My lawyer wants me to plead guilty, should I? 

In Legal Articles by Linden Schwark

Some lawyers have a reputation for pleading people guilty – some lawyers have a reputation for fighting.

If your lawyer is trying to convince you to plead guilty, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. Most lawyers will provide a second opinion free of charge.

Every lawyer looks at a file through a different lens. Often one lawyer who looks at a file can miss subtle but viable avenues of defence. You must be confident that you know all viable avenues of defence before deciding to accept a “deal. “ 

Before pleading guilty, you should know whether you have factual, constitutional, or procedural defences. You should know the likelihood of success of those defences. Often the successful defence of a criminal prosecution has nothing to do with the facts.

Cases can be decided on issues like:

  • Was the evidence destroyed? 
  • Were you provided full disclosure?
  • Were you provided disclosure in an organized fashion? 
  • Was evidence disclosed late? 
  • Did the police or Crown prosecutor act in a manner that constitutes an abuse of process? 
  • Were you tried within a reasonable time?
  • Was excessive force used when the police arrested you? 

You need to know the answer to these questions before pleading guilty. Although your lawyer may try to convince you to plead guilty, ultimately, it is you who must accept the consequences, and you must enter the plea of guilty.

Every time a person pleads guilty, they must:

  • (a) the accused is making the plea voluntarily;
  • (b) the accused understands
    • (i) that the plea is an admission of the essential elements of the offence,
    • (ii) the nature and consequences of the plea, and
    • (iii) that the court is not bound by any agreement made between the accused and the prosecutor; and
  • (c) the facts support the charge.

There isn’t a “non-contest “plea in Canada. A no-contest plea is effectively where you plead guilty without accepting the facts of the offence. 

In Canada, if you refuse to accept the facts underlying the offence, the judge will refuse to accept your guilty plea.

Although in law, you are supposed to get credit for entering an early guilty plea, the recognition you receive is arbitrary – there is no mathematical formula. 

There is no guarantee that the “deal” that the Crown offers you before trial is a more lenient sentence than what you would receive after a hard fight trial. 

In Sean Fagan’s experience, often the opposite is true.

Sean Fagan’s practice is never to persuade a client to plead guilty.

He does, as he is obliged to, which is to take all resolution offers to his client promptly. Further, he will explain in no uncertain terms whether the offer is excellent, no good, or something in between. Then, he will leave it up to you to decide.

This is how lawyers should operate. Again, it is not the lawyer who is pleading guilty, it is the client, and only the client can decide how the consequences will impact their life moving forward.

The consequences of pleading guilty may be grave. Immigration, employment, and family law are all factors to consider when pleading guilty. You will often have to consult with an immigration, employment, or family lawyer to understand the full ramifications of a guilty plea. A criminal lawyer should only advise you on your case’s criminal dimension.