Can you afford not to be represented by a lawyer?

Preoccupied businessman holding hands on his forehead

Can you afford not to be represented by a lawyer?

Have you ever considered representing yourself? You believe you cannot afford to have a lawyer representing you? In Quebec, neither the poorest nor the richest have to worry very long about this financial aspect. For the most disadvantaged (see the eligibility criteria for legal aid), the Commission des services juridiques takes care of your legal fees (many services are covered). For the most advantaged, of course you can count on your savings. But, for middle-class people, if you run into trouble with the judicial system, the question can become more difficult. But, at the end, the question you should ask yourself is the following: can you afford not to be represented by a lawyer? No. In this article, I will tell you about the financial impacts that a criminal conviction can generate. If you believe it only happens to your neighbors, think again. About 15% of the Canadian population has a criminal record1, which represents about 4 million people in Canada, one man out of five in Quebec2. Only in Quebec, more than 100,000 criminal cases are processed each year by the Quebec Court3 (excluding those processed by the Superior Court, municipal courts, and files being rejected or not referred to the court by the prosecutor, etc.). Overall, you have more chances of being prosecuted than winning the lottery.

The legal world is complex. Legal procedures are long. And the consequences can be disastrous in your life. Make sure you have the best chance to succeed in court and call upon the services of a lawyer. What happens when you go out on a rainy day without an umbrella? Of course, you will get wet. What will happen when you will be facing a fierce adversary, experienced in a field that you do not know, or perhaps slightly? Let us be honest about it: you are going in unarmed. As Bruce Lee has so well expressed: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” If you think that the saving of a few thousand dollars is worth it, think again. This decision could be very costly. You cannot know what you do not know, so please consult a lawyer. He knows. You surely do not want to say afterwards: “I should have”. For example, there are people who wrongly believed they had no legal defences available to them but in fact they had, and they pleaded guilty when they could have been acquitted. There are other people who are actually guilty but were unaware that they could have asked for a discharge and now they have a criminal record. Avoid making these mistakes. Consult a lawyer.

Impacts on employment

Employers increasingly proceed to a systematic criminal record verification at the time of hiring. But also, many employers proceed to a periodic check during the course of employment. In Quebec, Section 18.2 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms forbids to refuse to hire, dismiss or otherwise penalize a person in his employment owing to the mere fact that he was convicted of a penal or criminal offence, but and only, (1) if the offence was in no way connected with the employment or (2) if the person has obtained a pardon (record suspension) for the offence. It’s easy to find another reason. Who, according to you, will have more chances of obtaining a job? Of keeping his job as a result of corporate restructuring or lay-offs? Of obtaining a promotion? We cannot stick our heads in the sand. The only existence of a criminal record basically diminishes your chances by 50% of obtaining a job. It is not rare to see convicted people leave a precarious job for another, for lack of a better job, and this can last for years. Let’s imagine the consequences on finances: difficulties to make ends meet, debts that accumulate, sale of the house.

Impacts on insurance

If you have a criminal record, you must disclose it to your insurer and your close relatives (immediate family), because otherwise your insurer could refuse to indemnify you or your immediate family member in case of a claim. And there come a legal battle to determine if your criminal record is related to your insurance coverage. Of course, by disclosing the existence of your criminal record, the insurer can refuse to insure you, limit the coverage, or increase your premium (a lot more in fact), but at least you will have peace of mind knowing what to expect if you have to make a claim. Some insurance brokers make it their business to provide services to people with criminal records so they can insure their properties. Call upon these insurance brokers.

Other impacts

Having a criminal record can also have negative impacts on many other aspects of your life. To name only a few: volunteer, go to the United States or rent an appartment.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information contained in this article is general in nature. Even tough it is partly legal in nature, the information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice. Each case is different, you must consult the appropriate professionals according to the nature of your questions.