4. 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 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.

A 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, your lawyer or paralegal must have enough knowledge of French to be able to:

  • speak and write the language in a way you both understand
  • do a good job of representing you at court hearings

If they can't do these things, they should tell you they can't work for you. They should get your permission to refer you to someone else who can provide services in French.

When you meet with a lawyer, ask questions like:

  • Are you bilingual?
  • How many French-speaking clients do you have?
  • What experience do you have working with French-speaking people who live in Ontario?
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