Getting legal help

Criminal law

Legal Aid Ontario offers a range of services for criminal legal matters. You will get the legal help that best fits your situation. Services for eligible clients include:

Legal issues that we cover

Legal Aid Ontario offers coverage for many legal issues, but not all. Legal aid is most often available for serious criminal charges (for example, where there is a strong likelihood of someone going to jail); as well as charges laid under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Please note that you must also be financially eligible to qualify for legal aid services.

Legal aid services for criminal matters

Duty counsel

Do you have a low income and an immediate court date, but still need a lawyer? Read about our duty counsel program.

Summary advice

Eligible clients with criminal law issues may be able to speak with a lawyer for up to 20 minutes of summary advice and information, through the toll-free number. Call 1-800-668-8258 to see if you qualify. Summary advice can include information such as:

  • First appearance procedures
  • How to prepare for a pre-trial
  • Diversion
  • Bail information and process
  • Guilty pleas
  • Sentencing
  • General advice on legal options and possible outcomes
  • Certificate eligibility issues

Representation by a lawyer – the certificate program

The certificate program helps clients pay for a lawyer's services, and is only for the most serious and complex cases.

Your legal matter must be one that Legal Aid Ontario covers. Get information on whether you qualify for legal aid services if you have been charged with a crime.

In addition, you must be financially eligible to get help through the certificate program.

To apply for the certificate program, call Legal Aid Ontario toll-free at 1-800-668-8258.

Online legal information resources

Legal Aid Ontario's sister site, LawFacts.ca provides free online legal information for individuals with questions about criminal law in Ontario.

LawFacts is not legal advice, and is not designed as a substitute for advice from your lawyer or duty counsel, but it will help you understand the justice system so that you can make more informed choices about your next step.

Select one of the following questions.

Are you an adult (18 years of age or older) who has been charged with a criminal offence?

Are you an adult (18 years of age or older) who has been charged with a criminal offence?

If you have an immediate court date and no lawyer, duty counsel might be able to help you. You can also read about our other legal aid services.


Are you a youth (under 18 years of age) who has been charged with a criminal offence?

Are you a youth (under 18 years of age) who has been charged with a criminal offence?

If you have been charged with a crime, and were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence, you can read about our youth criminal law services.


Are you the parent or guardian of a child under 18 years old who has been charged with a criminal offence?

Are you the parent or guardian of a child under 18 years old who has been charged with a criminal offence?

Legal Aid Ontario provides legal services for youth whose parents or guardians meet eligibility requirements, including duty counsel and representation by a lawyer through the certificate program.

The Department of Justice website has more information of this topic for parents and guardians.


Are you trying to help a friend or family member who has been arrested and is appearing in bail court?

Are you trying to help a friend or family member who has been arrested and is appearing in bail court?

Your friend or family member should be able to get help in bail court through duty counsel services.



If your legal issue is not covered by these options, please try another category (e.g. family matters), visit our other resources page, or call Legal Aid Ontario toll-free at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446 to speak to a representative. Legal Aid Ontario accepts collect calls.


Other resources

Please note that these are external links and Legal Aid Ontario is not responsible for their content.

Understanding the law:


Are you a victim or a witness to crime?


Statutes and regulations:


Government:


Youth criminal law


Are you a victim or a witness to crime?



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