If you are the victim of a crime, or a witness to an offence, there are a number of reasons why you should consider consulting a criminal lawyer. Firstly, a criminal lawyer can help with understanding the criminal process. Secondly, the police or the crown attorney are not your representatives. And, thirdly, a criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights and how to protect them.
In Ontario, there are numerous assistance services for victims. However, none of them are equipped or able to provide legal advice. Consequently, there is no substitute for having a criminal lawyer if you are looking for victim/witness assistance.
The criminal process for victims/witnesses
Witnesses are a key part of any criminal proceeding. Indeed, without witnesses there is no evidence for the court to rely on. For a person to be a witness, the person must be competent and compellable. In addition, the witness must have material evidence to give in a criminal proceeding.
Victims and witnesses will often have misconceptions about the criminal process. For example, a common misconception is that the crown attorney is acting in the best interest of the victim or the witness. When in fact the crown attorney must act in the public interest. In many cases, the public interest and the interest of the victim/witness overlap. However, this is not always the case. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the crown attorney is not your lawyer.
Another common misunderstanding is that the victim/witness can terminate the prosecution. However, the police make the decision to charge an individual and the prosecution decides whether to proceed or not. In many cases, the voice of the victim/witness is diminished in favour of the public interest. That’s why it’s important to speak with a criminal lawyer if you are looking for victim/witness assistance.
In addition, unrepresented witnesses and victims are often unaware of their rights. In the past, spouses were incompetent to testify against each other in a criminal proceeding. This rule of “spousal incompetency” was abolished for good reason. However, there are rights that still apply in the context of a spousal relationship. For example, a spouse cannot be forced to give evidence that would reveal communication made during the marriage. This spousal privilege belongs to the witness. That means that it cannot be waived without the consent of the witness.
Free consultation for victims/witnessses
In many cases, the victim/witness is new to the criminal process and is unaware of the potential consequences. For instance, you may unwillingly contribute to a particular disposition in a criminal case when that was not the resolution you seek or want.
The law office of Deniz Sarikaya has represented victims and witnesses in all types of criminal cases. As a result, we can advocate on your behalf and advise you of your rights. Are you a victim or a witness in a criminal case? If so, call 647-282-5777 for a free consulation.