We have Answers.
My name is Rick Muenz.
With over 25 years as a criminal defence lawyer in Calgary, Alberta.
I understand the justice system can seem confusing and overwhelming. At my firm, Muenz Law Office, I have been asked many questions by clients about legal procedures, including:
We appreciate that legal fees are not something the average person budgets for on a daily basis. So, when you are faced with a criminal charge, we understand that costs are top of mind.
The most accurate answer is that the costs vary from person to person, depending on the complexity of the charge and the services provided. I offer different types of payment plans, including monthly payments, in order to help you with costs so you can confidently focus on your defence.
It’s up to the crown attorney to elect how an offence will be tried in court. They may choose a summary offence or an indictable offence.
The difference is the severity of the consequences. What we do is outline the general best and worst case scenarios – such as jail time, fines, probation and contact with family- so you understand what you’re up against and can prepare for the potential outcomes.
A criminal case is between you and Canada. If there is a named victim, he or she generally does not receive any damages during a criminal proceeding. Regardless if you were found guilty or non- guilty, you may be sued for civil damages afterwards by a person or business.
For example, if you broke someone’s jaw during an altercation, you can be found guilty of an assault charge in criminal court and be sued for civil damages related to medical costs or lost wages to the victim in civil court. However should you choose to plead guilty in a criminal trial this may affect a civil proceeding.
A criminal record can prevent you from volunteering, traveling, access to family and affect current and future employment. In order to avoid the repercussions of a conviction, my team and I will look at different options to minimize the damage to your lifestyle – for example guilty pleas with a discharge, a Peace Bond (with withdrawal of the charges) or treatment and counseling such as domestic violence counseling or anger management.
There are remedies available, such as Alternative Measures, Peace Bonds or pardons and record suspensions which may also help you move forward after a criminal conviction.
Strictly speaking, you do not need a criminal lawyer. However, it is strongly recommended by both judges and lawyers all around that you retain a criminal defence lawyer.
Our criminal justice system is complex, hard to navigate, and adversarial. Without a lawyer, you would be fighting your charges without the nuanced understanding of the applicable rules and regulations that our lawyers have. You will also be going up against a knowledgeable and experienced prosecutor that has nearly unlimited resources at their disposal to ensure your conviction.
It is our general advice that you should always hire a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Our lawyers have the necessary expertise not just to help you fight your charges but also to prepare for criminal investigations led by the police.
After you are charged with a criminal offence and released from police custody, you will be expected to attend court. You may also have to attend the Calgary police headquarters for identification purposes, which will include having your fingerprints taken. If you do not attend court or get your fingerprints taken when required, then a warrant will be issued for your arrest and new criminal charges will follow.
On your first court appearance, you will not be able to argue the case in front of a judge. Instead, you will be directed to speak with duty counsel about what comes next in the criminal case against you. ‘Duty counsel’ refers to the lawyer provided by Legal Aid Alberta to help self-representing individuals at court. The duty counsel lawyer can speak to the judge for you but is not intended to take the role of your lawyer. Of course, if you have already hired a lawyer, then you may not have to attend court at all.
At the first court appearance, the criminal case against you will be pushed back a few weeks, to give you time to hire a lawyer and/or attain disclosure from the Crown prosecution services.
In law, being innocent is determined by applying the law to the facts. The facts are determined at trial. If you believe that you are innocent, you should consult with a criminal defence lawyer about what facts may be proven at trial and whether the law is on your side.
Just because you believe you are innocent does not mean that you will be found not guilty at trial. We recommend that you hire a lawyer to make sure that your trial goes to plan and you are found not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.
The length of time it takes for a trial to take place after you are charged is highly dependent on a number of factors, such as how complicated your trial is, how serious the charges are, how many witness have to testify, and so forth. Typically, trials do not occur until more than a year after the charges are laid.
The most obvious way to avoid a criminal record is to not commit any criminal offences. Sometimes, we are simply not aware that our actions carry criminal consequences. If you are unsure whether your conduct constitutes a criminal offence, consult a lawyer. We are ethically and morally obliged to inform you whether your conduct or planned actions is against the law.
Of course, if you are reading this, you may already be facing criminal charges. That does not mean you will be convicted or that a conviction will result in a criminal record. Even if you are guilty of the criminal offence, there are sentences that do not involve a criminal record and there are extra-judicial measures that may also be appropriate in your case.
Every defence lawyer has their own approach to practicing criminal law. There is no one best lawyer in Calgary or even in Canada. If you want to find the best lawyer that suits you, we recommend that you reach out to a few firms that appeal to you and ask for a free consult. Don’t hesitate to ask about their legal fees.
At Muenz Criminal Law – Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers, we offer free consultations so that you can meet with us first before you have to decide to hire us. As a team of two lawyers, we also offer a range of legal fees and we charge flat fees so that you know exactly how much it will cost you.
