The Legal Aid certificate program helps clients pay for a lawyer’s services, and is only for the most serious and complex cases. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the process of qualifying for a certificate and provide you other alternatives should you not qualify.
LAO assesses each person’s need for legal support individually, based on a number of factors, including the charges, the potential or likely sentence for this matter upon conviction, relevant court decisions, your age and personal circumstances, legal aid resources available in the region, and any other relevant factor.
Circumstances LAO may consider before making a decision
LAO understands that every person’s situation is unique. LAO staff may ask you some questions about what you are accused of doing to see if there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances in your situation.
What is a mitigating circumstance?
A mitigating circumstance is a situation where the courts may provide you with mercy or fairness in sentencing if convicted of a crime.
Let’s say you are a homeless person who has broken into an empty house while looking for a place to sleep. You did this because of your need for shelter. This is a mitigating circumstance.
What is an aggravating circumstance?
An aggravating circumstance is one that makes your offense more serious and therefore makes it more likely that you will go to jail.
If you and a group of young people are charged with a crime committed together, for instance, and you are the only adult, the court may view you as the group’s leader, and blame you more than the youth.
If you do not qualify for a certificate and have an income or own property, you may qualify for a certificate with a contribution agreement. A contribution agreement means you will be required to repay LAO some or all of your legal fees.
The Legal Aid certificate process can be found on the LAO website www.legalaid.on.ca
or call LAO toll-free at 1-800-668-8258
* Legal Aid Ontario’s new financial eligibility guidelines: On June 8, 2015, LAO has changed certificate eligibility for previously ineligible legal criminal matters. For more information on how this may impact your eligibility, please visit