You won’t find any real-estate lawyers here. Criminal litigation is serious business, and the stakes for the clients we defend are as high as they come. Your job. Your reputation. Your freedom.

 

Our clients come to us with the worst kind of problems and we solve them—with creative, focused, determined advocacy.

CRIMINAL LAWYERS BASED IN OTTAWA

 

ABERGEL GOLDSTEIN & PARTNERS LLP

We defend.

Our firm was founded in Ottawa by a group of hungry young criminal lawyers who believed that every one of our clients deserved a smart, creative, fearless defence.

We still believe that. And with years of experience defending serious, complex cases behind us, we have evolved into a focused group of seasoned professionals. Each one of our partners brings razor-sharp intellect, finely-honed judgment, and the courtroom skills that can make the difference between success and failure.

Our clients.

Over the years, our lawyers have been sought out by clients from across Ontario, and from all walks of life. We represent executives, civil servants, doctors, pharmacists, high-tech workers, and diplomats. Our clients also include institutions and organizations facing criminal or regulatory issues.

But we also believe quality representation should not only be available to those who can easily afford it. We have the flexibility to accommodate clients who might otherwise struggle to pay for top-flight legal representation. And, in appropriate cases, we accept Legal Aid.

Our cases.

We have what it takes to defend any criminal charge, regulatory infraction, or disciplinary offence. White-collar crime. Drugs. Crimes of violence. Driving offences, including impaired driving. We provide specialized representation at all stages of litigation. We give counsel to individuals and institutional clients about their legal responsibilities. And we represent people who have been charged: obtaining bail, at trial, and on appeal.

Our reach.

We are situated in Ottawa, and we regularly appear in Gatineau and Eastern Ontario, including Brockville, Kingston, L’Orignal, Pembroke, Arnprior, Perth, Smiths Falls, Alexandria, and Morrisburg.

But our reach doesn’t end there. We are often sought out by clients elsewhere, including Toronto, Thunder Bay, and beyond.

Our approach.

In our business, there is such a thing as being too nice. We never lose sight of the fact that a prosecution is always personal—someone is trying to take away your reputation, your future, your freedom. We respect our adversaries, but we never forget that we are there to protect our clients, not to make friends.

A custom-crafted defence.

Beware the cookie-cutter defence. Every client is different. Every case is different. We get to know our clients and we spend the time to find out what approach will work them.

And we know the simple things count. We will return your phone calls. We will keep you up-to-date on your case. And we will get to know you and your goals as we craft our strategy and your defence.

OUR EXPERTISE

Criminal Trials

We are trial lawyers.

In a criminal trial there is no room for mistakes. It’s under that kind of pressure that we do our best work. Judge or jury. Murder trial or impaired driving charge. Cracking open a tough witness or advancing a complicated legal argument. The courtroom is our comfort zone. We believe there are no impossible cases.

Discrete Lawyering

Keeping a lid on criminal charges.

You need to have a touch of showmanship in your blood to love jury litigation, and we’re always pleased to have a big win splashed across the newspapers. But a big part of the work we do is out-of-court lawyering—negotiating, cajoling, convincing. Turning big cases into little ones, and making little ones go away entirely. You won’t see these cases in the newspaper. Now, we like being in the news, but we find that many of our clients prefer to get a great result and skip the media attention. We’re happy to oblige.

Appeals

It ain’t over till it’s over.

The worst words a criminal defendant can hear from a judge or jury: guilty as charged. We have brought countless clients back from that abyss. Clients convicted of all kinds of offences have put their faith in us to deliver the just result they were denied at trial. Few firms have the experience, and or have had the success, that we have had in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

IN THE NEWS

Police Rifle Purchase: Critic Slams Decision As ‘Incredibly Misguided’

An Ottawa criminal lawyer says the Toronto police force’s decision to buy high-powered rifles in bulk for front-line use is “incredibly misguided.” “Weapons, when they’re accessible to police, tend to be used,” Michael Spratt of Abergel Goldstein & Partners said in an interview with The Huffington Post Canada on Friday. “We’ve seen this in the Yatim case.” He was referring to the teen who was shot to death by police on a Toronto streetcar in 2013 after officers responded to calls that Sammy Yatim was brandishing a knife. Const. James Forcillo is currently awaiting a verdict in his trial for second-degree murder and attempted murder. In the same week that the jury began deliberating, the Toronto Police Service announced it is purchasing 51 military-style assault rifles. […] Read Emma Paling’s full article: Huffington Post... read more

