Legal Aid Representation

From Clicklaw Wikibooks
The Legal Services Society (LSS) provides free legal aid representation (a lawyer to take your case) for financially eligible clients facing some types of criminal, serious family problems, child protection matters, mental health and prison issues, or immigration problems.
Website legalaid.bc.ca
Phone Toll-free: 1-866-577-2525
Find on Clicklaw Legal Aid Intake Offices on Clicklaw HelpMap

Legal issues covered[edit]

The following legal issues are covered:

Criminal charges if, after you were convicted, you would:

  • go to jail,
  • face a conditional sentence that would severely limit your liberty,
  • lose your way of earning a living, or
  • face an immigration proceeding that could lead to deportation from Canada.

You can also get a lawyer to represent you if you:

  • have a physical condition or disability or a mental or emotional illness that makes it impossible for you to represent yourself,
  • are Aboriginal and the case affects your ability to follow a traditional livelihood of hunting and fishing, or
  • are a youth charged with a federal offence (however if you are in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, you must speak to your social worker to arrange for a lawyer).
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If you self-identify as Aboriginal, you have Gladue rights under the Criminal Code. You may also be able to have your bail or sentencing hearing in the First Nations Court in North Vancouver, New Westminster, Duncan or Kamloops.

Serious family problems in the circumstances such as:

  • you need an immediate court order to ensure your or your children's safety,
  • to resolve a serious denial of parenting time or contact with/access to your children,
  • when the other parent threatens to remove your children permanently from the province, or
  • when you have guardianship or custody of your children and the other parent has contact or access, but he or she has unlawfully held your children and not allowed you to carry out your guardianship or custody responsibilities.

You may also be able to get a lawyer to represent you in other situations, depending on the available funding, your circumstances, and based on a merit test, including:

  • to resolve serious legal issues in high conflict cases,
  • when you have experienced court-related harassment (your ex-partner is using the legal system to harass you),
  • when you have barriers to self-representation due to emotional abuse, psychological trauma, or mental illness, or
  • when all other efforts to resolve the case have been exhausted and resolving the case will make a significant difference to you or your children.
Tipsandnotes.png
The items above are not a complete list of all the situations covered. Coverage decisions are made on a discretionary basis.

Child protection cases where:

  • the Ministry of Children and Family Development has taken or has threatened to take child(ren) away, or
  • there are guardianship or custody and contact or access issues related to a child in the care of the Ministry for Children and Family Development (foster care).

Mental health hearings before a Mental Health Review Panel or the BC Review Board.

Prison issues for which the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides the right to a lawyer.

Immigration proceedings for refugee claimants or clients facing removal from Canada.

Note: Whether any particular case is to be covered by legal aid is ultimately a decision made by LSS.

Eligibility[edit]

To get a legal aid lawyer to represent you, your legal problem must be covered by legal aid rules, and your net household income and assets must be at or below the financial guidelines.

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Only a trained legal intake assistant can determine your financial eligibility for legal aid. The following information is not complete. To find out if you qualify for a legal aid lawyer, it's best to go into a legal aid office and apply.
Income guidelines for legal aid eligibility
Household size Net monthly income
1 $1,550
2 $2,160
3 $2,780
4 $3,400
5 $4,020
6 $4,640
7 or more $5,250

For more information, see Do I qualify for legal representation? on the LSS website.

Applying for legal aid representation[edit]

To apply for a legal aid lawyer or to get information or advice, go into a legal aid office or courthouse location, or call the LSS Call Centre.

Applying in person[edit]

To apply in person, it's a good idea to phone your local legal aid office or check the LSS website to find out the office hours. See Where to find legal aid services.

You will need to provide information about your case and proof of income, such as two recent pay stubs, a recent welfare stub, or a recent income tax return or bank records. You will also have to provide information about valuable assets such as a car or boat.

Applying by phone[edit]

If your area doesn't have a legal aid office or if you can't get to the legal aid office, you can apply over the phone:

Lower Mainland: 604-408-2172
Toll-free elsewhere in BC: 1-866-577-2525

Note that if you don't qualify for representation, you may still be financially eligible for advice services such as duty counsel. You don't have to be financially eligible to receive legal information from LSS.

A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."

In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. Also the historic decisions of the court. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."

In law, the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial. See "action."

In law, in British Columbia a person under the age of 19.

In law, any proceeding before a judicial official to determine questions of law and questions of fact, including the hearing of an application and the hearing of a trial. See "decision" and "evidence."

A mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration."

A term under the Family Law Act which describes the time a guardian has with a child and during which is responsible for the day to day care of the child. See "guardian."

A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."

Under the Divorce Act, the schedule of a parent's time with their children under an order or agreement. Access usually refers to the schedule of the parent with the least time with the child. See "custody."

In family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "natural parent" and "stepparent."

In family law, an antiquated term used by the Divorce Act to describe the right to possess a child and make parenting decisions concerning the child's health, welfare and upbringing. See "access."

A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."

A home where a child lives other than with their natural or adoptive parents. Such a situation usually arises when the child welfare authorities have apprehended a child or when a child's parents voluntarily give the child up. See "apprehension."

Evidence which establishes or tends to establish the truth of a fact; also, the conclusion of a logical argument. See "evidence" and "premises."

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