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Peter Brauti answers common legal questions on BTZ Law TV

The first thing someone should do after learning he or she is being investigated by the police is to call a lawyer, Toronto criminal lawyer Peter Brauti says on a recent episode of BTZ Law TV.

BTZ Law TV features informative legal news videos — with host and Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP partner Lorne Honickman — that provide insight and information into the many legal issues that you face every day.

In a segment on some of the most common legal questions people ask, Brauti says it’s important to tell police that you would like to speak with a lawyer first. Counsel can then give advice on whether you should talk with the police.

“You’re not telling the police, ‘I’m never going to speak to you;’ you are just getting advice about whether you should speak to police or not and to (determine) what information is important that you can provide,” he says. 

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Brauti, partner with BTZ, says police don’t typically take people into custody for minor offences such as smoking marijuana or spray-painting a wall — especially if they don’t have a criminal record. 

He notes there are three things that can happen when it comes to an arrest. For minor offences, a police officer can arrest you and give you a promise to appear (a sheet of paper that details the date and location of your first appearance in court). For many types of offences, police can also bring you into the police station, where they assess the situation and the officer in charge may decide to release you.

But for more serious offences or for an individual who is already out on bail, police may hold the person for a bail hearing within 24 hours. That hearing will determine whether the individual will be released or kept in custody until the trial.

Brauti explains the term surety as most commonly “the person who bails you out.

“A surety has certain obligations because in essence a surety is vouching for you — vouching in two ways,” he says. “First of all, they’re vouching that you’re going to show up for your trial and the second thing is that they’re going to make sure you abide by the conditions upon which you’ve been released. And one of those things is that you’re not going to commit further offences.”

Brauti says that while cash can sometimes be required for a person to obtain bail, in most cases it is not. 

He also says the court process can be “a long journey” through the criminal justice system and can involve a number of different court appearances. 

Further, an accused person is entitled to receive disclosure, says Brauti, which is a copy of the police officer’s notes, any photographs or videos; it is basically any of the evidence that the police and the prosecutor have against you. And sometimes it can be a long process to obtain all of the disclosure, he says. 

And if the matter cannot be resolved and goes to trial, the wait for a trial date can also be lengthy, says Brauti. 

The lawyer says that the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” is one of the most important concepts in criminal law.

“It means certainty — that the judge has found with some certainty that you have committed this offence,” he says. “It doesn’t mean absolute certainty because that’s virtually impossible in most cases for a prosecutor to prove. It’s more than a balance of probabilities.”


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