Front-line Toronto Cops to get Military-Grade Assault Rifles

At a time when violence perpetrated by cops is facing intense scrutiny, Toronto Police Service is arming its front-line officers with military-grade assault rifles. The cops have purchased 50 C8 carbine assault rifles—the same guns used by the Canadian Armed Forces—for officers working in the Greater Toronto Area’s 17 divisions, according to a CBC report that was confirmed by police spokesman Mark Pugash. “We’re always looking at technology to see if it offers us additional safety, additional accuracy, something that can help us protect the public,” Pugash told the CBC. The semi-automatic rifles, which can fire bullets at a speed of 895 metres per second, are known for being user-friendly and accurate; they’re currently used by the TPS’ Emergency Task Force, a tactical unit that responds to extreme scenarios such as those that involve hostages and bombs. But questions are being raised as to why the police need more of them. Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt told VICE the cops’ push to “militarize” is “fucking ridiculous.” “These aren’t weapons that should be use on civilians,” he said. “By arming them, bulletproofing them, and making them seem like a military invasion strike force, that [creates] a public perception problem.” […] Read Manisha Krishnan’s full article:... read more

More than sunny ways needed to address mandatory minimums

Sunny ways. This is the promise of Justin Trudeau and his newly elected Liberal government. If there is one dark vestige of the Conservative government that could benefit from the light it is criminal justice policy. Over the last 10 years, our Criminal Code has been radically altered. The changes did not happen all at once but slowly as evidence-based police gave way to partisan ideology. The death was one of a thousand cuts. The Conservatives were wicked smart in implementing their crime agenda. Major legislative changes were buried in massive omnibus bills. Small but problematic amendments were hurried through Parliament and shielded from constitutional scrutiny in private members bills, and the parliamentary review process was gamed to suppress evidence that contradicted the government’s agenda. We are living with the sad results: overcrowded jails, massive costs, reduced public safety, and law after law ruled to be unconstitutional. And there is no better example of the Conservatives’ disdain for evidence-based criminal justice policy than mandatory minimum sentences. The Harper government promoted mandatory minimum sentences as a tough-on-crime elixir. However, the reality is that mandatory minimum sentences are simply poor policy. They are not supported by the evidence. They do not make communities safer. They do not deter the commission of offences. They impede rehabilitation. They are costly. They are simply unjust. Proponents of mandatory sentences say minimum sentences deter crime and make communities safer. Let’s look at what the evidence does tell us: Minimum sentences and harsh incarceration aren’t effective at reducing crime, and they do little to assist with rehabilitation. Read Michael Spratt’s full article: Canadian... read more

Looming strike stokes fears for court delays, lockdowns at jails

At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, correctional and probation officers are set to walk off the job on strike, leaving lawyers, prisoner advocacy groups and families of those behind bars fearful of what might happen next. Ottawa defence lawyer Oliver Abergel said he, too, is concerned that access to his clients may be cut off or so severely delayed by a strike at Ontario jails that their rights to a fair trial are impacted. “It’s hard enough to see people even when things are supposedly operating normally,” said Abergel. “It may be the most righteous strike issue imaginable, but that doesn’t change the impact that if I can’t see my client, his trial might end up having to be delayed.” Read Andrew Seymour’s full story: Ottawa... read more

Trailers set up to house temp staff at Innes Rd. jail

If a strike is what correctional officers want, all the best. That’s the message the province is sending by investing $8.5 million in infrastructure to house public service managers at jails across Ontario, including Ottawa where up to 11 trailers akin to mobile homes were seen being set up inside the confines of the Innes Rd. jail fences Monday and Tuesday. […] Criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said inmates are concerned and have been kept mostly in the dark. “They are under the impression it’s going to negatively affect their time in custody,” he said, citing concerns he’s heard such as lack of family visits, limited access to defence counsel and phones, frequent lockdowns and cleanliness. “This is not a situation that should not have been unforeseen. There are no cheap fixes, but human rights and treating Canadian citizens appropriately should never take a back seat to financial issues.” Read Matt Day’s full article: Ottawa... read more

