights you have. Telling the cops you know your rights might very well earn you a trip to jail. Sure you have rights in court, at trial, BUT WITH COPS YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS! Cops can (and do) do anything they want to. There are very few remedies available to you even when they do violate your constitutional rights. If you're lucky, it could mean getting the charges stayed at trial or on appeal but that's a year or more from now, after you've spent a lot of money on a defence. Right now you are entirely at their mercy. The best thing to do is clam up and call a lawyer. If you feel you have been unfairly treated by the police you will find information in this package about laying a complaint against an officer. (Be aware this could have an impact on your case.)
THE FIRST THING TO DO
Obtain as much information as possible at the scene. There will be some information such as the charge and the name and badge number of the arresting officer on your ticket. Don't do anything to bother the charging officer, they may go out of their way to ensure the charges stick. DO THIS IMMEDIATELY:
- Write down what happened as soon as possible after receiving the ticket. Include the location, direction of travel, the incident, witnesses, etc. Obtain as much information as possible at the scene. Sign and date it.
- Witnesses: Get their phone number or contact information. Ask them to make a signed and dated statement of events as soon as possible. Any video tape evidence should be sealed in an envelope as soon as possible. The fewer people who touch the tape the better. CONTACT ARC FOR HELP. We may be able to assist your case by suggesting some PROVEN STRATEGIES.
After being charged you will receive a date and location to APPEAR IN COURT. You have to attend this hearing. At that time, a judge will set a trial date which could be as much as a year in the future. Be aware that the apparatus of justice takes itself very seriously-and so should you. Ideally you want your charges to be dropped before your COURT DATE or hope the arresting officer does not appear and the charges are dismissed. If the case goes before a judge try and get as many witnesses as possible to bolster your case. Witnesses will have to appear before the court. Any other collaborating evidence for the court should be concise and well-organized. Police officers aren't above lying and Judges tend to believe police officers. If it goes to court be prepared for disappointment. To the best of our knowledge this information was accurate when printed (August 1999). ARC cannot be held liable for the outcome of acting on this information, and recommends that you seek professional legal advice.