Infringement of defendants’ rights is not an uncommon thing in Canada. Most cases where the rights of a detainee have been violated go unnoticed because the defendant hardly knows the first thing about their rights while they are in custody awaiting trial. Discussed in this article are some of the laws that protect criminal defendants before they are proven guilty or not guilty by a judge or jury.
The right to remain silent
As stated above, it is entirely up to the prosecutor to come up with enough evidence to convince the court that you are guilty. The accuser has the right to remain silent in all stages of the criminal process. Note that, the police can use things you say during arrest and detention against you in court – something that would potentially contradict your lawyer’s statements and significantly weaken your case. You may be allowed to testify in your defense but it would be wise to consult a Vancouver criminal defense lawyer before saying anything to the police or the prosecutor.
Presumption of Innocence
In Canada, just like the majority of the countries around the world, you are innocent until proven guilty. You should thus be treated as innocent until the court decides your case. Additionally, you are not in court to prove your innocence. It is up to the prosecutors and police to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the allegations against you are indeed true.
Right to know about the prosecutors’ evidence
To know what they are defending themselves against, the accused has the right to know all evidence prepared by the prosecutor including details of the witnesses that will testify against them. The accuser is not compelled to hire a lawyer or even defend themselves in court; the case can proceed literally without the accused saying anything.
The right to be represented by a lawyer
You should not be denied to hire a lawyer to represent during interrogations and during a trial. Your rights will have been infringed if you are questioned in the absence of an attorney without your consent.
Of course, you have the right to appear before a court without legal representation but it would be wise to have a qualified lawyer by your side for a number of reasons. For one, the court procedure is too complicated to maneuver without assistance from someone who has been there before. The terminology on the documents may also be incomprehensible and confusing for someone with limited knowledge of the law. A lawyer will also come in handy when it is time to answer questions from the prosecutors. Their court experience enables them to identify information that can hurt your case if known to the prosecutors.
The right to understand the trial
Criminal defendants typically have to choose between English and French as the trial language. That, however, doesn’t extend to witness questioning and testifying. If a witness doesn’t speak your language of choice, the court will provide you with an interpreter.
Normally, you will be asked to confirm your language of choice, between English and French, before the trial begins.