Federal victim surcharge bound for Supreme Court, defence lawyers say

OTTAWA – Defence lawyers say mandatory victim surcharges being imposed on destitute offenders are destined for the Supreme Court of Canada as fierce legal battles play out in lower courts in British Columbia and Ontario. The latest skirmish is taking place in B.C.’s provincial court, where the Crown is expected to argue next month that the surcharge is a reasonable limitation of a homeless offender’s Charter rights. Trial judge Donna Senniw has already determined the man’s rights, outlined under sections 7 and 12, were violated. […] Many judges across the country felt the mandatory surcharge removed their sentencing discretion and some tried to find ways to circumvent the surcharge, such as setting lengthy payment schedules. “The response we have seen from the judiciary has been exceptional,” said Ottawa criminal lawyer Michael Spratt. “The reason why the judges, I think, are finding creative ways to try and bring fairness back into the system is because these are the people who hear and see the homeless individual who has no money, who is faced with what can be, for them, a back-breaking fine for minor offences.” Read Kirsty Kirkup‘s full article: Canadian... read more

BLOG

More than sunny ways needed to address mandatory minimums

Sunny ways. This is the promise of Justin Trudeau and his newly elected Liberal government. If there is one dark vestige of the Conservative government that could benefit from the light it is criminal justice policy. Over the last 10 years, our Criminal Code has been radically altered. The changes did not happen all at once but slowly as evidence-based police gave way to partisan ideology. The death was one of a thousand cuts. The Conservatives were wicked smart in implementing their crime agenda. Major legislative changes were buried in massive omnibus bills. Small but problematic amendments were hurried through Parliament and shielded from constitutional scrutiny in private members bills, and the parliamentary review process was gamed to suppress evidence that contradicted the government’s agenda. We are living with the sad results: overcrowded jails, massive costs, reduced public safety, and law after law ruled to be unconstitutional. And there is no better example of the Conservatives’ disdain for evidence-based criminal justice policy than mandatory minimum sentences. The Harper government promoted mandatory minimum sentences as a tough-on-crime elixir. However, the reality is that mandatory minimum sentences are simply poor policy. They are not supported by the evidence. They do not make communities safer. They do not deter the commission of offences. They impede rehabilitation. They are costly. They are simply unjust. Proponents of mandatory sentences say minimum sentences deter crime and make communities safer. Let’s look at what the evidence does tell us: Minimum sentences and harsh incarceration aren’t effective at reducing crime, and they do little to assist with rehabilitation. Read Michael Spratt’s full article: Canadian... read more

Tips to Avoid Being Charged with a DUI Offence

With the holiday’s right around the corner, it often means plenty of holiday and New Year’s parties to attend. This time of year is by far one of the busiest for police agencies, not only in Ottawa, but throughout Ontario, to ensure impaired and drunk drivers are kept off the roads. To avoid potentially be charged with a DUI offence this holiday season, take the time to review the following tips and suggestions. Use a designated driver. Before arriving at any holiday party, come to a consensus within your group as to who will be the designated driver and not drink. Give the keys to the vehicle to the designated driver. Do not drink. If you do not have a designated driver and are attending a holiday party by yourself, do not drink. It is not worth taking the risk of getting stopped and the expenses associated with a drinking and driving offence, just to have a few drinks at a holiday party. Use public transportation. If public transportation is going to be running late into the evening on the night of the party, take the bus or train to and from the event. Use a taxi or personal limo service. If everyone in your group is planning on drinking, split the costs of hiring a taxi or personal limo service to be your designated driver. Make arrangements with the party hosts to stay the evening. Another alternative is to make arrangements with the party hosts to spend the night at their home and drive home the next day, after you have sobered up and it is safe for... read more

