Articles, discussion or information pertaining to criminal defence | Eleanor Funk | Calgary Criminal Lawyer - Part 2

What you need to know when hiring a criminal defence lawyer

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, chances are you’ll need to hire a criminal defence lawyer to defend you.  There is nothing wrong with setting up interviews with a couple of different lawyers.   If you’ve never been charged with a crime before, you might not know what questions to ask.

When you go to meet with the lawyers, be prepared.  Bring with you whatever paperwork you’ve received from the police or at the courthouse.  These documents will typically include: your bail paperwork; any documents showing your next court date; and perhaps some or all of the police report or other evidence the police / Prosecutor will intend to use against you.

Most likely, you will want to know how much it will cost to hire the lawyer to defend you.  Most likely, the lawyer won’t be able to give you a precise fee quote at the first meeting.  Many lawyers will ask you to pay an initial retainer (perhaps in the range of $2000 – $5000); and will later be able to quote a final fee once they know how complicated and time consuming your defence will be.  Some lawyers might provide you with an estimate of a range of fees in that first.

Many criminal defence lawyers will not bill by an hourly rate; but will instead quote you a flat fee for representing you.  Make sure you understand the fee agreement and what is included.

When interviewing criminal defence lawyers, you might want to ask:

  • How long they’ve been practicing law;
  • Have they always practiced in the area of criminal law;
  • How familiar they are with the type of charges you are facing;
  • How often do they take cases to trial.

If you are not a Canadian citizen, make sure you share this information with the lawyers, as there may be immigration consequences following convictions for some offences.

After interviewing 2 or 3 criminal defence lawyers, you will need to decide and hire one of them.  Do not simply gravitate towards the one with the lowest fees if you’re worried about money; do not gravitate towards the most expensive, thinking ‘bigger is better’… instead, consider their levels of experience; consider how well they explained the criminal process to you and their strategies for representing you; and most importantly, consider with whom you felt the most comfortable and confident in handling your defence.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you need the assistance of an experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer.  Contact Eleanor Funk today at 403.681.9788 or email at


Federal Government Reveals Plans to Legalize Pot

Later this week, the Federal Government will reveal its much-anticipated pot legislation – the first step towards legalizing the possession and sale of marihuana in Canada.

With the final laws still to be determined, it appears the Government plans to legalize possession of marihuana, up to a weight of 30 grams; and to allow individual households to grow up to 4 plants. Other details expected in the proposed plan include:

  • Introducing penalties for selling cannabis products to minors (the age for legal possession is expected to be 18 years of age, with the individual Provinces being able to raise that age);
  • Introducing penalties for driving under the influence of marihuana;
  • Determining the legal limit for driving after consuming cannabis products (similar to the ‘over 80’ limit for alcohol);
  • Setting rules limiting how cannabis products are marketed – similar to the ways in which the marketing of tobacco and alcohol are limited;
  • Using some of the profits from legal pot sales to fund public awareness and education campaigns; and
  • Approving some type of roadside saliva tests, to enable police officers to determine the presence of cannabis in drivers.

At the present time, there is no roadside screening or detecting device for police to use in Canada to detect the presence of cannabis in drivers. As part of the new legalization of pot, the police will need the ability to determine the presence of pot, and the levels of cannabis present, in drivers immediately on the side of the road – similar to a ‘check stop’ program – without having to take the time of obtaining blood samples and waiting for lab test results.

For now the possession, production and sale of marihuana in Canada remains illegal. The Federal Government hopes to have the new laws in place by July 1, 2018.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you need the assistance of an experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer.  Contact Eleanor Funk today at 403.681.9788 or email at

Drunk pilot gets 8 months’ jail sentence

The sections of the Criminal Code that prohibit impaired driving of vehicles on our roadways also apply to impaired operation of aircraft.

On December 31, 2016, the pilot of a plane set to take off from Calgary was removed from the plane after passing out in the cockpit. His blood alcohol levels exceeded three times the legal limit to operate a vehicle, or aircraft. In addition to the co-pilot and other flight crew, there were approximately 100 passengers on board.

Last month, the pilot pleaded guilty to having ‘care and control of an aircraft while intoxicated.’ The Crown sought 1 year jail; defence sought a 3-6 month jail sentence. Today, a judge imposed a sentence of 8 months’ jail – one of the few cases of its type in Canadian law.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you need the assistance of an experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer.  Contact Eleanor Funk today at 403.681.9788 or email at

When pot will be legal in Canada; and what the new system may look like

Marihuana may be legal in Canada by July 1 of next year, 2018.  In the next few weeks, the Federal Government will begin to roll out the legislation that will make that happen.

Early reports suggest the Federal Government will set the legal age for the use of marihuana at 18 years old; but will allow the Provinces to increase the legal age within each province.  Just as the legal age for drinking alcohol is different from province to province, the age for the legal purchase and use of pot may differ from province to province.

Each of the Provincial Governments will be able to decide how and where marihuana will be bought and sold; and at what price.  Similar to the way in which Provincial Governments currently control how alcohol is bought and sold.  The Federal Government will be in charge of licencing pot producers.

How much money with the Federal and Provincial Governments make from the sale of legal pot?  Will the police be ready to adapt to these changes in the laws?  Some insight can be gained by looking south of the border, to Colorado – a US State that legalized pot over 4 years ago.

Overall, the legalized system in Colorado appears to have worked well.  They have not seen a spike in teenage use of marihuana; they have not seen an abuse of edible products; and have not seen a real increase in marihuana consumption that some feared might happen with legalization.  The people that did not use marihuana before legalization, continue to not use marihuana after legalization; those that used illegal pot, continue to use marihuana, now in its legalized form.

In the third year, the legalized marihuana industry in Colorado was worth a billion dollars.  The challenges have surrounded how to create the legal framework, from scratch: knowing how to regulate the edible marihuana products was one issue – making sure the THC content in those products was not too high; and not allowing those products to look like candies, or otherwise be too attractive to young people

For now, the production, possession and distribution of marihuana continues to be illegal in Canada; the laws have not changed yet.  As we move forward with the anticipated legalization, expected challenges may include how to tax legal pot at the appropriate rate to minimize an ongoing black market for pot; and how to deal with public safety issues – keeping pot out of the hands of young people; giving police the proper tools to deal with drivers impaired by marihuana.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you need the assistance of an experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer.  Contact Eleanor Funk today at 403.681.9788 or email at

Yes, you can video record police actions in public; No, the police cannot take your phone away

Increasingly, we see news stories that include video recordings of police interacting with members of the public.  Unfortunately, the types of videos that most often hit the news are those that include some form or violence or alleged violence on the part of the police.  In cases of alleged police violence, as in cases of all alleged crimes, the persons involved are presumed innocent in law until such time as they are found guilty in court.  Nonetheless, these videos depicting police violence against members of the public are often upsetting.

So what are the rules about filming police actions in public?  There are no rules or laws against filming police interactions with the public.  This includes the disturbing instances of alleged violence; and the good-news stories of police officers interacting with the public in more helpful, kind ways.  The restriction is the filming of a police interaction cannot reach the point of obstructing lawful police work.

If the police want to seize someone’s phone after the person has recorded a police interaction, the police cannot simply take the phone; they cannot merely demand the person hand over the phone to police.  If the police want to take possession of the phone, with the video, they have to do so lawfully – this means, they may ask the person’s consent to surrender the phone; or they may try to get a search warrant to seize the phone.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you need the assistance of an experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer.  Contact Eleanor Funk today at 403.681.9788 or email at