Posts in Criminal law
Hot Off the Press - If You're Charged with a Crime
If You're Charged wih a Crime cover

We updated this easy-to-understand brochure with revised content, including a section highlighting our new Aboriginal publications.

If You’re Charged with a Crime outlines:

  • what happens when someone is charged with a criminal offence,

  • the first steps in the court process and the options available,

  • the accused person’s legal rights, and

  • how to get legal aid or other legal help.

Previous editions of this brochure are no longer current; please recycle.

Hot off the Press: Five translations of Is That Legal? What the Law Says about Online Harassment and Abuse
Is That Legal - Arabic

In 2017 in collaboration with West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF), we published the second English edition of Is That Legal? to help youth be safer online when they use social media. Now this popular booklet is also available in Arabic, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Punjabi, and Spanish.

Is That Legal? describes four online situations youth might find themselves in:

  • taking intimate images
  • sharing intimate images
  • cyberstalking
  • sexual exploitation

The brightly coloured booklet explains in plain language what the law says about each situation, including:

  • what consent means and the age of consent in Canada;
  • what an intimate image is;
  • when an action is sexual assault, criminal harassment, uttering threats and intimidation, extortion, or child pornography; and
  • what Internet luring and grooming is.

It also says what you or someone you know can do in these situations, and where to get support services and legal help.

Is That Legal? is available online and in print in the six languages.

Hot Off the Press – For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders
For Your Protection (2018)

Back in stock and with a fresh new look: our popular booklet, For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders, has been completely redesigned as well as updated.

For Your Protection explains how and when people can apply for peace bonds and family law protection orders, and what the differences are between them. This revised version will be available later this year in Farsi, Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Punjabi.

Hot Off the Press – Four Criminal Law Publications

We’ve updated four of our criminal law booklets: Representing Yourself in a Criminal TrialDefending Yourself: Breach of a Court OrderDefending Yourself: Theft Under $5,000; and Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced.

We’ve revised design and content in each, including three attractive new covers. All of these plain language booklets help an accused person represent themselves in a criminal matter. Available in print and online.

When criminal charges are laid
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On November 6, 2016, Brad Dean was hit by a car and killed, while cycling on River Road in Richmond. Two other cyclists were seriously injured as well. On the anniversary of his death, hundreds of cyclists gathered in Stanley Park for a memorial ride. Just days afterwards, Crown Counsel announced that they would not be laying criminal charges against the driver of the car. Instead, he was charged with driving without due care and attention under the Motor Vehicle Act of British Columbia. The decision not to lay criminal charges has been controversial.

We cannot comment on that particular decision. Among other reasons, we do not have all the information available to Crown Counsel, and it would not be appropriate for us to offer an opinion. We can however provide some general information about how those decisions are made.

Please bear in mind that what follows is an outline of the general process. It is not a guide to how the law applies in a particular case, as that depends on the charge, the facts of the case, and the law.

Criminal offences

Criminal offences generally require proof of an act (conduct) that the law treats as a crime, and a criminal intention. If someone is found guilty of a crime, the sentence (punishment) is often – though not always – more severe than for other types of offences, and there may be other consequences for the person convicted of the criminal offence.

When police complete an investigation, they present a Report to Crown Counsel. They summarize the evidence gathered and usually propose the laying of a charge or charges.

Crown Counsel are the lawyers who conduct prosecutions in British Columbia. They look at all the relevant information and documents before making their decision to charge or lay charges – their charge assessment. Crown Counsel must consider:

  1. whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction; and, if so,
  2. whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

Crown Counsel’s charge assessment is a legal determination and it requires skill and experience on the part of Crown Counsel. They can only prosecute a case when there is a strong, solid case to put before the court. When they’re deciding whether a conviction would be likely, Crown Counsel evaluates the evidence to see what would be admissible, what weight that evidence would have, and what possible defences there might be. Crown Counsel must be satisfied there is a substantial likelihood of conviction before considering the public interest.

This is laid out in the Crown Counsel’s Charge Assessment Guidelines (PDF). It would be wrong of Crown Counsel to prosecute a case that does not meet the charge assessment guidelines.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that the person charged is presumed innocent. Crown Counsel can’t just prove that they probably committed the crime; the charge has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a different and more demanding standard than the balance of the probabilities that would apply, for example, in a lawsuit asking for compensation for an injury.

