Criminal legal issues
You may qualify for legal aid if:
- you have been charged with a crime that could send you to jail if you are found guilty (there is a risk to liberty), or
- you are between 12 and 17 years old, and you have been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Legal aid services for criminal matters include:
- same-day legal advice and representation by duty counsel at criminal court and detention centres, and
- certificates to cover the cost of a private lawyer for a set number of hours to represent you in court.
Duty counsel (court lawyers) provide same-day legal advice and representation. If you qualify for legal aid, duty counsel can:
- advise you on your rights and the court process
- ask to delay your court date
- represent you at a bail hearing
- negotiate a guilty plea
- make a submission at a sentencing hearing
- have a resolution meeting with the Crown
- refer you to other legal aid services
Duty counsel provide same-day legal services only. If you have to 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).
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.
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.