Our lawyers pride themselves on providing great customer service to our clients and focusing on each and every client’s priorities. Our lawyers also have a wide range of expertise and are capable advocates in court so that they can always achieve the best possible end-result.
Criminal court procedure is governed by numerous pieces of legislation and by custom. All lawyers learn about procedure, first through going to law school and then by mentorship from senior lawyers. The most important lesson about court procedure is to be respectful and to always listen to the judge.
Most criminal defence lawyers offer free consultations so that you can learn about their practice and what to expect from them and the justice system. There is no harm in having multiple free consultations to figure out which defence lawyer can best represent you.
Every lawyer is unique and you will have a unique case with your own individual priorities. Finding the lawyer that is right for you may take some time. However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes your right to have your lawyer of choice. Do not hesitate to take your time to find the right Calgary criminal defence lawyer to represent you.
Sexual assault cases are unique in Canada insofar that there are a myriad of rules that specifically apply to sexual assault cases. These rules are complex and can significantly hamper any lawyer’s ability to defend you in court. Often these rules prohibit many different and important pieces of evidence from being adduced at trial.
It is important to hire a lawyer that understands these rules and knows how to work around them to give you the best possible defence. While most criminal defence lawyers are aware of these rules and have some experience with them, at Muenz Criminal Law, the lawyers deal with sexual assault cases on a regular basis. As a result, they have extensive experience navigating these complex rules so that all the important pieces of evidence can be heard.
What happens to any specific sexual assault charge is dependent on the circumstances. However, it is uncommon for sexual assault charges to be withdrawn. We recommend that anyone facing sexual assault charges assumes the worst: that is, that their case goes all the way to trial. For this reason, you should hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer or team of lawyers to represent you at trial so that you are best prepared.
Sexual assault refers to a number of different types of offences recognized under the criminal code. However, most sexual assaults can be divided between adult-on-adult sexual assault and adult-on-child sexual assault.
In the former category, the key issue of a sexual assault case may be whether there was consent to the sexual activity and, if not, whether the person charged had a reasonably held belief in consent.
In the latter category, adult-on-child sexual assault, the key issue is almost always whether there was any sexual activity in the first place.
During the sexual assault trial, you can expect that the alleged victim will testify and that you, the person charged with sexual assault, will have to testify afterwards. The court will then hear closing arguments from both the prosecutor and your criminal defence lawyer.
Sometimes, there are additional pieces to the sexual assault case. However, in the majority of cases, there is no evidence other than what the alleged victim and you have to say about what happened.
It is important to know that a judge does not have to decide who to believe and will not decide the case simply on whose version they prefer. Almost always, the judge has to decide whether your version of what happened is believable. If so, then the judge will acquit you and find you not guilty.
A criminal trial is an adversarial process. First, a prosecutor, on behalf of the government (i.e., the ‘Crown’) has to call evidence by getting witnesses, victims, officers, and, if applicable, experts to testify. These witnesses may then tell the judge or jury what happened. If there is any material evidence, such as video footage, photographs, or other items, an officer will typically testify to produce that evidence in court for the judge or jury.
After the prosecutor has called all their evidence, you and your defence lawyer have the option of calling evidence by getting your own witnesses to testify. If you are the person charged, you may also testify but you are not required to do so.
Whenever any witness testifies, there will be direct examination, followed by cross-examination, and then followed by re-examination. In direct examination, the person calling the witness (either the prosecutor or your criminal defence lawyer) will ask open-ended questions about the case. In cross-examination, the other lawyer will have an opportunity to ask leading questions (meaning, yes-or-no questions). In re-examination, the first lawyer gets to ask a few follow up questions about anything that arose in cross-examination and wasn’t addressed in direct-examination.
You should only ever plead guilty if you have been apprised fully of what your options are. Do not simply plead guilty because you believe that you are responsible for what happened. You may feel guilt, believe you are responsible, and yet be legally innocent. Moreover, the prosecution may not be able to prove their case against you and it may be worth it to go to trial. At the end of the day, the choice to plead guilty is never as simple as it may at first seem.
At Muenz Criminal Law – Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers, we ensure that our clients always make their choice to plead guilty or not guilty being informed of the consequences and the other options that are available. We also always ensure that we have first reached out to the Crown prosecution to determine what their position is on sentencing, should you plead guilty. We will also make sure to negotiate with the Crown prosecutor what the sentence ought to be if you voluntarily take responsibility.
In short, you should only ever consider pleading guilty if you have had a lawyer explain all of your options to you and a lawyer has had the chance to negotiate the best plea deal available to you.
Get More Of Your Legal Questions Answered
Call Muenz Law Office at 403-543-6666 or set up a consultation using our online contact form.