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CRIMINAL LAW

Getting charged with a criminal offence is certain to become one of the most stressful times in your life.  Indeed, many have experienced the crushing power of "The State" and its seemingly endless resources to prosecute criminal matters.

 

Michael is a former senior Crown Attorney who has logged thousands of hours of trial and litigation experience at all court levels, for many different criminal offences.  Michael now brings his extensive Crown training and intimate knowledge of the justice system to his criminal defence practice.

 

Please see below for a list of criminal law services offered by Michael Coristine Law.  You can also read more about some of Michael's more notable cases here.

Bail Hearings and Bail Reviews

The road to a successful criminal defence often begins with bail.  If you are detained, the road gets a lot tougher. You probably only get one chance at a full bail hearing.  As a result, the stakes at the bail stage are extremely high, especially with more serious charges that could see you waiting in custody for several months (if not years).  It is critical to understand that disclosure is usually very limited at the bail stage. Your lawyer must not only understand the law, but also have the experience to make strategic decisions based on how your charges are likely to proceed within the system.  The ability of your lawyer to effectively communicate with the Crown, any proposed sureties, and The Court is essential.  Michael has conducted hundreds of bail hearings and bail reviews throughout his career. He has an intimate knowledge of how the bail system works.  Michael knows how to put together a successful bail plan and use the law to hopefully negotiate a release with the Crown, or to run a hearing if needed.

Domestic Violence

Also known as "Intimate Partner Violence" (IPV), these charges typically consist of assault, sexual assault, choking, uttering threats, mischief, criminal harassment, and/or breaches of court orders. Just being charged with an IPV offence can have far-reaching implications on your liberty, employment, parenting time and image in the community. While the allegations are usually painted in a "black and white" manner, experienced criminal lawyers understand that the situation is often far more nuanced and complicated. Crown Attorneys understand those nuances as well, but government policy usually requires the Crown to proceed with the prosecution once charges are laid by police. For that reason, IPV allegations are some of the most common prosecutions for Crown Attorneys. It is often necessary for the accused person to vigorously defend IPV allegations and go to trial. In many other cases, the accused person did commit some or all of the alleged offences but wants to get help so the parties can reconcile. Either way, Michael has litigated countless domestic matters throughout his career. His experience, negotiation skills, knowledge of the justice system and community support organizations will be key to your defence.

Drinking and Driving AKA "DUI"

Sometimes referred to as "DUI" offences, the most common charges are Impaired Driving (alcohol or drugs), Over 80, and Refuse Breath Sample. If convicted of any routine DUI offences, you will have a criminal record, lose your license, and pay a large fine.  You could possibly face jail time, even if you did not injure or kill anyone. Given that many of those charged with DUI offences are gainfully employed, tax-paying citizens, a criminal record and loss of driving privileges can be crippling. At the outset, it is important to understand that the Crown extensively trains and educates its lawyers in this fundamental area of the law - a law that is highly technical and constantly evolving. To further complicate matters, there are highly regulated Crown protocols to ensure that these matters proceed to trial in all but the rarest of cases. The trial evidence usually includes video evidence and bodily samples (breath or blood) that are highly difficult to undermine.   All of that being said, DUI allegations can successfully be defended. It usually comes down to the lawyer's experience in DUI matters - knowledge of the Criminal Code, Charter and case law, as well as the ability to effectively cross-examine police witnesses.  Michael Coristine has extensive trial experience with all types of DUI offences.  DUI law is one our fundamental service offerings.

Sexual Assault

The Ontario Government has fairly strict policies in place for sexual assault prosecutions, as it is an area of heightened societal interest. This is also another area of the law where the Crown lawyers are extensively trained and educated, often by specialized "sexual violence" advisors. For those reasons, the Crown Attorney almost always takes sexual assault matters to trial.  To further complicate matters, the law has become increasingly perilous for those accused with sexual assault and related offences. In addition to living with the allegations and possibly having your name published, accused persons are now faced with additional court appearances and disclosure obligations. In many cases, you no longer have the right to a preliminary hearing, a long-time procedural safeguard.  ​To defend sexual assault allegations you will need a lawyer who is highly-trained, well-prepared, and skilled at cross-examination. This is especially the case where the allegations are of the "he said, she said" variety.  Sexual assault litigation is another fundamental service offering at Michael Coristine Law, an area where Michael has extensive training and trial experience.

Firearms and "Guns & Gangs"

The Crown justifiably takes firearm and gang-related matters extremely seriously. There is a specialized "G&G" task force to handle the most serious and complex files. In all other cases, you can expect a seasoned Crown prosecutor on the other side of the courtroom.  Disclosure is often voluminous: video evidence, expert reports, search warrant documents, and hundreds of pages of police documents. Invariably, G&G cases are highly-contested prosecutions that go the distance to trial. The sentence upon conviction will often be significant jail time. ​To successfully defend these extremely serious allegations, it is critical to have a seasoned trial lawyer, who also understands the intricate rules of evidence and the Charter, and who will not back down when the Crown and police bring their best efforts.  Michael Coristine was regularly entrusted with prosecuting these extremely serious matters as a senior Crown Attorney.

Complex Fraud and "White Collar" Crime

The Crown has many weapons at its disposal to seize your assets and funds, scour your CRA records, and trace your entire financial history.  In complex fraud prosecutions, the name of the game for the Crown and police is "Follow the Money." If found guilty, offenders will not only head to jail, but will likely lose whatever financial gain they have amassed. From 2015-2017 Michael was part of the Ontario Government's Large-Scale Fraud Unit. He litigated several complex fraud matters involving: ·    Criminal organizations ·    Fraud in excess of $1M ·    Romance scams ·    Immigration scams ·    Mortgage fraud ·    Stock fraud ·    Fraud against the government Most complex fraud cases involve significant amounts of disclosure including bank records, contracts, phone records, tax records, and business records.  An experienced trial lawyer with an ability to synthesize and understand various types of documents will be critical to successfully defending these serious allegations.

