Lethbridge Criminal Defence Lawyers
A Team of Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyers Serving Lethbridge and The Surrounding Area
If you have been charged with a criminal offence and are required to attend Court in Lethbridge we can help! We are a full service criminal law office handling all types of criminal and regulatory charges from Mischief to Murder, with a particularly strong focus on DUI’s, Violence, and Domestic Violence charges. A short list of the types of charges we handle includes:
- Assault; Assault with a Weapon/Bodily Harm; Aggravated Assault
- Threats; Confinement; Kidnapping
- Sexual Assault; Child Sexual Assault; Child Pornography; Voyeurism; Trespass
- Theft and Fraud; False Pretences; Forged Documents
- Break and Enter; Robbery; Possession of Stolen Property
- Impaired Driving; Over 80/.08; Refusal; DUI; Care or Control
- Dangerous Driving; Disqualified Driving; Prohibited Driving; Flight from Police
- Improper Storage of Firearms; Concealed Weapon; Discharge Firearms
- Drug Possession; Drug Trafficking; Drug Import/Export; Drug Grow/Production
- Youth Offences
- Traffic Offences; Careless Driving; Hit and Run; Speeding; No Insurance
- Breach or Probation/CSO/Release/EPO; Fail to Appear for Court
With centralized offices in Calgary and Edmonton, we frequently travel to Lethbridge for court appearances. The Lethbridge court house is located at 401 Centre St Lethbridge, with criminal court sitting dates of every 4th Wednesday of the month. Lethbridge has a population of only 2,332 (as of the 2016 census), and processes far few criminal cases than a large metropolitan centre like Calgary or Edmonton. Not surprisingly, most criminal defence lawyers who service Lethbridge are based in Calgary.
Although virtually all substantive law is the same whether charges occur in a major city like Calgary or in a rural town like Lethbridge, there are some key differences that you should be aware of. Below are some of the main distinctions, but for specifics about your case, it’s important that you contact one of our criminal defence lawyers directly so you get the right advice.
Unlike major cities that have their own police forces, Lethbridge is policed by the RCMP. For all intents and purposes, their powers of investigation, detention, and arrest are the same. However, their training policies, techniques, and oversight is quite different.
When arrested in Lethbridge the RCMP would bring you to a local RCMP detachment, rather than a centralized processing area (as occurs in major metropolitan centres). The RCMP station in Lethbridge is located at 104 3rd Ave W Lethbridge, and the phone number for the main line is 403-854-3393. This is where you will be housed until your bail hearing, and this is where you will have to attend to give your fingerprints (if they are not taken at the time of your initial release).
The Bail/Release Process
Currently, the RCMP in Lethbridge have much more discretion to release individuals without a formal bail hearing than in major metropolitan centres around Alberta. For example, if charged with a drug offence, the RCMP typically release individuals on an “undertaking” with conditions not to possess drugs, report to a probation officer, etc until the case is over.
The distinction between the RCMP and the Calgary Police Service on their release protocols is particularly important in the Domestic Violence context. In Calgary and Edmonton, the police have a policy of requiring that a bail hearing be held either with a Judge or a Justice of the Peace before an individual is released. Unfortunately, this process can take up to 24 hours, so you or your loved one could be sitting in a jail cell for a very long time just because of the CPS/EPS policy. Fortunately, in Lethbridge, the RCMP will typically release individuals charged with Domestic Violence on a “promise to appear” with an “undertaking” to abide by certain conditions.
If you are reading this before you are charged, it is very important that you ask for the first available court date. The reason for this is that the RCMP might put fairly restrictive conditions on you, such as not to communicate with the complainant or go back to the residence. For spouses with children, this creates a logistical nightmare! The situation can be fixed, but often not until the matter goes back to court.
The Court Process
Not only does court in Lethbridge convene only every 4th Wednesday of the month, but all criminal and drug and youth matters are lumped together, and all preliminary court appearances, sentences, and sometimes even trials are packed into one of those days. This is very different from major metropolitan centres like Calgary where at least 15-20 courtrooms are running at any given time, and there are dedicated courtrooms for youth matters, drug matters, domestic violence matters, docket matters, sentencing matters, and trial matters.
Practically speaking, what this means for you is that if you show up to court at 10:00am as required, you can expect to wait around for the good part of the morning until your matter gets called. Remember that lawyer matters get called first, so if you attend unrepresented it will take even longer to speak to your matter. One good thing about having one of our criminal defence lawyers handle the matter is that you won’t have to attend any preliminary court appearances until and unless we advise you otherwise.
As mentioned earlier, although the substantive criminal law is the same across all geographic regions, there are some unique aspects to defending specific charges in rural areas that you should be aware of. Some of the post common features are discussed below.
