There is no financial eligibility testing for assistance through this program. Duty counsel are staff and roster lawyers who help people understand the court process and who give free legal advice.
What Duty Counsel Can Do For You
If you are unrepresented for your first court appearance, simply go directly to the courthouse where the matter is being heard and ask to speak to duty counsel.
Duty counsel can provide information, guidance and advice to you prior to your appearance. Depending on the situation, they may make speak to the court on your behalf. Keep in mind, duty counsel help people who are unrepresented at the first court appearance only and can only offer limited basic services. Should you require full representation by a lawyer for the remainder of your case, duty counsel may direct to you apply for legal aid or hire a lawyer privately.
LAA assigns duty counsel to following docket courts in Alberta:
- Criminal (adult and youth) courts
- Drug Treatment Court (Edmonton and Calgary)
- Disciplinary hearings at correctional facilities
- Applications for confirmations and breaches of emergency protection orders*
- Mental Health Review Panel hearings*
- Provincial court — family and child welfare dockets (Edmonton, Calgary and Wetaskiwin)
- Court of Queen’s Bench — family (Edmonton and Wetaskiwin)
*If you are dealing with one of these issues, you may wish to call the Legal Services Centre prior to attending court. Duty Counsel for these matters only appear as needed.
Please note that duty counsel's first priority is to assist accused persons that are in custody.
Family Duty Counsel
Legal Aid Alberta has recently begun providing duty counsel service for family law matters in Edmonton, Calgary and Wetaskiwin. The need for this expansion has been demonstrated through the high number of people reporting to court for family legal matters without representation by a lawyer.
YCDO Duty Counsel
YCDO provides legal assistance to unrepresented youth every day in Youth Justice Court (docket courts) in Edmonton and Calgary. YCDO duty counsel assistance includes:
- Providing immediate legal advice
- making an application for judicial interim release (bail hearings)
- seeking withdrawl of charges
- entering of guilty pleas
- speaking to sentence
Duty Counsel for Detained Youth
In addition to duty counsel at the courthouse, Legal Aid Alberta also provides duty counsel services specifically for detained persons. This service ensures access to immediate summary legal advice by telephone, for all detained persons in Alberta regardless of their financial situation. (You do not need to qualify for legal aid to access this service.)
YCDO staff lawyers provide this service (including after hours and weekends) to young persons who are detained and in need of immediate legal advice. The primary restriction on this service is that it is for young persons who have been arrested pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act or under provincial legislation only.