Human and financial costs of drug war just too high

By Michael Spratt Michael Swan was watching Canada play the United States for Olympic hockey gold while the three young men who would kill him were driving to Ottawa down a dark highway. The “Toronto three”, as they would come to be known, had a plan to make some easy money: They were going to steal Swan’s marijuana. Swan was murdered later that night on Feb. 21 2010 — killed by a single bullet that pierced his lung and tore apart his heart. Swan’s life was taken for a small amount of marijuana; as were the lives of Travis Votour and Amanda Trottier — killed in January 2014, allegedly in a marijuana drug rip, as was the life of Yazdan Ghiasvand Ghiasi, who apparently died over a bag of weed in 2010. This is the result of the failed war on drugs. A year ago, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report entitled Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies That Work. The report provided a substantive analysis of current global drug policy. The Commission was comprised of international experts, former presidents and prime ministers, and former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour. At its core, the commission’s report emphasized that a fundamental shift in policy — health, social and criminal — was required, to alleviate the harms associated with drug use. The report was unequivocal: The world’s war on drugs has been an abject failure. As a criminal defence lawyer, this comes as no surprise. Every day I see the ravages of illegal drugs in our communities. Canada has a drug problem, but it is a... read more

Its Time to Get Smart About Crime

The streets of Old Ottawa South have never been more dangerous. Convicted murders roam free, pedophiles lurk behind every bush, and our children are in constant danger. This is not our parent’s neighbourhood; we live in dark and dangerous times.

Of course none of that is true. The despotic image of dangerous, crime-ridden neighbourhoods only exists in the imagination of the tough-on-crime Conservatives. Given the Harper government’s track record on real issues – say the environment or the economy – the crime narrative is a necessary fiction, an exercise in distraction, which has little to do with increasing public safety.

read more

The Use of Phallometric Evidence in Canadian Criminal Law

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry the Law Michael S. Purcell, JD, Jennifer A. Chandler, LLB, LLM and J. Paul Fedoroff, MD Abstract The use of phallometric evidence by Canadian criminal courts has steadily increased since the early 1980s. Phallometry was initially considered by courts to be a potentially useful tool in the determination of accused persons’ culpability; however, its contemporary use is limited to the postconviction contexts of sentencing and dangerous and long-term offender applications, as one of several means of diagnosing offenders, determining recidivism risk, and assessing treatment prospects. We provide an overview and assessment of the use of phallometric evidence by Canadian criminal courts and conclude that its contemporary application appears to be consistent with the expert psychiatric consensus on its proper role and function in the forensic context. We further identify potential difficulties associated with the adequacy of offenders’ consent and the occasional divergence of expert opinion about the reliability and validity of phallometry for diagnosis and risk assessment. Phallometry (also known as penile plethysmography) is a technique used in the assessment and treatment of paraphilias in men. In essence, it detects an increase in penile circumference in response to specific visual or auditory stimuli and, on this basis, suggests the nature of the subject’s sexual interests. Analogous techniques have been developed to assess women. We note also the recent exploration of functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess sexual interests. Phallometric evidence has been accepted by courts in the United States as a condition of parole, probation, and supervised release; however, there has been much greater resistance to admitting it at trial. Although phallometry has now attracted a significant level... read more

Carding, not just a Toronto problem

Carding happens everywhere, not just in Toronto. Police officers routinely ask individuals for identification when they are not suspected of criminal activity. It happens on the street, and it happens to passengers in vehicles. It happens across the country. While it is laudable that the Mayor of Toronto has vowed to end the policy of carding there, it would be naive to think that this signals an end to carding at large. The practice and injustice of carding has long predated the Toronto Police’s policy. Like all other Charter violations, when carding doesn’t lead to criminal charges, it never comes to light. Thanks to the Toronto Police’s official policy of carding, we know that it has been used to disproportionately target racial minorities. The practice of carding is offensive enough, it is even worse when it disproportionately affects minority groups and the poor. Here’s a shocker: some people, including police officers, are racist. Lower income neighbourhoods are also subject to greater police oversight. So it really should come as no surprise that racial minorities and the poor are bearing the brunt of the police’s disrespect for the law. It is also apparent that but for criminal charges being laid, the public or the administration of justice would never become aware of this practice. So until the Toronto Police decided to make it an official policy, carding had largely fallen under the radar. It is emblematic of all individual rights that those who are charged with criminal offences serve as proxies for those of us who are never charged. I suppose we have the brazenly illegal policy of the Toronto... read more
Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP
116 Lisgar Street, Suite 200 Ottawa, ON K2P 0C2
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