If I can’t afford a lawyer, what are my options?

>>>If I can’t afford a lawyer, what are my options?

If you cannot afford a lawyer, there are numerous Government funded and charitable legal organizations that may be able to assist you depending on your charges, the jeopardy you face, and your income. You will have to look for the ones in your local area to make sure it’s available.

All provinces in Canada have a Government funded Legal Aid office that can assist individuals who do not have the income to hire private counsel. Most of the time, the critical criteria considered by legal aid is:

  1. your income, either in the current, or prior calendar year; and
  2. the risk of jail posed by the charges you are facing.

In Calgary, for example, Legal Aid may be able to assist you if you meet their income requirements, and are potentially facing a period of incarceration if convicted. If you qualify for Legal Aid, your matter will be assigned to a criminal lawyer who will assist you in defending against the charges you face. Many of our lawyers handle matters through Legal Aid, so you may be able to select or request the lawyer you want to handle your case. While you are not guaranteed counsel of your choice, giving a shortlist of lawyers you would like appointed definitely improves your chances of securing the lawyer you want.

Most major cities in Canada with a law school have student based organizations that assist low income clients required legal assistance in those cities and surrounding areas. In Calgary, Student Legal Assistance is such an organization operated in partnership with the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. Student Caseworkers, supervised by criminal defence lawyers (including one of our lawyers, Michael Oykhman), may be able to assist if you are charged with a minor offence and meet their income requirements. Calgary Legal Guidance is another Calgary based non-profit organization that may be able to assist you if you do not qualify for Legal Aid. Calgary Legal Guidance is staffed by a combination of lawyers and students, and provide legal representation for low income individuals in a variety of areas of law.

Finally, in virtually every location across Canada, there is a government funded Duty Counsel system available if you attend court without representation. Duty Counsel is funded by Legal Aid and assists unrepresented people with individual court appearances. Duty Counsel can speak to the Crown Prosecutor on your behalf to assist you in attempting to secure bail, or in attempting to divert your matter into an extrajudicial diversion program. They can also assist you to enter a guilty plea, or adjourn your court date to give you more time to hire a lawyer.

Don’t assume you cannot afford a lawyer. Many criminal defence lawyers have low cost options and offer flexible payment plans. Our office, for example, has a full team of lawyers who may be able to assist with your defence. Our lawyers have different levels of experience and fee scales to meet a variety of budgets, and we encourage you to book a free consultation to see what we can do. At the very least, we (or a private criminal defence lawyer in your local area) can point you in the right direction.

For specific information regarding your claim, please select the location that’s closest to you.


Glowing Reviews From Our Clients

Excellent service! I would highly recommend going with this team. If I ever need assistance with anything of this manner again, I wouldn’t hesitate to call or email the team at Oykhman Criminal Defence again.



Everyone was very professional and understanding. They explained everything and put me at ease. Any question I had were answered right. If you need help I’d highly recommend this law firm.




Disclaimer: All results of cases handled by the lawyer/firm are not provided. The results provided are not necessarily representative of results obtained by the lawyer/firm or of the experience of all clients or others with the lawyer/firm. Every case is different, and each client’s case must be evaluated and handled on its own merits.

All our 30-60 minute free consultations are conducted with one of our Criminal Defence Lawyers and include the following steps:

  1. Gathering of some personal information about you, such as your level of education, occupation, and citizenship status. This information can be crucial for building your defence and seeking a resolution with the Crown Prosecutor;
  2. Careful review of all documents you received from the police. We will explain what each document is, and what you can expect from and need to do for all upcoming appearances;
  3. Critical review of your recollection of events, and any supporting materials you choose to bring with you. This step helps us identify possible defences and avenues for further investigation; and
  4. Discussion of the court process, our fee structure, and what we can do to help.

Beyond these steps, we would be happy to tell you more about us, and answer any questions you may have. If you chose to retain us to help you, we will immediately provide an overview of what steps we plan to take next, and suggestions as to what you should do to improve your chances of a successful outcome.

For the free initial consultation to be as productive as possible, you should bring (or email in advance) the following materials:

  • A written statement (preferably typed) outlining your version of events;
  • All documents that you have been given by the court or by the police;
  • Any disclosure you have received;
  • Photo ID; and
  • Any supporting documents, such as photographs, emails, texts, phone records, medical records, receipts, etc.

Ideally, you will have prepared a copy of these materials for us to keep, but if not, we can always photocopy them during the consultation.

We offer flexible payment options and structures designed to meet our clients’ individual needs. Our lawyers accept all major credit cards, bank drafts, money orders, email money transfers (e-transfers) and, of course, cash.

If you decide to retain us after the free initial consultation, all we need is a retainer (down payment) to get started. The rest of the fee payments for the case can be spaced out over time. We can set you up on a monthly or bi-monthly payment plan, and process payments over the telephone or by email to make it easy for you.

The cost of a criminal defence lawyer will depend on several factors, including:

  1. how complex your case is,
  2. how serious the charges are, and
  3. how experienced the Criminal Defence lawyer is.

The fees of a competent Criminal Defence Lawyer will typically range into the thousands of dollars. The good news is that only a fraction of that amount is due initially. We offer flexible payment schedules so thefees can be paid in monthly installments.

Additionally, we offer flat rate fees, with no hidden costs. It is our standard practice to review all the costs during the free initial consultation. This means you will know exactly what our services cost at the outset and can make an informed decision about how to proceed.