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Common Questions

I’ve been charged with a crime. How do I defend myself?

Last reviewed November 2020 by the Clicklaw Editors

If you are charged with a crime, you have legal rights. The resources below provide a good starting point for understanding what your rights are, what you need to do, and the steps involved in representing yourself if you are not able to afford a lawyer or get legal aid.

Good starting points include:

  • Representing Yourself at a Criminal Trial, from the Legal Aid BC (LABC), explains what happens when you (the accused person) want to plead not guilty to a summary offence. It’s designed to guide a self-represented person through the basic steps in the court process both before and at a trial. It also includes a flowchart telling you which LABC booklets would be helpful throughout the process from your criminal charge to your trial.
  • Defending Yourself Against a Criminal Charge, from People's Law School, gives you information about the process if you are defending yourself in a trial.
  • How Criminal Trial Works, from the Justice Education Society, explains how a criminal trial works and common terms used in court. The information relates to criminal trials in BC Supreme Courts and Provincial Courts.
  • LSLAP Manual: Criminal Law, from the UBC Law Students' Legal Advice Program, describes what happens in a trial. Look in the section “Pleading Not Guilty and Criminal Trials”
Also see: 

Need more help?

  • Even if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent you and you are not eligible for getting legal aid, you may want to seek advice from a pro bono (free) lawyer. Find more help near you on Clicklaw HelpMap.
  • Duty counsel are lawyers who can give you free brief advice before your trial. They are available at courthouses throughout the province. Call Legal Aid BC Call Centre or your local court registry to find out about duty counsel hours in your area.
  • Lawyer Referral Service, from Access Pro Bono, offers a free, brief initial consultation with a lawyer to determine your legal needs. If you would like further help from your lawyer, you can retain them at an agreeable rate of charge.

See our related common questions:

charged with a crime, representing yourself, starting your case, criminal court, rights of accused, rights of offenders, criminal defense