Criminal legal issues
Some of our services have temporarily changed due to COVID‑19. The information provided on this page may no longer be accurate. Please visit our COVID‑19 client or COVID-19 FAQs: criminal page to learn how this may impact you.
If you are between the ages of 12 and 17, please refer to our Youth (criminal) page.
We may pay for your lawyer if you qualify and if:
- you have been charged with a crime that could send you to jail if you are found guilty, or
- you are between 12 and 17 years old, and you have been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act
We also may be able to help you the day you are in court if you qualify, and do not have a lawyer. The court lawyer (called duty counsel) can:
- advise you on your rights and the court process
- ask to delay your court date
- represent you at a bail hearing
- help with a guilty plea
- make a submission at a sentencing hearing
- have a resolution meeting with the Crown
- refer you to other legal aid services
Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs)
IRCAs are reports that help judges consider how racism, poverty and discrimination have contributed to a Black or racialized person’s interactions with the justice system. The reports are used mainly at the sentencing stage of a trial and they help the judge decide what the sentence should be.
To learn more and find out if you are eligible for an IRCA report, visit the Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs) page.
The duty counsel at the court is your lawyer for that day only. If you must go to court more than once, you may speak to a different duty counsel each time.
If your court date is within five business days, you can contact duty counsel at the court location where your matter is being heard for next steps.
If your court date is more than five days away, please call us at 1 800-668-8258 and ask to speak with a summary legal advice lawyer who will help guide you through the legal process. For this call, you will need a copy of your disclosure (the package of information about your case that the Crown will use to try to convict you).
Certificates and applying for legal aid
If you are issued a certificate, Legal Aid Ontario will pay a roster lawyer (who has been approved to take on legal aid clients) to represent you for the duration of your criminal case.
You can apply for a certificate online or by calling 416-979-1446 (Toronto local), 1 800-668-8258 (toll-free), or by dialing *711 if you are using a teletypewriter.
To apply for legal aid, you will need to know what you have been charged with. If the police did not provide this information to you, you must contact the Crown Attorney’s office to obtain your disclosure.
Contact information for each Crown Attorney’s office in the province is listed on the Ontario Court of Justice website.