If you want to learn more about how Crown Counsel makes their decisions you can look at the BC Crown Counsel Act, which is the law that establishes their function and responsibilities, and the Charge Assessment Guidelines found in the Crown Counsel Policy Manual (PDF). And for more information on how criminal charges are laid, you can also look at this Dial-A-Law script, published by the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch.

Hot off the Press - Your Gladue Rights

We just reprinted the plain language booklet Your Gladue Rights with minor revisions. If you have copies of the March 2017 edition, please recycle them because they’re no longer legally accurate. People who identify as Aboriginal have Gladue rights under the Criminal Code as a result of their circumstances (experiences) in Canada. The word Gladue comes from a Supreme Court of Canada case about an Aboriginal woman named Jamie Gladue. In her case, the judge said that the criminal justice system failed Aboriginal people and too many Aboriginal people were being sent to jail. As a result, judges must consider an Aboriginal person’s background as well as the history of Aboriginal people in Canada when Aboriginal people are in court for bail, sentencing, or appeals.

Your Gladue Rights explains:

  • Gladue and how it’s applied in court,
  • restorative justice,
  • the history of Gladue, and
  • the difference between written Gladue reports and oral Gladue submissions.

For more information about Aboriginal legal rights, see our Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website.

Hot off the Press – Gladue Submission Guide
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People who identify as Aboriginal have Gladue rights under the Criminal Code of Canada as a result of their unique circumstances in Canada. This means that when an Aboriginal person is being sentenced, the judge must apply Gladue principles and take into account the factors that may have brought that person before the court. The Aboriginal person can give the court information about themselves and their family history in a Gladue submission to help the judge decide the best sentence for them and their community. Our plain language booklet, Gladue Submission Guide, is a new resource to help Aboriginal peoples, lawyers, Native courtworkers, and advocates to prepare a Gladue submission for court.

The booklet explains Gladue rights, what happens at a bail or sentencing hearing, and what’s in a Gladue submission. It includes a Gladue factors checklist and a worksheet to gather the information needed to prepare a submission. In the worksheet, the Aboriginal person can give details about the Gladue factors that shaped their life and the restorative justice options that may help them address the issues that brought them before the court.

The Gladue Submission Guide is one of four new LSS Aboriginal publications about Gladue rights and First Nations Court this year. The other three are Your Gladue Rights, Gladue Rights at Bail and Sentencing, and What’s First Nations Court?

To find out more about Gladue rights, see the Aboriginal website.

Hot Off the Press: Is That Legal? What the Law Says about Online Harassment and Abuse
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Second edition produced in collaboration with West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF) to help youth become safer online when they use social media. Is That Legal? describes four online situations youth might find themselves in:

  • Taking intimate images
  • Sharing intimate images
  • Cyberstalking
  • Sexual exploitation

This new, brightly coloured booklet explains what the law says about each situation, including:

  • What consent means and the age of consent in Canada
  • What an intimate image is
  • When an action is sexual assault, criminal harassment, uttering threats and intimidation, extortion, or child pornography
  • What Internet luring and grooming is

It also says what you or someone you know can do in these situations, and where to get support services and legal help.

Is That Legal? is available in print and online.

Hot off the press: Live Safe, End Abuse series

Our 10 fact sheets on abuse and family violence have been thoroughly revised and updated. The printed versions are now packaged together in a folder called Live Safe, End Abuse. The online version consists of a convenient single combined version. Live Safe, End Abuse is for people leaving an abusive partner. The fact sheets have information on what abuse is, how people can plan for their safety and protect their children, and who can help. Topics include:

  • Who can help
  • Getting help from the police or RCMP
  • If your sponsor abuses you
  • What to do about money
  • The criminal court process
  • Safety planning
  • Women abused by their partners
  • Keeping your children safe
  • Men abused by their partners
  • Protection orders

Order the new print version of Live Safe, End Abuse or read the combined version online.

Translations are coming later this year. Most of the original fact sheets are still available in simplified and traditional Chinese, Farsi, French, Punjabi, and Spanish, in print and online.

Live Safe, End Abuse replaces our booklet Surviving Relationship Violence and Abuse, which has been discontinued.

