By ensuring that people charged with criminal offences have an opportunity to defend themselves in court, criminal defence lawyers are essential for the proper functioning of our criminal justice system.
But did you know that criminal defence lawyers also play an important role in bail hearings? While it is possible to attend a bail hearing without a lawyer, here are three reasons why you should always make sure you have legal representation during this critical stage in the legal process.
1. To Regain Your Freedom While Awaiting Trial
A bail hearing is meant to determine whether or not you will be kept in custody, or whether you will be released into the public while awaiting trial. There are a few common reasons why people are denied bail:
- They are deemed to be a danger to the public
- They are deemed to be a flight risk
- They are deemed unlikely to abide by their bail conditions
- They lack funds to make the bail payment
Spending the time leading up to your trial behind bars makes it hard to maintain employment or keep up with your familial obligations, so before your bail hearing, you need to contact a criminal defence lawyer who can walk you through the process and argue for why you should be released awaiting trial.
2. To Ensure a Fair Hearing
While bail is meant to reduce the number of people kept behind bars while also ensuring that the public is kept safe, the tendency over the past decades has been to make it harder and harder for the people charged with an offence to regain their freedom.
Even in cases where people do receive bail, it often comes at a high price or with pointlessly onerous restrictions — especially for those with limited financial means, or who belong to racialized groups. Having a lawyer who can stand up for you and help ensure that the bail decision doesn’t needlessly infringe on your ability to earn a living can make it a lot easier to clear your name.
3. To Protect Your Civil Rights
One of the foundational principles of our legal system is that people charged with a crime are considered innocent until proven guilty. When it works as it was designed to work, our bail system helps to balance this principle against the risk that a person charged with a crime will re-offend while awaiting trial.
Unfortunately, bail often has the opposite effect, especially in large cities like Toronto where the judiciary is encouraged to err on the side of caution. This leads to people not yet convicted of a crime being treated as if they have already been proven guilty.
A Toronto criminal defence lawyer can help argue your case, ensuring that the broken bail system doesn’t trample on your civil rights.
Criminal defence lawyers are champions of the accused, and their work starts long before the first court date. If you want to stand the best possible chance of receiving fair bail conditions, you need to make sure you have an experienced criminal lawyer by your side.