If you have been charged with an alcohol driving related offence in Lethbridge it probably has a much more debilitating impact on you than for someone charged in a major centre because it’s often harder to get around without a car in rural areas. As you probably already found out, your licence has been suspended indefinitely until the case is resolved, so it’s that much more important get the earliest trial date possible. Unfortunately, Rural centres such as Lethbridge can have a significant lag from the date of the offence to when the first court date is actually available, and it’s not uncommon to have to wait 6+ months until trial.Our lawyers are very attuned to this reality, and work hard with the prosecutor and judge to ensure that we secure the earliest date possible. Because court in Lethbridge allows for multiple trials to be books on the same date, we sometimes petition the court to overbook an otherwise full trial date so that our clients get the earliest trial date possible.
One unique feature of having overbooked trial dates in Lethbridge is that it also gives us an opportunity to negotiate a favourable resolution with the prosecutor. Sometimes the practical reality is that the prosecutors can’t run every trial set on a specific date. Even they are aware of this, so even the most unreasonable among them are more willing to entertain an early resolution to the charges that is favourable to both sides.
Domestic violence is not a charge in itself, but rather refers to a broad list of violence charges, including assault, assault with a weapon/bodily harm, threats, confinement, harassment, etc, that occurs in a domestic context. As mentioned earlier, if you have been charged with a domestic violence charge, you have probably been placed on some conditions, the most debilitating of which are obligations not to have any contact or communication with the complainant and other family members. Indeed, it is the standard policy of the RCMP to put these conditions on you, even if the complainant (likely your spouse) doesn’t want those conditions.
It’s worth reiterating that if you are reading this before you are arrested and charged for domestic violence, be sure to ask for the very first court date possible. The challenge with these charges arising in Lethbridge is that court only sits on every 4th Wednesday of the month, so it’s often not possible to get the matter into court the next day even if the RCMP were willing to do that. Moreover, the RCMP typically offer a first appearance date 2-4 weeks down the road which in our view is completely unacceptable due to the sensitive nature of these types of charges. Without going into the nuances, it is also much harder to get the matter into court earlier than the date the RCMP provide. There are mechanisms available to us that should be assessed on a case by case basis, but it is quite challenging to do this, so it’s that much more important to get it right at the beginning.
Domestic violence charges (particularly first time charges) can often be resolved without a criminal record with significant counselling in areas of domestic violence, anger management, and substance abuse. Indeed, we resolve the vast majority of domestic violence charges for our clients without a criminal record. Unfortunately, with a much smaller population, Lethbridge has much fewer authorized counselling centres than major metropolitan centres such as Calgary. Some of the centres available in Lethbridge include Community Mental Health Services provided by AHS, but you should consult with our of our lawyers to determine if the centre you choose is adequate.
Although virtually all resolutions available in major centres are the same in Lethbridge, one unique resolution option available in Lethbridge is called a “common law peace bond”. This option is not available in major centres like Calgary and Edmonton, so it gives us one more avenue to pursue in securing a positive result for our clients.
Unlike major centres like Calgary, where there is a specialized Drug Prosecution court room, in Lethbridge drug matters get lumped in with all the other criminal and youth matters. Drug matters are not even heard on every criminal sitting date, so it’s important to always inquire when a federal prosecutor is expected to be in attendance and coordinate the court schedule accordingly. This becomes particularly important if you are looking to modify or remove some of the conditions imposed on you. Because it can take some time to get the matter into court to speak to, it’s important to start the conversation with the prosecutor on the case as soon as possible.
In Lethbridge the drug prosecutors are not full time government lawyers. Rather, they are typically private civil or criminal lawyers that are hired on contract by the Federal Government to prosecute matters in various circuit points like Lethbridge. Typically, only one prosecutor will be responsible for all drug matters in Lethbridge. While on one hand it doesn’t give many options to pick the prosecutor to talk to, it does give some consistency in knowing who to expect and how to approach the situation accordingly.
Again, because the investigating body in these cases is the RCMP, the experts in trafficking cases are also different than those operating in major centres. Sometimes these subtle nuances don’t make a big difference, but sometimes they are important to keep in mind when approaching these cases and coming up with a strategy to argue them.
Why Hire Us
Although many of our clients with charges in Lethbridge actually live in Calgary, we understand that it might be difficult for some people to travel from Lethbridge for legal appointments. Rest assured we can handle most (and sometimes all) aspects of the case without you having to attend Calgary.
For those clients who can’t meet us in person, we offer a free initial consultation by telephone or video link. We can review the circumstances of your case, the process, the fee structure and what we can do to help remotely. Moreover, because we have a whole team of lawyers, we can offer a broad range of fees and flexible payment plans to meet virtually any budget.
We pride ourselves on providing not only the best result possible, but exceptional customer service along the way. Contact one of our experienced Calgary-based Criminal Defence Lawyers today and judge for yourself.