What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid Ontario provides funding for persons who have been charged with a crime, are facing a possible jail sentence, and meet the financial criteria. Essentially Legal Aid is a way for low-income residents to obtain defence counsel, when they are financially unable to pay for a lawyer on their own. Sometimes, if you have assets, or income, you may have to sign a contribution agreement (agree to pay some of the cost) to obtain Legal Aid.
How do I apply for Legal Aid?
In order to determine if you are eligible for Legal Aid funding, you will need to contact Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 and speak with a Legal Aid representative. Calls can be made between 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Please know that you may be on hold for a lengthy period of time, so make sure when you call, you are able to stay on the phone.
Most often, Legal Aid will want to know what the Crown Screening Form indicates with regards to charges and the Crown’s position on sentencing or resolution of your matter(s). Again, Legal Aid will want to know if the Crown Attorney or Prosecutor is seeking jail in your case. A Crown Screening form is a document you generally receive from the Crown Attorney, attached to your disclosure, that you will receive on your first appearance in Court. Depending on your charges, you may have to wait to make your Legal Aid application until you have received this form with your disclosure.
On some occasions, Legal Aid will advise you to speak with Duty Counsel at the courthouse to have them review your Crown Screening form, and/or disclosure, to make an assessment as to whether Legal Aid would be suitable in your situation.
In certain circumstances, Legal Aid may be available if you are dealing with mental health issues.
Note: If Legal Aid says no to your application, you have a right to appeal their decision.
I’m a youth, can I get Legal Aid?
As a youth, you can apply to Legal Aid as per above.
I’m a youth, and Legal Aid said no to my application? If your parents are unable or unwilling to pay for defence counsel, and your matter is serious enough, the Court can make an order under section 25 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act that Legal Aid will have to issue you a certificate so that you can retain counsel. Our lawyers can assist you in obtaining this order. It is very important that young persons have a lawyer, someone on their side, that can represent them, and navigate the judicial system.
I accept Legal Aid Certificates (some restrictions may apply).
To learn more about Legal Aid Ontario services: www.legalaid.on.ca
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