The Legal Aid certificate process is an important one to understand, given the financial costs associated with being charged criminally. While it would be desirable that everyone who could not independently afford a lawyer be guaranteed a Legal Aid Certificate, the unfortunate reality is that some do not.
The eligibility process can be found on the Legal Aid website here (http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/eligibility.asp), but the factors considered can be summarized as follows:
1. Financial Eligibility (i.e. low-income); and
2. Substantial Probability of Incarceration.
This means that, in addition to having a low income, you must also face a real likelihood of jail if you were to be found guilty.
Like many things in life, there are sometimes exceptions to this test. New guidelines have recently been adopted by Legal Aid Ontario which can help accused get a Legal Aid Certificate even if they are not facing potential jail time. These new considerations include the presence of mental health issues, whether the accused is a first time offender, and whether there are secondary implications arising from the criminal charge (such as family law matters, or immigration consequences).
Often times, a private lawyer can help guide you through the process of qualifying for a certificate. This is important since criminal charges can have long-lasting impacts on your life, aside from simply the potential of going to jail.
Contact DeMelo Law to assist you with your Legal Aid Certificate process today.