Why hire a paralegal? You’ve been charged by the police with a traffic ticket and don’t know what penalties you’re facing, what your legal options are, or what to do. Your decisions over the next few days may result in surprisingly large consequences to your licencing, insurance costs, and penalties issued by the court. What information will you need to make an informed decision on how to best proceed in protecting your rights and personal interests? A licenced paralegal is generally the most cost-effective resource.
WHAT IS A PARALEGAL?
In Ontario paralegals are licenced by and accountable to the Law Society. To become a paralegal, a candidate must first pass a Law Society accredited Paralegal Education program and then satisfactorily pass their licencing exam. If you are hiring a licenced paralegal, you can be confident that they have been assessed as being of good character and competent in their knowledge of law by the Law Society. Paralegals are required to maintain ongoing professional-development education and remain accountable to the Law Society for their conduct before the court.
WHAT DOES A PARALEGAL DO?
A paralegal is your legal representative at court. They are there to protect your interests. A paralegal is your personal resource in providing information about the penalties you are facing at court and the court process so that you can make informed decisions.
Generally a defendant will be facing three areas of penalties. The first will be court penalties. Court penalties can include fines, suspension of driver’s licence, and in very serious cases even imprisonment. The second area of penalty are licencing issues. These include record of conviction, demerit points, CVOR points, and suspension of driver’s licence. The final area of penalty is the impact of a conviction to insurance costs. A conviction could result in your insurance rates going up or your insurance policy being cancelled outright forcing you to seek out a high risk insurer.
The first step is to find the right paralegal that fits well with you and is experienced in the area of law that you require assistance with. For example, OTD Legal Services is focused on Highway Traffic Act and Compulsory Automobile Insurance act charges for regular and commercial motor vehicle drivers. It is important to check online reviews from previous clients. Have previous clients been happy with how they were treated and how their case was handled? Or does the company have a long history of complaints and unhappy clients? Independent reviews such as those through Google will provide a more objective view of the company rather than reviews posted to the company’s website that may be selectively picked to omit negative opinions.
Most paralegal companies will provide a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation. They will require a copy of the paperwork (ticket, summons, collision report, etc.) that you received from the police ahead of speaking with you. The purpose of that consultation is to allow the paralegal company to understand your case, as well as provide you basic information about the court process and what you have been charged with. They can then provide you with a quote for legal services. OTD Legal Services will provide you with a single, block rate to cover the court filings, court appearances, and legal work involved in your case. This allows you to weigh out the relative costs and benefits in deciding how you wish to proceed.
Generally, most cases can be resolved without requiring you to be present for any court appearances. This can be a huge relief to most defendants. Defendants can experience a lot of stress and anxiety from having to deal with the police or having just been in a collision or worrying about the consequences of being convicted. Let the paralegal worry about the legal issues for you. OTD Legal Services will keep you up to date as your case progresses through the court process to keep you informed and empowered as the defendant.
Most charges can at least be reduced a lesser offence with reduced court, licencing, and insurance penalties (assuming that the offence can not be thrown out completely). Paralegals are a cost-effective legal recourse in protecting your interests.
WHAT IF MY CASE REQUIRES TRIAL?
While most matters can be resolved without getting into a full trial, inevitably some matters will need to be argued at trial. Depending upon the facts of your case and the evidence available to the Prosecutor, a decision will be made whether or not to request your presence for trial.
This decision is based on who will have the anticipated net benefit of you providing evidence at court…the defence or the prosecution. If there is no net benefit to the defence, then you can go about your daily duties of work, childcare, etc. If there would be a net benefit to having you present, you can either attend court or opt not to do so. As the end goal is to win your case, it is best to attend court if you are advised to do so. However, if you wish to not attend your trial date, your paralegal will provide your defence in the courtroom minus your personal testimony.
Having a paralegal present at court with you makes the court process much less intimidating. Having a friendly advocate that knows the law, the court process, as well as the local prosecutor, police, and court staff avoids legal missteps and ensures that your defence is articulated effectively.
CAN A PARALEGAL GUARANTEE OR PREDICT AN OUTCOME?
Unfortunately, no. Lawyers and paralegals can not predict or guarantee the outcome of any case, even if they believe that there is a strong defence present. it would be unethical and irresponsible to mislead any defendant that their charge is guaranteed to be thrown out or be reduced to a lesser offence. The regulation of lawyers and paralegals by the Law Society has largely removed such bad actors in Ontario. Remember that matters before the court are matters of fact and law. There is no magical secret or silver bullet that any single paralegal knows to guarantee that your case will be thrown out. There is only hard work, training, and an indepth knowledge of the law and the court process.
If you run across a company providing such unrealistic claims, you may wish to check their written materials or website for the exact details of their guarantee or how they define the words used in their guarantee. If it appears that you are being misled, you may wish to seek out a more credible legal representative. Your choice of legal representative is the most important decision you will make in defending your personal interests. A good paralegal will be absolutely honest with you, even if it means delivering unpleasant news or advising that contesting a specific offence is not cost effective for you to proceed with.
IF YOU’VE BEEN CHARGED
If you’ve been charged by the police, it is important to seek out information as soon as possible as there will be a deadline before which your case must be filed with the court. Our friendly staff are happy to help you with a no cost, no obligation initial consultation to assist you in making an informed decision on how to best proceed in protecting your personal rights and interests. Of staff may be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by text at 226-240-2480.