Duty Counsel are lawyers who provide information, guidance and advice to you prior to your court appearance.
Duty Counsel lawyers help unrepresented Albertans at their court appearance and can offer basic services. Depending on the situation, Duty Counsel may speak to the Court on your behalf. This service is free and available to all Albertans.
Should you require full representation by a lawyer for the remainder of your case, Duty Counsel may suggest you apply for a Legal Aid lawyer or to hire a lawyer privately.
If you are unrepresented for your first court appearance, go to the courthouse where the matter is being heard and ask to speak to Duty Counsel. Legal Aid Alberta assigns duty counsel to the following docket courts in Alberta:
- criminal (adult and youth) courts;
- drug treatment court (Calgary and Edmonton);
- 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 (Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, St. Paul, Wetaskiwin, Red Deer and Medicine Hat); and
- Court of Queen's Bench — family (Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, St. Paul, Wetaskiwin, Red Deer and Medicine Hat).
*If you are dealing with one of these issues, call the Client Contact Centre at 1.866.845.3425 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 who are in custody and those who are unrepresented at their first court appearance.
Youth Duty Counsel
Legal Aid Alberta's Youth Criminal Defence Office provides duty counsel assistance to unrepresented youth in Youth Justice Court in Edmonton and Calgary. The Youth Criminal Defence Office duty counsel assistance includes:
- providing immediate legal advice;
- making an application for judicial interim release (bail hearings);
- seeking withdrawal of charges;
- entering of guilty pleas; and
- 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 youth. This service ensures access to immediate summary legal advice by telephone, for all detained persons in Alberta regardless of their financial situation.
Youth Criminal Defence Office 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. Telephone numbers for this service are provided by law enforcement authorities.
Justice of the Peace Bail Program
Legal Aid Alberta now offers Duty Counsel for Justice of the Peace (JP) bail hearings. This program ensures that those who have been detained and are to appear before a Justice of the Peace and don't have or cannot afford their own lawyer, have proper representation.
In Alberta, Justices of the Peace are responsible for the majority of all bail hearings in the Alberta court system.
There is no financial eligibility requirement to access the JP Bail Program – it is free to all Albertans.
The JP Bail Program is offered across the entire province.
Duty Counsel Services are provided from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. To access the service the person simply needs to advise the guard that they wish to speak to Duty Counsel. When Duty Counsel is available, and has the information they need to assist they will call the detachment, to arrange a telephone call with the person in custody.
Brydges Duty Counsel Service (in custody or under active investigation)
This telephone service is offered on a 24-hour basis and is free to all Albertans (adult and youth) under arrest and in custody or under active investigation by law enforcement authorities who need immediate advice on their charter rights and criminal law. Translation services are available in 110 languages. Telephone numbers for this service are provided by law enforcement authorities.
Legal Aid Alberta provides legal representation to eligible Albertans, and duty counsel services to all Albertans. There is no financial eligibility requirement for assistance through Duty Counsel.
To determine your eligibility for legal representation, call the Legal Services Centre at 1-866-845-3425. You can also review eligibility information available on this site.
All youth are eligible to receive representation (a lawyer) for criminal matters through Legal Aid Alberta, as this is mandated under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. When you, or a legal representative, contact the Legal Services Centre, they will explain the process for representation.
For adult matters, when determining your eligibility for legal assistance, Legal Aid Alberta will look at both service and financial eligibility.