If you are charged with a crime, and your assets are taken away, how do you hire a lawyer?
“The law doesn’t allow the Crown to charge someone and then raid their defense fund, and that’s what we were fighting for … the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and the right to counsel trumps the principle that crime doesn’t pay.” – Michael Bryant
CCLA, represented by Michael Lacy and Bryan Badali, was part of a successful challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure that people charged with a crime in Canada are able to exercise their constitutional rights to a fair trial, to counsel, and to ensure the presumption of innocence is maintained. These principles are the cornerstone of Canada’s judicial system and must be safeguarded to ensure the rights of everyday Canadians are protected.
When the police were executing search warrants, they seized money from Mr. Rafilovich. He was charged with several offences, however had no money to pay his legal fees and did not qualify for legal aid. He applied to the court to have some of the money seized by police to pay for his defense. Following his case, Mr. Rafilovich was ordered to pay a fine, in order to repay the money used on his legal fees. If he was unable to pay the fine, Mr. Rafilovich would have been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
CCLA believes that fines such as this can lead to the grossly disproportionate sentences for people who do not have the ability to pay fines. The people with the least ability to pay these fines, those without the money or resources, face the greatest consequences if they cannot pay. Fines are serious legal sanctions and people who default on a fine are subject to potential lengthy additional periods of imprisonment that must be served consecutively to any sentence of imprisonment for their underlying offence. These fines can have a serious impact on the liberty, security, equality and dignity of the person who must pay it.
Individuals with outstanding fines under these provisions will forever face the threat of imprisonment, will be unable to apply for various licenses of permits, be able to obtain a record suspension, and may be subject to civil enforcement proceedings. These consequences affect the ability of people to rehabilitate and reintegrate into the community.
A majority of the Supreme Court found that where the court has allowed a defendant to use money seized by police for their legal defense, it is unfair to demand the money back following conviction. CCLA intervened in the case, as the defendant in the case, Mr. Rafilovich, used the seized money to exercise an important constitutional right.