Hot Off The Press: Four new or revised French translations
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LSS is committed to providing PLEI publications in our second language for both our francophone community here in BC and for all French-speaking newcomers to BC. We’ve just released four new or revised French translations. The new French translation is:

  • If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial: How to Make a Rowbotham Application

Updated to match their English counterparts are the French versions of:

  • Defending Yourself: Possession of an Illegal Drug
  • Legal Aid Can Help You
  • Representing Yourself in a Criminal Trial

All the new translations are available online-only on the MyLawBC website.

Thank you to the Francophone Affairs Program in BC for funding these translations, made possible through the Canada-British Columbia Official Languages Agreement on French-Language Services.

See the MyLawBC website for a full list of all our French PLEI publications. See below for links to the latest new or revised French publications.

New French translation:

This booklet is for people facing serious and complex criminal charges who have been denied legal aid but can't afford a lawyer. It explains why, how, and when to ask the judge to appoint a free lawyer. The booklet includes a checklist of points to cover in court and copies of the necessary court forms.

Revised French translations:

This pamphlet outlines in plain language what legal aid is, and how and where to apply for it. It also lists the phone numbers of legal aid offices in BC.

This booklet describes how to defend yourself if you’re charged with possession of an illegal drug. It includes what the prosecutor must prove to find you guilty, sentencing information, and how to get legal help. There’s also a flowchart showing how LSS publications can help at each stage of the court process.

The booklet explains what happens when an accused person wants to plead not guilty to a summary offence. It’s designed to guide a self-represented person through the basic steps in the court process both before and at a trial. It contains checklists, flow charts, and a sample letter to Crown counsel, as well as how to get legal help.

Hot Off the Press — If You’re Charged with a Crime
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We updated this easy-to-understand pamphlet with a new design and revised content before reprinting it. If You’re Charged with a Crime outlines:

  • what happens when someone is charged with a criminal offence,
  • the first steps in the court process and the different options that might be available,
  • the accused person’s legal rights, and
  • how to get legal aid or other legal help.

Previous editions of this pamphlet are no longer current; please recycle.

Can a lie detector be used in court?
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Two men sit across from each other in a cramped grey room. The table between them is old and worn. A bare bulb beats down from above. One of the men is confident. He leans across the table. The other man shies away; nervous sweat begins to trickle down his forehead. On the table, a machine scratches away, its needle jumping across the page as accusations fill the air. The polygraph is iconic. It’s a staple of almost every crime show or movie. If TV is to be believed, then lie detectors are as common as phones at police stations. But just because we see it on TV, and just because police use them in real life, doesn’t mean that the results of a lie detector test can be used in court.

Polygraphs record small changes in your body as you answer questions; for example, a change in how fast your heart beats. An operator then reads and interprets those changes to tell if you’re lying.

Lie detectors are based on the assumption that people who lie will be nervous and that people who tell the truth won’t be. This isn’t always the case. A sociopath may be able to lie without breaking a sweat. An innocent person may be nervous about being questioned by the police. What you think you saw may not be what actually happened. If you consider these situations, you begin to see how polygraphs could cause problems in the courtroom.

In fact, that’s exactly what the Supreme Court Canada ruled in a 1987 court case, R. v. Béland. The criminal court system has defined rules about what can be used as evidence, and lie detectors break these rules. Since lie detectors don’t meet the court’s standards, they can’t be used as evidence. You can read the full reasons in the court case above.

In family law, it’s not as clear. Polygraph results have been allowed as evidence in at least one case but rejected in others.

Polygraph fact: William Marston invented a blood pressure test that became one of the key components of the first polygraph. He’s also the creator of Wonder Woman, who had a lie detector of her own: a magic lasso that makes people tell the truth.

Hot Off the Press: Eight new or revised French translations
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LSS is committed to providing PLEI publications in our second national language for both our francophone community here in BC and for all French-speaking newcomers to BC. We’ve just released eight new or revised French translations. The new French translations include:

  • If You Can't Get Legal Aid for Your Child Protection Case
  • Sponsorship Breakdown

Updated to match their English counterparts were the French versions of:

  • Defending Yourself: Assault
  • Defending Yourself: Breach of a Court Order
  • Defending Yourself: Possession of Property Under $5000
  • Defending Yourself: Mischief
  • If You Can't Pay Your Court Fine on Time
  • If Your Child Is Taken: Your Rights As a Parent

All the new translations are available online (only) on the MyLawBC website.

Thank you to the Francophone Affairs Program in BC for funding these translations, made possible through the Canada — British Columbia Official Languages Agreement on French-Language Services.

