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Do you know a woman who is being abused? A legal rights handbook

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What if I am charged?

If you are arrested, you have the right to know the reasons for your arrest. You have the right to stay silent. You also have the right to contact a lawyer right away.

Getting help

If you are being held by the police, you can ask them to call the duty counsel hotline at 1-800-265-0451. The police can call this number 24 hours a day.

  1. The police will tell the duty counsel lawyer what you're being charged with.
  2. You'll be able to speak to the duty counsel lawyer over the phone.
  3. The duty counsel lawyer will give you free legal advice over the phone. This service is available to all Ontarians. You do not need to qualify financially.

If you are charged with a crime related to partner abuse, get legal help right away. You can apply to get a Legal Aid certificate to hire a lawyer to represent you. You must qualify financially.

Legal Aid certificate: a document that says Legal Aid Ontario has agreed to pay for a certain number of hours of a lawyer's time to work on your legal issues. Not all lawyers accept these certificates. You have to find a lawyer who agrees to work for you and agrees to accept your certificate. You can find a lawyer who accepts Legal Aid certificates online at

Legal Aid Ontario might also consider what serious consequences you might face if you are found guilty. For example, if there is a chance you will get a jail sentence, lose your job, lose decision-making responsibility for or parenting time with your children, or face immigration or refugee challenges, you might be able to get a certificate.

If Legal Aid Ontario rejects your application, you can:

  1. Appeal the decision. This means that you disagree with the decision and want to ask someone with more authority to review the decision.
  2. Go to court and ask for an order that the government pay for your lawyer. The court might make this type of order if you cannot afford a lawyer and you need one to have a fair trial.

You might also want to talk to someone at a shelter or a community legal clinic. They can get you up to 2 hours of free family or immigration law advice. See Legal and community resources in Ontario.

If you are not able to hire a lawyer, you might be able to get help from criminal duty counsel at the court. You need to qualify financially, and duty counsel can only help with some things. For example, they cannot usually help at a trial but can help at other court dates.

Other circumstances

If you are not a Canadian citizen, it is very important for you to speak with an immigration lawyer. A criminal charge or conviction could affect your right to stay in Canada. For example, even if you are a permanent resident, you could lose your status and be deported if you are convicted of a serious crime.

If you are part of a family court case to get decision-making responsibility for or parenting time with your children, you should also speak with a family law lawyer. Criminal charges or convictions might affect your family law case or a Children’s Aid Society investigation.