Homicide (Murder or Manslaughter)

Not much needs to be said about how serious it is to be charged with murder.  The police have dedicated homicide task forces full of highly-trained officers that focus exclusively on gathering evidence for the case against you. Only the most seasoned Crown Attorneys are tasked with leading these often complex, always time-consuming, and highly contentious prosecutions. There are also special bail laws in place for murder allegations. Those hearings require a lot of patience, strategy, legal knowledge, and advocacy skills. They are far more complex than your standard bail hearings.  The stakes at a murder bail are quite obviously immense. ​Almost all murder trials will be tried by a jury. Of course there will be a judge to guide the process and make certain rulings, but it is the jury who will decide guilt or innocence. Aside from having an extensive knowledge of the laws of evidence, disclosure, trial procedure, and the Charter, the defence lawyer's ability to understand the roadmap of a murder prosecution is critical to defending murder allegations.  The lawyer must be able to make strategic decisions based on experience and effectively communicate those decisions with the accused.  Above all else, your lawyer must effectively and persuasively communicate to the jury. Throughout the course of his career as a Crown Attorney, Michael Coristine was entrusted with several murder prosecutions.  His homicide-related work has been recognized by the Toronto Police Service on multiple occasions. Michael now uses that wealth of experience to defend the rights of those individuals facing the most serious charge in the Criminal Code.

Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)

Just like adults, youth can be held in custody pending bail and could face jail or other serious restrictions on liberty if convicted of certain offences. There is no question that any young person charged with a criminal offence is at a serious crossroads in his or her life. All that being said, the law affords certain accommodations to youth accused. Crown Attorneys undergo mandatory training and education in relation to the YCJA. Most Crown offices also have dedicated YCJA Crowns so those files receive the appropriate level of attention and sensitivity. Aside from familiarity with the YCJA and its unique provisions, defending allegations under the YCJA generally requires a patient, collaborative approach with the Crown and the Court. Michael Coristine is closely familiar with the YCJA, as well as the procedural nuances that go into youth-related prosecutions.

Charge Screening and Resolution Discussions

When the police charge you with a criminal offence, they will give you a very general sense of what the allegations are about.  However, it usually takes several weeks or even months to get the bulk of disclosure from the Crown. From there, your lawyer needs the time to review, organize, and make sense of the allegations. There will often be follow-up requests to the Crown for more disclosure before the full picture of the case against you can become clear. Experienced trial counsel should then have a fairly good idea of what your case "is worth" - that is, the position of the Crown on a guilty plea and upon conviction after a trial. However, nothing is ever set in stone. Resolution discussions take place in every criminal matter.  The goal is for your lawyer to directly engage the assigned Crown to better gauge the merits of a trial. If a guilty plea is ultimately in the best interests of the accused, it is ideal for both the Crown and defence to agree on a "joint position" to put before a judge - that is they agree on the charge(s), synopsis of allegations, and sentence.  Sometimes, even though both parties want to resolve, they simply cannot agree on one or more of the above essential areas. In the latter scenario, the accused might still wish to proceed with the guilty plea and rely on his or her lawyer to advocate for the defence position before a judge.  Sometimes, the defence is aware of information that greatly undermines the Crown's case. Even though the defence generally does not have to disclose anything to the Crown, the accused might nonetheless instruct counsel to share that information with the Crown to assist with resolution in the defence's favour. The pros and cons of such a decision will vary case to case. Any decision to share confidential information with the Crown should only be made after a careful consultation with experienced defence counsel.  Of course, there are also situations where the Crown is persuaded by the defence position and reduces or even withdraws the charges. Regardless of the exact situation, fruitful resolution discussions will give the accused a full picture of the upside and downside of taking the matter to trial.

Summary Conviction Appeals

Sometimes things don't go as planned.  Perhaps the judge at the Ontario Court of Justice made a legal error in relation to a conviction, a sentence, or both. There could be a remedy through an appeal to the Superior Court of Justice. Michael will gladly take a look at your case and give you an opinion as to the merits of an appeal.  Bear in mind that time is of the essence as there are deadlines and lots of paperwork involved with even basic appeals.

Pre-Charge Investigation and Warrants

Occasionally people become aware that they are being investigated by the police and/or that an arrest warrant has been obtained. This period of time is where too many people put off getting legal advice, thinking they will sort it out later on.  That is a colossal mistake. While every situation is different, it is critical to consult with a seasoned criminal lawyer before taking any steps to either cooperate with an investigation or turn yourself in to the police. Rest assured that many cases have resulted in convictions directly due to this common mistake.

Other Types of Common Offences

  • Human Trafficking and related offences

  • Serious personal Injury offences: Attempt Murder, Robbery, Aggravated Assault; Assault with a Weapon; Assault Causing Bodily Harm

  • Serious driving offences: Dangerous Driving; Criminal Negligence; Fail to Remain; any of those offences causing bodily harm or death

  • Drug offences: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (P4P); Simple Possession

  • Property offences: Theft; Mischief; Break and Enter; Unlawfully in a Dwelling

  • Breaches of court orders: Bail or other releases; Probation; Section 810 or Common Law Peace Bonds; Conditional Sentence Orders etc

  • Weapons offences

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