See the MyLawBC website for a full list of all our French PLEI publications. See below for links to the latest new/revised French publications.

New French translations:

Revised French translations:

Hot off the Press — Defending Yourself booklets
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Back in stock! We’ve reprinted four booklets (with minor revisions) in the popular Defending Yourself series: Assault, Breach of a Court Order, Mischief, and Possession of Property Under $5,000 Obtained by Crime. This series describes how to defend yourself if you’re charged with a crime and what the prosecutor must prove to find you guilty. The booklets also include sentencing information and how to get legal help. The previous 2013 editions are still legally accurate.

Hot Off the Press — If You Can't Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial

If You Can't Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial has been revised and reprinted. (This publication was previously called If You Can't Get a Lawyer for Your Criminal Trial.) This booklet is for people who face serious and complex criminal charges but have been denied legal aid and they can't afford a lawyer. This booklet explains how to make a Rowbotham application -- how to ask the judge to stay your charges until the government gives you funding for a lawyer. The booklet explains what you have to prove, how to prepare for court, and what happens in court. It has the forms you need to make a Rowbotham application and includes instructions on how to complete them. Note: The previous edition of this booklet is no longer current; please recycle.

Hot Off the Press — Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced

We’ve revised and reprinted Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced. The brochure now has a new design and minor revisions to the content. It outlines in plain language the possible sentences for someone who pleads guilty or a judge finds guilty at trial. It also describes what a convicted person can say to the judge before the judge decides on a sentence. Available online and in print.

Hot off the Press: How to Appeal Your Sentence and How to Appeal Your Conviction

How to Appeal Your Sentence and How to Appeal Your Conviction have been reprinted with minor revisions. These booklets explain how to appeal your sentence or conviction for a summary or indictable criminal offence without a lawyer’s help. They explain how to prepare for the appeal and contain removable blank forms. Note: The previous edition of these booklets are no longer current; please recycle.

Hot Off the Press: Seven new or revised French translations
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LSS is committed to providing PLE publications in French for both our francophone community here in BC and, of course, for all French-speaking newcomers to BC. We’ve just released seven new or revised French translations: The new French titles include:

  • Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness
  • If You Have a No Contact Order Made Against You
  • Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced
  • Can’t Pay Your Mortgage? What You Can Do If You’re Facing Foreclosure

Updated to match their English counterparts were the French versions of:

  • How to Become a Child’s Guardian
  • For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders
  • If Your Child Is Taken: Your Rights As a Parent

All the new translations are available online (only) on our website.

Thank you to the Francophone Affairs Program in BC for funding these translations, made possible through the Canada — British Columbia Official Languages Agreement on French-Language Services.

See our website for a full list of all our French PLE publications. See below for links to the new/revised French publications.

New French translations:

Accords de séparation : votre droit à l’équité - Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness

Que faire lorsqu’une ordonnance de non-communication a été rendue contre vous - If You Have a No Contact Order Made Against You

Vous adresser au juge avant votre condamnation - Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced

Vous avez du mal à rembourser votre prêt hypothécaire? Ce que vous pouvez faire si vous êtes menacé d’une saisie immobilière - Can’t Pay Your Mortgage? What You Can Do If You’re Facing Foreclosure

Revised French translations:

Comment devenir le tuteur d’un enfant - How to Become a Child’s Guardian

Pour votre protection : engagements de ne pas troubler l’ordre public et ordonnances de protection relatives au droit de la famille - For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders

Si votre enfant vous est retire : vos droits en tant que parent - If Your Child Is Taken: Your Rights As a Parent

Hot Off the Press — If You’re Charged with a Crime

We’ve made minor revisions to this short, easy-to-understand pamphlet and reprinted it. It outlines:

  • what happens when someone is charged with a criminal offence,
  • the first steps in the court process and the different options that might be available,
  • the accused person's legal rights, and
  • how to get legal aid or other legal help.

Previous editions of this pamphlet are no longer current; please recycle.

Hot Off the Press — If You Have a No Contact Order Made Against You
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This new, online-only fact sheet explains what it means when the court makes a no contact order against someone involved in a family violence incident. It describes the five types of no contact orders and what might happen if someone breaches the order:

  • Condition of release from custody before trial (bail)
  • Condition of probation
  • Conditional sentencing
  • Peace bond
  • Family law protection order

It includes where to find legal help for criminal court and family court cases.