Defending Yourself Against Criminal Charges: A Defence Lawyer in Toronto’s Summary

Defending Yourself Against Criminal Charges: A Defence Lawyer in Toronto’s Summary


If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence, you may be confused, scared and afraid of what is to come next.  After all, the stakes are high for anyone facing a criminal charge.  Potential consequences of a criminal conviction include:

  • Loss of employment
  • Inability to travel
  • Jail or other restrictive court orders
  • Deportation for non-citizens
  • Financial consequences (fees, fines, etc)

As a Defence Lawyer in Toronto, a summary of the steps to defend oneself against a criminal case are provided here.  However, it is important to stress that you should always consider retaining an experienced Defence Lawyer in Toronto for your case rather than self-represent.  This article is written not to encourage self-representation, but to educate the public on the key aspects that form the groundwork of any legal defence to a crime in Canada.

I am a Defence Lawyer in Toronto with over 12 years of experience as a criminal lawyer, and have experience at all stages of a criminal case – from the bail hearing or first appearance all the way through a trial. 

Presumption of Innocence

A foundation of our criminal justice system rests on the presumption of innocence. Everyone charged with a crime, no matter how serious the matter, is afforded this right.  The right stipulates that the accused must be treated or presumed innocent until either they admit guilt or are found guilty of a crime. All steps of the criminal court process, every rule of evidence, every interaction between criminal justice system participants ought to be guided by this principle.  So, if you are charged with a crime, regardless of what occurred or didn’t occur, at the forefront of your thought process should be the idea that “I am legally innocent” – until proven otherwise.

Burden of Proof

In every criminal case, for every criminal charge (regardless of charge severity), the burden of proof remains the same.  The burden of proof is a more complicated way of saying the “level” or “standard” of evidence required for a Judge or Jury to accept that someone is guilty of a crime.

In civil cases, the burden of proof is “on a balance of probabilities” (or more likely than not).  Because, in criminal cases, we are dealing with potentially life altering sentences and dispositions, the burden is raised to a higher standard – the burden is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.    In short, the Crown Attorney is required to prove the charges to this degree of near certainty.  If they fail to do so, the accused would be entitled to an acquittal at a trial.

Toronto Defence Lawyers often employ very simple trial strategies that are the product of the two foundational principles above.  In short, the argument at a trial may be as simple as the Criminal Lawyer arguing that the Crown has not discharged its burden based on the evidence heard; there should be a reasonable doubt that their client committed the offence(s) and therefore the client should be acquitted.


Every accused person in this era of criminal justice is entitled to full disclosure. Pursuant to s. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, each accused is entitled to know the case that they have to meet; they are entitled to know what the accuser has said in order to prepare a defence.   An Experienced Defence Lawyer in Toronto will always tell you that your defence cannot be prepared until disclosure is reviewed in full.  Not reading disclosure and entering a trial is like playing a board game without knowing the rules; you’re going to, almost certainly, lose.  Obtaining disclosure is typically the first step in developing your defence, aside from retaining a Toronto Criminal Lawyer.

Overview of Potential Defences in Criminal Cases

Toronto Defence Lawyers will rely on any potential defence available to their client when at a criminal trial.  There a wide range of defences to criminal charges and going through each one of them falls outside the scope of what this article is trying to accomplish.  The basics of raising a defence will be outlined here in a general fashion.  Putting these defences forward in practice, however, usually requires a number of rules being satisfied, which is why self-representing is never a good idea unless it’s your only option:

“I Didn’t Do It” Defence

One line of defence is to reject the allegations entirely – I didn’t do it.  The defence is typically advanced by way of you testifying in your own defence and providing a narrative in which you reject the allegations outright.  It will be up to a Judge, then, to weigh the evidence and decide if the Crown has met their burden of proof.

“Someone Else Did It” Defence

This defence is more complicated than the “I didn’t do it” defence.  Toronto Defence Lawyers more commonly refer to this defence as the “Alternative Suspect” defence.  It is more commonly raised in very serious prosecutions, like murder cases, and not in your standard domestic assault or theft case that occupy trials courts daily.

“I Did It, but was Justified” Defence

A Defence Lawyer in Toronto will always review whether a client’s actions, if they admit to any potential wrongdoing, were justified in law.  The most common type of justification in Canadian criminal law is Self Defence, which is a defence in which the accused admits to some form of Assault on another person, but suggests to the court that their actions were justified as they were defending themselves.

“I Did it, but was Too Drunk to Be Guilty” Defence

The defence of intoxication is complicated.  Intoxication is not a complete defence to all criminal charges.  The degree to which someone is intoxicated also may affect the availability of the defence.  The general rule is that being drunk, by itself, is not a defence to what are known as “general intent” crimes.  The majority of crimes are general intent – e.g. Assault, Theft, Robbery, Criminal Harassment, etc.  An experienced Criminal Lawyer in Toronto would have to review your case to analyze how an intoxication defence can be presented, if at all.

“I Did it, but it was Accidental” Defence

The defence of accident can be raised for certain types of offences where there is an “intent” requirement to be proved by the Crown, and an accident takes place that may negate the intent.  For example, the charge of Assault requires the Crown to prove that you intended to strike another person.  If you hit someone with your arm accidentally, and were not reckless in doing so, you may have a defence.

“I Did it, but Did Not Appreciate What I Was Doing Because of a Mental Disorder” Defence

The defence of mental disorder is a complicated defence, and operates as way to be found not guilty of a crime by reason of a mental disorder. 

Andrew Captan – Defence Lawyer in Toronto

Andrew Captan is an experienced Defence Lawyer in Toronto. If you’ve been charged with a crime and require a consultation to develop a defence to your charges, contact him at (647) 878 – 6355 or e-mail him at Alternatively, you can visit his website HERE.

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