Can I have my criminal law trial in French?

3. Talk to a French lawyer or paralegal

You don’t always have to hire a lawyer or paralegal to help with your criminal law problem. But a lawyer or paralegal can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities, and the options you have.

Lawyers can give legal advice. This means they can explain what the law says and how it applies to your situation. They can also:

  • explain your options, such as , pleading guilty, or having a 
  • tell you the sentence you may get
  • negotiate with the Crown for you
  • represent you in court

Make sure you talk to a lawyer with experience in criminal law. Some lawyers only deal with specific areas of law.

The Association des juristes d’expression française (AJEFO) has a directory of French-speaking lawyers. You can search the directory by name, city, or area of law. You can also search for a lawyer who accepts legal aid certificates.

paralegal is another kind of legal professional that can give legal advice in certain areas. 

In criminal law, a paralegal can only represent you for some summary offences. These are usually more minor crimes where the maximum penalty is:

  • 6 months in prison,
  • a $5,000 fine, or
  • both.

Examples of summary offences include causing a disturbance in a public place, harassing phone calls, and trespassing at night.

Lawyers and paralegals must tell you about your right to have your and trial in French. You decide what language you want your proceedings to be in, not the lawyer or paralegal.

If you choose French, lawyers and paralegals must have sufficient knowledge of French to be able to:

  • communicate with you orally and in writing
  • effectively represent you at court

If they are not able to do so, they are not competent to act on your behalf. In these cases, the lawyer should decline to act, or get your instructions to retain, consult, or collaborate with another lawyer who is able to provide services in French.

When you meet with a lawyer, ask questions like:

  • whether they are bilingual
  • how many French-speaking clients they have
  • their experience dealing with French speaking Ontarians
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